No justification for the State to attack a place of worship!
An attack on one is an attack on all!
Statement of the Central Committee of Communist Ghadar Party of India, 22nd May 2017
On 6th June 1984, the Indian Army attacked the Golden Temple in Amritsar, with heavy tank and artillery fire. The armed attack on the holiest of Sikh temples was called Operation Blue Star. The attack coincided with the anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs, who was martyred centuries ago while defending the dignity of the Sikhs. Thousands of people who had gathered on this occasion were trapped inside as the Army laid siege to the temple before launching its final assault. According to the official White Paper on Operation Blue Star, 4,712 people were killed in the attack on the Golden Temple.
It was a communal act, an act of blatant interference of the State in a religious congregation. It was an act of the highest criminal degree, in violation of all accepted principles of governance. The State, whose core duty is supposed to include protecting its citizens’ lives and their right to any form of religious worship, sent its army to attack a place of worship, killing thousands of its own citizens assembled there.
Such a crime against humanity, comparable to the Jalianwala Bagh massacre carried out by the British Raj, has been recorded in official history as a legitimate act of defending the unity and integrity of India. It is a blatant case of turning the truth on its head.
Prior to the execution of Operation Blue Star, the people of India were fed daily with the propaganda that “Sikh terrorists” who were hiding in the Golden Temple had collected arms with which they were planning to organise large-scale massacre of Hindus. It was claimed that Operation Blue Star was necessary to “flush out the terrorists”. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi claimed that she had “no choice” except to order the army operation.
The official justifications have all been exposed by now to be a pack of lies. The fire arms recovered from within the temple complex were a few World War-II vintage rifles. The Bains Commission appointed by the Government of Punjab found no evidence of any terrorist activity by those who had been arrested during Operation Blue Star.
On the other hand, convincing evidence has been found showing that units of the Indian Army had been training for the attack on the Golden Temple for several months prior to June 1984. Evidence has also emerged that the Indira Gandhi government had requested and received assistance from the Margaret Thatcher government in Britain at an early stage of planning of the attack on the Golden Temple.
Operation Blue Star was the signal for the unleashing of widespread terror by the security forces against the people of Punjab and against Sikhs all over India. The bloodbath in Amritsar was followed by Operation Wood Rose, in which the army attacked hundreds of Gurudwaras in villages all over Punjab. Thousands of Sikh youth were arbitrarily picked up by the security forces and tortured. Many of them were killed in fake encounters.
Senior officials in charge of the Punjab Police have subsequently admitted that special “counter-terrorism” units were used to periodically organize arbitrary killings of Hindus and blame it on Sikh terrorists. It has by now been confirmed that many of the terrorist groups operating in Punjab in the 1980s were working under the close supervision of the central intelligence agencies.
The Real Aim
The real aim of the army attack on the Golden Temple was to humiliate people of the Sikh faith, break the unity of the Punjabi people and criminalize the struggles for economic and political rights that were growing in Punjab and many other parts of the country. It was to create public opinion in favour of widespread use of brute force by the State against its own citizens.
The decade of the 1970s had ended with a period of instability for the capitalist class in power. It was a period which witnessed a rising tide of struggles of workers, farmers and oppressed nationalities. Workers employed in essential public services were fighting for their right to strike. Farmers' demands for stable and remunerative prices for their produce were gaining ground in Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamilnadu. Demands were being raised for fulfilling the national rights of the Punjabi people, including their share in various river waters and of central financial resources.
The capitalist monopoly houses wanted to consolidate their control over state power and put down all possible resistance to their pursuit of global empire building aims. Creating the spectre of "Sikh terrorism" to justify communal persecution of Sikhs and widespread state terrorism in the name of national security became the preferred method for the capitalist monopoly houses to achieve their aim. State terrorism, including state-organised communal violence, served the monopoly capitalists to stabilize their control, divide and divert the mass movements and put down discordant lobbies within the propertied classes.
The politics of manipulation, division and diversion in Punjab began when the central intelligence and security agencies started sponsoring and financing armed groups within the mass movement that was growing at that time. Pointing to the existence of terrorist groups, which they themselves had created, the ruling circles carried out massive propaganda to brand the struggles of Punjabis as “Sikh extremism” and "Sikh terrorism". They projected this as the biggest threat to the unity and integrity of India. Persecution of Sikhs served to attack, divide and divert the Punjabi people, and do the same with people in struggle all over India.
A political and economic struggle was branded as being anti-national and treated as a law and order problem. People of a particular nationality were subjected to army rule, with their fundamental rights trampled in the mud. People who follow the Sikh religion were demonized. Truth was turned on its head to paint the victims as the villains and justify what cannot and must not be justified – namely, the armed assault of a holy place by the State and the killing of thousands of citizens belonging to the Sikh faith.
Operation Blue Star represented a turning point in Indian politics. It confirmed that the ruling class could no longer rule in the old way. Henceforth, terrorism, state terrorism and state organized communal massacres would be the permanent and preferred method of governance, alongside the conducting of periodic elections to legitimize the brutal dictatorship of a capitalist minority over the vast majority of Indian people.
