General K S Brar - A Poor Apology of a Sikh and a Soldier
(Maj-Gen K.S. Brar, had accepted the assignment of Operation Blue star when many other army officers had refused it. As the Army commander on the spot Gen Brar alone could have avoided the massacre of 10,000 pilgrims trapped in Darbar Sahib Amritsar as also the desecration of Golden Temple and the destruction of Akal Takhat Sahib in June 1984. In that case, perhaps, P.M Mrs Indira Gandhi would not have been killed and the genocide of thousands of innocent Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in Oct-Nov 1984 could also have been avoided.)
The murderous attack on retired Lt- Gen Kuldeep Singh Brar of the Indian Army, in a London street in the first week of October 2012 would be condemned by most people. Many Sikhs in UK, especially in London, however, suspected that the attack on Gen Brar was well-orchestrated but a crudely enacted drama for which “three bearded men and one woman” had been arrested by London police for assaulting the retired general Brar with knives (Kirpans). The number of those rounded up later on suspicion had risen to a dozen.
General K.S. Brar, then a Maj Gen, had played a highly controversial and despicable role in the Operation Blue Star by marching his troops of 9 Infantry Division, equipped with mortar and machine guns, later reinforced with tanks and armoured vehicles, on the Golden Temple, Amritsar, the sanctum sanctorum of the Sikhs in June 1984.
Lt-Gen Brar, who still has the cheek to call himself a Sikh, though supporting a clean- shaven form which according to Sikh religious tradition is a Patit (fallen from Guru’s grace or religion and a socially ex-communicated person), must come down as a poor apology of a Sikh and a soldier because one rarely comes across a professional soldier, especially one who has risen to be a two- star general, to march his troops against not only his own unarmed innocent sisters and brothers but also on the most sacred “temples of his Gods” — Sri Harimandar Sahib and Sri Akal Takhat Sahib in Amritsar.
Though quite a few army officers, like Maj Gen J.S. Jamwal, had refused to take this assignment of Blue Star operation for attacking the Golden Temple, saying that he could not bring himself “to butcher his own people”, General Brar obviously took the assignment in his stride, because, perhaps, he wanted to please his superiors — Corpse Commander, GOC-in-Chief Western Army Command Lt Gen K Sundarji and the Chief of the Army Staff, General Vaidya and the Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi who was hell bent to teach Sant Bhindranwala, whom she had herself propped up to enter the political arena and help her Congress party to win elections in the prosperous and strong state of Punjab, a lesson as the Sant had later gone against her.
On analyzing one feels General K.S. Brar’s crime, guilt and sin must be reckoned at least ten times more horrendous than the crimes committed by the likes of HKL Bhagats, Jagdish Tytlers and Sajjan Kumars, etc, etc, who had led, guided and masterminded the cadres of Congress Party and hordes of criminal marauders let loose on the Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere from Oct 31 to Nov 2 1984 after Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination, in a frenzy of slogans like “Khoon ka Badla Khoon “.
To flush out Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala and his about 400 extremist cadres from the Golden Temple, General Brar’s troops had massacred, in cold blood, over 10,000 innocent devotees, including children, women and the aged who were trapped in Army action during their pilgrimage to pay their respects in connection with Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev’s martyrdom day in Darbar Sahib on June 3-5, 1984.
Any other officer in K.S. Brar’s place would have perhaps resigned from his job, refused this assignment or at least delayed the fateful operation by couple of days and tackled the problem without resorting to bloodshed, destruction and desecration of the holiest Sikh shrine. The extremists could easily have been flushed out through some other means as was done later during operation Black Thunder by DGP police K.P.S. Gill.
True, some mistakes rather blunders had been committed by the Sikh clergy, Akali Dal, Punjab and the central political leadership. But had Indira Gandhi listened to saner advice of people like Inder Kumar Gujral, noted journalists like Kuldip Nayar and Khushwant Singh and senior Army commanders like Lt Gen S.K. Sinha, to mention a few, the tragedy of killing thousands of innocent devotees and the demolition of Akal Takhat Sahib by the Army could have been avoided.
In that case perhaps Indira Gandhi would also not have been killed and so also thousands of innocent Sikhs in Delhi, Kanpur , Roorkela, Bhillai and elsewhere who were butchered in a frenzy of slogans “Khoon ka Badla Khoon, “We shall evenge Indira Gandhi’s murder ( Khoon) through mass killing of Sikhs” from Oct 31 to Nov 2, 1984. It would have also saved independent India of one of the most shameful chapters and ignominy of its history. This could have been accomplished by none other than Gen Brar the commander on the spot by tactfully dealing or delaying the action by a few days and flushing out from Darbar Sahib complex, the misguided pro- Khalistani youth through peaceful means.
As Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s chosen man in-charge of the catastrophic campaign of free India ‘s army, General Brar’s burden of crime, guilt and sin is indeed colossal. In his statement after the London attack, Brar still maintains that a delay of two, three days in mounting the assault on the Golden Temple would have played havoc in Punjab. But the saner people in the country feel it could have saved the innocent pilgrims and helped flush out the misguided youth without desecrating the sanctity of the Golden Temple or demolishing of the Akal Takht through army action which would have, in all probability, avoided Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the anti Sikh holocaust in Oct-Nov 1984 in the country.
Strangely Gen Brar, who is responsible for the desecration of the Golden Temple, destruction of the Akal Takhat Sahib and the cold blooded murder of thousands of innocent, unarmed devotees still says, unabashedly, that his old uncle, who wept at the Golden Temple tragedy and refused to see him(Brar), has pardoned him. But the General must realize that none of the millions of Sikhs in India and abroad and history will ever pardon him for his heinous crimes and the betrayal of his own people and faith. His crime is much worse than that of Nadar Shahs and Ahmed Shah Abdalis even.
Mrs Indira Gandhi, who was hell-bent to teach Bhindranwala a lesson, according to many media reports, was herself shocked at the massive destruction caused to the Sikh sanctum sanctorum. On seeing the damage even the iron lady had reportedly broken down, but our “bravo” general Brar does not appear to have any regrets, remorse or qualms of conscience over the damage to Sikh psyche and destruction brought about by his operation to the Punjab which still has not fully recovered from the tragic blow, physically and emotionally.
The mediation efforts of Jain Muni, the former foreign minister Sardar Swaran Singh and the warnings of eminent Sikh scholar, writer and Rajya Sabh M. P., Sardar Khushwant Singh were virtually scoffed at by the central government and Indira Gandhi who wanted to establish in the eyes of the world her personal supremacy and that of the Central government over the states and the people of all regions and races.
Perfidy and Blunders
It may be mentioned that as per the autocratic streaks in her personality, Indira Gandhi was fond of imposing her will — like nominating Chief ministers and Congress Party Satraps in Indian States from “above” rather than allowing leaders to be elected democratically. The same sentiment was at work when she declared the national Emergency after the Allahabad High Court had unseated her, and when she “allowed” Congress men to vote “as per their conscience” during V. V. Giri’s Presidential election in 60s.
Well- known journalist, Inder Malhotra in his book Indira Gandhi, A Personal and Political Biography quotes Gen Sundarji, G OC in C of the Western Command and the over- all incharge of the Operation Blue star that “ I was told by the Defence Minister to be prepared for Operation Blue Star on 15 January 1984. Gen K.S Brar who had accepted to undertake the operation Blue Star could not deploy his troops immediately because Gen J.S Jamwal who was deputed earlier refused to carry out the massacre of Sikhs stating that “as a professional soldier he could not butcher his own people”. According to several retired Army officers Jasmwal was not the only senior officer to refuse to take up the assignment. Several other officers of the Western Command were sounded and found “unsuitable for Centre’s purpose.”
In a published article Lt Gen S.K.Sinha, the GOC in C of the Western Army Command says that Mrs Gandhi had asked his advice on plan to attack Golden Temple “I strongly advised against it “. Gen Sinha who was later shifted to Army HQs as Vice- chief of Army staff was the senior most Officer in line for promotion to be the next Army chief. “ I did not become Army chief because Mrs Gandhi did not appreciate my advice (on attack on Golden Temple).” said General Sinha.
On 2 June 1984, Punjab Governor B.D. Pande, a retired ICS officer had summoned Chief secretary K.D.Vasudeva, Home Secretary A.S. Pooni, IG Police P.S. Bhinder and IG Intelligence H.S. Randhawa at Governor’s House for a meeting. After reviewing the latest situation in Punjab it was unanimously agreed that the Army should not be used to attack the Golden Temple. The Governor agreed with this assessment and in their presence got through to P.C. Alexander, in charge of the PM office in New Delhi on the hot line. Pande told Alexander that he had reviewed the Punjab situation with senior Punjab officers who apprehended that Army might be sent in to Golden Temple. They were against such a step being taken and that he endorsed this view.
Alexander straightway rejected this advice and instructed the Governor to take a letter from the Home Secretary requesting Army intervention in the state. Home Secretary A.S. Pooni was made to sign the letter in this very meeting.
When Punjab officers told the governor that no assessment has been made by the Punjab Government, the Governor told them that the decision to call Army into Punjab had already been taken by the Centre, meaning by PM herself. Significantly the Home Secretary Pooni’s letter to the Army said “On the orders of the Punjab Governor I have been asked to request you to send the Army to the aid of the civil administration as Law and order has broken down in Punjab”. Out of the 13 districts not a single deputy Commissioner had formally requested for Army intervention or said that law and order situation had broken down. The order was not based on Punjab administration’s request to Governor nor Governor’s request to the union Government, but on the instructions of the PM Indira Gandhi.
It was thus an illegal and unconstitutional order. The decision was imposed by the Centre, rather the Prime Minister herself.
