Insurgency in Punjab, India

(Redirected from Insurgency in Punjab)

The Insurgency in Punjab, India was an armed campaign by the militants of the Khalistan Movement from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.[21] Terrorism, Police brutality and corruption of the authorities were the highlights of the insurgency and the aftermath of the 1984 Sikh Massacre. In the 1980s, the movement had evolved into a militant secessionist movement after the perceived indifference of the Indian state in regards to mutual negotiations.[22] The demand for a separate Sikh state gained momentum after the Indian Army's Operation Blue Star in 1984 aimed to flush out militants residing in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a holy site for Sikhs.[23] The operation resulted in the deaths of many militants and civilians, as well as the destruction of the Golden Temple.[24] In the mid-1990s, the insurgency petered out and the Khalistan Movement failed to reach its objective due to multiple reasons including a heavy police crackdown on civilians and militants and extrajudicial killing of Sikhs by Punjab Police and Indian Army.[25][26][27][28] The militancy brought under the control of the law enforcement agencies by 1995.[29]

Insurgency in Punjab, India
Punjab in India (claimed and disputed hatched).svg
Affected areas are coloured in Red
Date1 June 1984 – 3 September 1995[7][8][9]
(11 years, 3 months and 3 days)
Punjab, India (Other parts of India on a smaller scale)

Indian victory



Supported by:

 Pakistan [4][5][6]
Commanders and leaders
Prime Ministers
Indira Gandhi X
Rajiv Gandhi
Vishwanath Pratap Singh
Chandra Shekhar
P. V. Narasimha Rao
Zail Singh
Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Shankar Dayal Sharma
Chief Minister of Punjab
Surjit Singh Barnala
Beant Singh  X
Harcharan Singh Brar
Punjab Police
DGP K.S. Dhillon
DGP Julio Riberio (WIA)
DGP D.S. Mangat (WIA)
DGP Kanwar Pal Singh Gill
IG Trilok Chand Katoch X
DIG Ajit Singh 
SSP Gobind Ram X
SSP Prithpal Virk
SSP A.S. Brar X
SSP Mohammad Izhar Alam
Indian Army
Flag of Indian Army.svg General Arun Shridhar Vaidya (Chief of Army Staff, 1983-1986)  X
Flag of Indian Army.svg General Krishnaswamy Sundarji (Chief of Army Staff, 1986-1988)
Flag of Indian Army.svg Major General Kuldip Singh Brar
Flag of Indian Army.svg Lieutenant general Ranjit Singh Dyal
Flag of Indian Army.svg Major General B. N. Kumar X
Flag of Indian Army.svg Lt. Col. Sant Singh Bhullar X
Flag of Central Reserve Police Forces Shival Swarup
Flag of Central Reserve Police Forces T.G.L. Iyer
Flag of Central Reserve Police Forces S.D. Pandey
Flag of Central Reserve Police Forces P. G. Harlankar
Flag of Central Reserve Police Forces S. Subramanian
Flag of Central Reserve Police Forces D.P.N. Singh
Flag of Central Reserve Police Forces S.V.M. Tripathi
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale 
Shabeg Singh 
Amrik Singh 
Manbir Singh Chaheru
Labh Singh 
Kanwaljit Singh Sultanwind [10]
Paramjit Singh Panjwar
Jagjit Singh Chauhan
Ranjit Singh Neeta
KLF Logo.jpg Aroor Singh Executed
KLF Logo.jpg Avtar Singh Brahma 
KLF Logo.jpg Gurjant Singh 
Navroop Singh 
KLF Logo.jpg Navneet Singh Khadian 
KLF Logo.jpg Pritam Singh Sekhon 
Gurbachan Singh 
Balwinder Singh
Talwinder Singh Parmar 
Sukhdev Singh Babbar 
Wadhawa Singh Babbar
Units involved
  • Babbar Khalsa
  • Khalistan Zindabad Force
  • Khalistan Commando Force
  • KLF Logo.jpg Khalistan Liberation Force
  • Bhindranwale Tigers Force of Khalistan

  • Supported by:


    India 150,000-500,000[12][13][11]: 405 

    • BSF 175,000 (158 battalions. Half patrolling against militants) [11]: 406 
    • Punjab Police 55,000-70,000 [11]: 395–396 
    • Police from other states sent to help 75,000 [11]: 405 
    • Special Police Officers 40,000 [11]: 395–396 
    • Police Vigilantes and Intelligence Personnel 10,000 [11]: 395–396 
    • CRPF 150,000 (134 battalions) [11]: 406 
    • ITBP 30,000 [11]: 406 
    • CISF 90,000 [11]: 406 
    • NSG 6,500 [11]: 406 
    • SSG 10,000 [11]: 406 
    • IRF 16,500 (15 battalions) [11]: 406 
    • Assam Rifles 35,000 (31 battalions) [11]: 406 
    • Rashtriya Rifles 40,000 (36 battalions)[11]: 406 
    6,000 at peak[14]
    Casualties and losses
    1,768 police officers (per K.P.S Gill)[15]: 134 [16]
    1,700 soldiers (per Inderjit Singh Jaijee citing K.P.S Gill)[15]: 134 
    7,946 insurgents [16][17][18]
    11,690 non-combatants deaths (according to the government) Independent estimates up to 250,000 (See End of violence section)[16][17][19][20]
    35,000 civilians and militants arrested/detained under TADA. (223 were convicted) 27,000 others arrested/detained. [15]: 288–292 