The growing frequency of large-scale state-organised communal massacres and attacks on religious places over the past 33 years shows that this has become the preferred method of rule of the capitalist monopoly houses. Such crimes include the genocide of Sikhs in November 1984, attack on Hazratbal mosque, the communal violence against Hindus and Muslims accompanying and following the demolition of Babri Masjid, the Gujarat genocide of Muslims, attacks on churches in Odisha and other places, the attack on people of Muslim faith in Muzaffarnagar and numerous other episodes of communal violence and state-sponsored terrorism.
The increasing resort to state terrorism and communal violence has given rise to its opposite – a growing movement of broad sections of the people in defence of human rights and democratic rights, in general, and in defence of the Right to Conscience, in particular.
Communist Ghadar Party is proud to have taken a principled stand in defence of the right to conscience and in uncompromising opposition to state terrorism, right from its founding. The unity of progressive and democratic forces around this principled position has grown stronger over the past 33 years. Further strengthening this political unity in defence of the rights of all human beings and all citizens of the country is the way forward to put an end to state organized communal violence and state terror.
The 33rdanniversary of Operation Blue Star is an appropriate occasion to sum up the most important lessons learnt from the struggle against state terrorism and in defence of the right to conscience over the past three decades.
All human beings have rights by virtue of being human. All citizens of a democratic state have equal rights by virtue of being citizens. All constituents of a federal union have rights by virtue of being national constituents of a multi-national union. The State cannot give or take away human, democratic and national rights under any condition. The State is duty bound to recognize and protect all these rights.
It is the defence of this modern definition of rights which has provided the sound theoretical justification and strength of conviction to the struggle against state terrorism and state-sponsored communal violence.
A vital question that posed itself in the 1980s was the necessity to defend the right to conscience. If all members of society have the right to their beliefs and forms of worship, then the State is duty bound to protect that right, without exception. To accept that the State can take away someone’s right to conscience under some pretext or the other means to compromise with injustice of the highest degree. The point to note is that the existing Indian State is not only failing in its duty to protect its citizens but has itself become the perpetrator of attacks on the right to conscience,
Those who are being attacked on the basis of their religion will naturally gather in their places of worship and organize to defend themselves and their religious beliefs and practices. They have every right to do so; and that does not amount to a "communal" act. It is the State which is being communal when it interferes in religious affairs and persecutes people of a particular religion by branding them to be suspected terrorists.
A lesson worth reiterating again and again is that it is not the religious beliefs of people which lead to terrorism or communal violence. The source of the problem lies in the rule of the monopoly capitalists and the communal and colonial character of the existing State.
The right to conscience applies not only to religious beliefs but also to political opinions. Every member of Indian society has the right to express his or her opinion on the problems facing our society and propose potential solutions. We cannot and must not accept that the State can deprive some persons of their right to conscience because they express an opinion which is not to the liking of those in power.
The idea of Khalistan was presented as posing the biggest threat to India in 1984. Today the idea of “azaadi for Kashmir” is portrayed as being a grave threat. It is claimed that whoever expresses such ideas have no rights and must be treated as "enemies of the nation". These are different forms of ideological justification for state terrorism, for fascist suppression of rights. We must not conciliate with any such justification. The right to conscience is not conditional on whether a person's view is acceptable to the State or not.
Our party has never agreed with the idea of a separate homeland for Sikhs. However, we did not compromise with the official position that to express or even sympathize with such an idea is a criminal offence. If someone can believe and advocate that what India needs is Ram Rajya, why should it be a crime for someone else to believe in the need for a separate Sikh homeland? There was tremendous pressure in 1984 on every political party, that everyone must condemn Khalistan as the main problem in Punjab. Some parties conciliated with the official line by saying both sides are to blame. Our party did not budge from our principled position of holding the State and the rulers responsible for the violence and terror in Punjab. We persisted in convincing everyone that state terrorism is the main danger against which we must all unite.
A similar problem poses itself today in relation to the Kashmir national question. If someone has the right to claim that “Kashmir is an integral part of India”, why cannot someone else express the view that letting the people of Kashmir decide their own future through a referendum is the way to solve the problem?
We cannot recognize the right to conscience for some and not for others. We must defend everyone’s right to conscience and oppose every act of the State which violates anyone’s right to conscience. An attack on one is an attack on all! This is an indispensable guide to action.
It is not any of the peoples who are fighting for their national rights within the Indian Union who pose the threat to the unity of our people. The source of threat to the unity of the peoples comes from the colonial style policy of the Indian Union, of treating national movements as a law and order problem and using force to suppress people’s struggles for rights. The source of the problem is that the existing Indian Union is based on the communal and imperialist concept of “one Indian nation” consisting of a “Hindu majority” and various religious minorities.
The struggle for the affirmation of human, democratic and national rights must be waged on the basis of the modern definition of rights. We must wage this struggle with the perspective of replacing the existing communal and terroristic State with a new voluntary Indian Union which is committed to guarantee the human and democratic rights of all, without exception.