The well known BBC correspondent and writer Mark Tully asked “Why did not Mrs Gandhi act earlier to arrest Bhindranwala. If Government’s intention was to arrest Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala, it could have easily done so in September 1981 when the Sant was touring the country in trucks and chartered buses along with his followers and licensed weapons. He could have been arrested in Chak Kalan in Haryana.
The noted journalist M.J.Akbar has this to say: “During her last period in office, Mrs Gandhi had abandoned her traditional supporters—Muslims and Harijans or untouchables and tried to forge the majority Hindu community into a solid vote block. The catalyst for this new political synthesis was the Hindu revivalism sweeping through India. Hindus had been seeing themselves as the victims for the last 30 years of secularism in which the Muslim family- law had been protected.”
M. J. Akbar further said it was the “Hindu revivalists who began saying that in Hindu majority India it was Hinduism not Islam that was now in danger. Sikhs have been given a separate state of their own and Harijans or Untouchables had been given special opportunities for education and employment, all at the expense of High caste Hindus.”
Mrs Gandhi began to believe that there was bound to be a Hindu backlash against further pampering of the minorities. She decided to ride it as far as it would take her. “Indira Gandhi”, according to some experts, “ purposely delayed taking action against Bhindranwala because she was happy to see such an obvious challenge to Hinduism by a minority community. It helped her to weld the Hindu community together in a single, solid vote block.”
According to Justice V.M.Turkande of Citizens Forum “evidence shows that on June 1, 1984, no shot from Golden temple (by militants) was fired at the police. On the contrary, it was the CRP which was firing continuously. Punjab civil administration and police did not know who ordered the firing on Golden Temple on that day.
On 2nd June 1984 the whole of Punjab state was brought under curfew and the Army.
General Brar had mounted the attack on Darbar Sahib with four infantry battalions of Indian army, one squadron of Vijayanta tanks and a squadron of armoured personnel carriers supported by surveillance of IAF and Indian Navy. According to government White Paper not more than 100 to 150 militants were found in the Golden Temple complex. It took the Army 72 hours to complete Operation Blue Star for which it had to requisition tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
All the arms and equipment that Army could recover from the captured militants, included 41 machine guns, 84 self loading rifles, 52 Chinese rifles, 41 carbines, 28 assorted rifles, 49 submachine guns, 84 pistols and revolvers, 67 country made revolvers, 78 12-bore guns and 2 grenade launchers (anti-tank).
Though the devotees arrested from the golden temple by Army included elderly persons and women, no women cops were detailed to look after the women prisoners taken into custody by the Army which gave rise to numerous allegations that many women had been molested and raped by their captors— army Jawans. All this had happened under the nose of the “bold, brave General K.S. Brar.
Lt- General J.S. Arora, the hero of Bangla Desh war, in his “The Punjab story” has brought out the perfidy about the arms recovered. “No medium machine gun or mortar, a far more lethal weapon, was recovered from the precincts of the Golden Temple neither many sophisticated arms were recovered from the terrorists after the Blue Star operation. The impression built up in public mind of foreign governments deliberately arming the terrorists with a view to over throwing the government was grossly overdone. The 49.56 mm sub machine guns were subsequently added to swell the number of weapons which were not physically (recovered) from there.
“The militants may effectively have had only four machine guns. Thirty additional weapons might have been planted. Like the weapons, the number of the actual combatants, around 200, too appears to have been grossly inflated”, stated General J.S. Arora.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President G.S. Tohra, was another weak link whose role in allowing Sant Bhindranwala to stay in the Akal Takhat complex in December 1983 was a mischievous decision fraught with danger while Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Tohra himself stayed in the Guru Nanak Niwas in the Darbar Sahib complex. Tohra had an inkling that ultimately Army would take control of the Akal Takht. Had Tohra resigned as the president of the SGPC, Sant Bhindranwala would have been forced to vacate Akal Takht and taken refuge elsewhere.
It could have denied the Army a reason to mount an assault on the Akal Takhat Sahib and the subsequent tragedy and killing of thousands of innocent devotees in the Darbar Sahib complex, who got caught in the cross fire of Army and militants, could have been averted. Even after Blue Star operation, 75 other Gurdwaras were attacked and some destroyed by Army.
Since the state was not placed under martial law, a constitutional requirement, nor had Parliament authorised the government and the Army to attack Darbar Sahib, it was an unconstitutional act in which thousands of innocent citizens had been butchered.
While Lt Gen S.K. Sinha and three world-class Sikh Army Generals, Lt Gen Kulwant Singh, hero of 1947-48 J&K Operations, Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh, hero of 1965 Indo-Pak War and Lt Gen J.S. Arora, hero of 1971 Bangla Desh war were denied their well-deserved promotions, to be the Chief of Army staff, respectively, our bold and brave Maj Gen K.S. (BulBul) Brar had obviously earned his third star status – being promoted as Lt Gen – after his nefarious role in the infamous operation Blue Star.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2013, All