    The Green Revolution brought several social and economic changes which, along with factionalism of the politics, in the Punjab state increased tension between rural Sikhs in Punjab with the union Government of India.[30] In the 1972 Punjab state elections, Congress won and Akali Dal was defeated. In 1973, Akali Dal put forward the Anandpur Sahib Resolution to demand more autonomic powers to the state of Punjab.[31] The Congress government considered the resolution a secessionist document and rejected it.[32] Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale then joined the Akali Dal to launch the Dharam Yudh Morcha in 1982, to implement Anandpur Sahib resolution. Bhindranwale had risen to prominence in the Sikh political circle with his policy of getting the Anandpur Resolution passed, failing which he wanted to declare a semi-autonomous, federal region of Punjab as a homeland for Sikhs.[33]

    Bhindranwale was credited by the government with launching Sikh militancy in Punjab.[34] Under Bhindranwale, the number of people initiating into the Khalsa increased. He also increased the awareness amongst the populace about the ongoing assault on Sikh values by politicians, alleging their intentions to influence Sikhism and eradicate its individuality by conflating it with Pan-Indian Hinduism.[34] Bhindranwale and his followers started carrying firearms at all times for self defense.[34] In 1983, he along with his militant followers occupied and fortified Akal Takht.[35] While critics claimed that he entered it to escape arrest in 1983, there was no arrest warrant issued in his name, and he was regularly found giving interviews to the press in and outside the Akal Takht. He made the Sikh religious building his headquarters and led a campaign for autonomy in Punjab with the strong backing of Major General Shabeg Singh. They then took refuge in the Akal Takht as the extrajudicial violence against Sikhs increased in the months before Operation Bluestar. [36]

    On 1 June 1984, Operation Blue Star was launched to remove him and the armed militants from the Golden Temple complex. On 6 June, on Guru Arjan Dev Martyrdom Day, Bhindranwale was killed by the Indian military in the operation.[37] The operation carried out in the Gurudwara caused outrage among the Sikhs and increased the support for Khalistan Movement.[21] Four months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was assassinated in vengeance by her two bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.[38] Public outcry over Gandhi's death led to the slaughter of Sikhs in the ensuing 1984 Sikh Massacre.[39] These events played a major role in the violence by Sikh militant groups supported by Pakistan and consumed Punjab until the early 1990s when the Khalistan movement was eventually crushed in Punjab.[40]


    In the 1950s the Punjabi Suba movement for linguistic reorganisation of the state of Punjab and status for the Punjabi language took place, which the government finally agreed to in 1966 after protests and recommendation of the States Reorganisation commission.[21] The state of East Punjab was later split into the states of Himachal Pradesh, the new state Haryana and current day Punjab.[41]

    The process of Sikh alienation from the national mainstream was set in motion shortly after Independence due to the communalism of national and regional parties and organization including the RSS, Jan Sangh, and the Arya Samaj, exacerbated by Congress mishandling and local politicians and factions.[42] According to Indian general Afsir Karim, many observers believed that separatist sentiments began in 1951 when Punjabi Hindus disowned the Punjabi language under the influence of radical elements, and "doubts on the concepts of a Punjabi Suba" created mutual suspicion, bitterness, and further misunderstanding between the two communities.[42] The 1966 reorganization left the Sikhs highly dissatisfied, with the unresolved status of Chandigarh and the distribution of river waters intensifying bitter feelings.[42]

    While the Green Revolution in Punjab had several positive impacts, the introduction of the mechanised agricultural techniques led to uneven distribution of wealth. The industrial development was not done at the same pace of agricultural development, the Indian government had been reluctant to set up heavy industries in Punjab due to its status as a high-risk border state with Pakistan.[43] The rapid increase in the higher education opportunities without adequate rise in the jobs resulted in the increase in the unemployment of educated youth.[21] The resulting unemployed rural Sikh youth were drawn to the militant groups, and formed the backbone of the militancy.[44]

    After being routed in 1972 Punjab election,[31] the Akali Dal put forward the Anandpur Sahib Resolution in 1973 to address these and other grievances,[45] and demand more autonomy to Punjab.[31] The resolution included both religious and political issues. It asked for recognising Sikhism as a religion It also demanded that power be generally devoluted from the Central to state governments.[21] The Anandpur Resolution was rejected by the government as a secessionist document. Thousands of people joined the movement, feeling that it represented a real solution to demands such as a larger share of water for irrigation and the return of Chandigarh to Punjab.[46]

