Devotees look at the damage inflicted on the Golden Temple in Amritsar after the Operation Bluestar in 1984.(HT File)
The Teja Singh Samundari Hall in the Golden Temple complex may have been refurbished, but the scars remain. Quite literally.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has preserved 147 bullet marks on the walls of its HQ, just so they can serve as evidence in a Rs 1,000-crore suit related to a military attack on the Golden Temple during Operation Blue Star.
Sikh leaders say that while money can’t possibly compensate for the damage suffered by the sacred site in June 1984, the suit is their way of keeping memories of the event alive. The case is due for the so-called “framing of issues” (a step in a suit where the contours of the dispute are defined) in April, 32 years after it was filed in 1985.
The compensation list
The library and toshakhana (treasury) of the Golden Temple were among the many structures that suffered severe damage in the military operation.
According to a list prepared by the SGPC, a chandoa (a diamond-encrusted piece of cloth hung over the Guru Granth Sahib) gifted by the Nizam of Hyderabad to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the early nineteenth century was charred in the violence. The cost of the artefact was pegged at Rs 200 crore.
Among the other damaged articles were at least 2,500 handwritten birs (holy books) of the Guru Granth Sahib from the times of Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Gobind Singh; a sehra (ornament worn on the forehead) belonging to Sikh ruler Naunihal Singh from the early 1800s; a gold jhallar (wall decoration) and a bunch of gold keys donated to the Golden Temple by Maharaja Ranjit Singh; 25 pencil sketches harking back to the age of the Sikh gurus; a handwritten gurbani (hymn book) of great religious and historic importance; an 11th Century Gita; and 50 miniature paintings from the same era.
The SGPC claims that the Akal Takht, which was hit by mortar shells during Operation Bluestar, was destroyed beyond repair. The list produced by the committee also cites the damage caused to other buildings – such as the Darshani Deori and the Teja Singh Samundari Hall – due to military action. Submissions to the court include news articles on Operation Bluestar and photographs of damaged buildings as well as bullet marks on sacred structures.
Apology not given
Many in the SGPC believe the matter could have been sorted out a long time ago, if only the government had mustered up the humility to apologise for its “mistake”.
During the course of the trial, the SGPC offered to withdraw its suit if the government agreed to apologise and submit a token compensation of Re 1. The defence lawyers, however, refused.
“We told the court that monetary compensation doesn’t matter much to Sikhs. The government’s acceptance of a wrong it committed would have gone a long way in resolving the issue and acting as a balm for the grieving community,” said Calcutta, desperately trying to hold back his tears.
Adapted from full article published by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times on 2nd Jan 2018.