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Friday violence at Sikh temple brings up old troubles

Sikh protests
Sikh protests
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Friday, a fight broke out between two groups of Sikhs at Golden Temple complex in Punjab. Violence erupted between Radical Sikh factions and members of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Task Force (SGPC.) The Sikhs had assembled to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Operation Blue Star a deadly military action that went on in June, 1984. According to a June 6 Indian Express report, tensions were already high when radical leader Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann was refused permission to speak at Friday’s event.

Mann was eventually given a separate microphone. He spoke and then left the temple. A group of radicals started to wave their swords and utter slogans. They protested against the SGPC and demanded the removal of an opposition leader. Using sticks and swords, the radicals attacked the man who denied their leader the right to speak, then they entered the temple. Both sides grappled with swords and sticks until the radicals were flushed from the temple.

The violence continued outside until various police and other agencies stepped in to broker an uneasy end to the dispute. At least three people were taken to the hospital.

The event was organized by SGPC to honor hundreds of civilians who were killed during Operation Blue Star. The Indian military evicted radicals who were occupying the Golden Temple. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the radical group’s leader, 400 civilians and 87 soldiers died in the battle.

The unrest did not end at the Golden Temple. In October of 1984, Sikh bodyguards assassinated Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In November of that same year, anti-Sikh rioting broke out all over India and some 3,000 civilians were killed.

According to a June 6 BBC News article, there are still unresolved issues from Operation Blue Star. Some Sikh groups have called for an independent investigation into rumors that British operatives served as advisors during the planning stages of Operation Blue Star. There are also disputes about the death tolls from the military operation and related unrest.

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