    The 1978 Sikh-Nirankari clashes had been within the Sikh community, but the pro-Sant Nirankari stance of some Hindus in Punjab and Delhi had led to further division, including Jan Sangh members like Harbans Lal Khanna joining the fray, who, in a protest against holy city status for Amritsar, raising inflammatory slogans like "Kachha, kara, kirpan, bhejo inko Pakistan" ("those who wear the 5 Ks (Sikhs), send them to Pakistan"), led to aggressive counter demonstrations.[45]

    Dharam Yudh MorchaEdit

    Bhindranwale had risen to prominence in the Sikh political circle with his policy of getting the Anandpur Sahib Resolution passed.[33] Indira Gandhi, the leader of the Akali Dal's rival Congress, considered the Anandpur Sahib Resolution as a secessionist document although it was purely humanitarian and according to earlier promises by the government but rejected.[32] The Government was of the view that passing of the resolution would have allowed Punjab to be autonomous.

    As high-handed police methods normally used on common criminals were used on protesters during the Dharam Yudh Morcha, creating state repression affecting a very large segment of Punjab's population, retaliatory violence came from a section of the Sikh population, widening the scope of the conflict by the use of violence of the state on its own people, creating fresh motives for Sikh youth to turn to insurgency.[47] The concept of Khalistan was still vague even while the complex was fortified under the influence of former Sikh army officials alienated by government actions who now advised Bhindranwale, Major General Shabeg Singh and retired Major General and Brigadier Mohinder Singh, and at that point the concept was still not directly connected with the movement he headed.[47] In other parts of Punjab, a "state of chaos and repressive police methods" combined to create "a mood of overwhelming anger and resentment in the Sikh masses against the authorities", making Bhindranwale even more popular, and demands of independence gain currency, even amongst moderates and Sikh intellectuals.[47] Extrajudicial killings by the police of orthodox Sikh youth in rural areas in Punjab during the summer and winter of 1982 and early 1983, provoking reprisals.[48] Over 190 Sikhs had been killed in the first 19 months of the protest movement.[49]

    Operation Blue StarEdit

    Operation Blue Star was an Indian military operation carried out between 1 and 8 June 1984, ordered by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to remove religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahib complex in Amritsar, Punjab.[50] In July 1983, the Sikh political party Akali Dal's President Harcharan Singh Longowal had invited Bhindranwale to take up residence in Golden Temple Complex.[51][38] Bhindranwale later on made the sacred temple complex an armoury and headquarters.[52][53] In the violent events leading up to the Operation Blue Star, the militants had killed 165 Nirankaris, Hindus and Nirankaris, even 39 Sikhs opposed to Bhindranwale were killed. The total number of deaths was 410 in violent incidents and riots while 1,180 people were injured.[54]

    Counterintelligence reports of the Indian agencies had reported that three prominent figures in the operation, Shabeg Singh, Balbir Singh and Amrik Singh had made at least six trips each to Pakistan between the years 1981 and 1983.[4] Intelligence Bureau reported that weapons training was being provided at gurdwaras in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Soviet intelligence agency KGB reportedly tipped off the Indian agency RAW about the CIA and ISI working together on a Plan for Punjab with a code name "Gibraltar". RAW from its interrogation of a Pakistani Army officer received information that over a thousand trained Special Service Group commandos of the Pakistan Army had been dispatched by Pakistan into the Indian Punjab to assist Bhindranwale in his fight against the government. A large number of Pakistani agents also took the smuggling routes in the Kashmir and Kutch n for three days ending on 8 June. A clean-up operation codenamed as Operation Woodrose was also initiated throughout Punjab.[4]

    The army had underestimated the firepower possessed by the militants. Militants had Chinese made rocket-propelled grenade launchers with armour piercing capabilities. Tanks and heavy artillery were used to attack the militants using anti-tank and machine-gun fire from the heavily fortified Akal Takht. After a 24-hour firefight, the army finally wrested control of the temple complex. Casualty figures for the Army were 83 dead and 249 injured.[55] According to the official estimate presented by the Indian government, 1592 were apprehended and there were 493 combined militant and civilian casualties.[56] High civilian casualties were attributed by the state to militants using pilgrims trapped inside the temple as human shields.[57] According to Indian army generals, it was "doubtful" that Bhindranwale had any assurance of help or promise of asylum from Pakistan, as he made no attempt to escape with any associates, in additions to traditions of martyrdom.[58]

    Assassination of Indira Gandhi and anti-Sikh riotsEdit

    Operation Bluestar was criticized by many Sikhs bodies who interpreted the military action as an assault on Sikh religion.[59] Four months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated in vengeance by her two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.[38]

    Public outcry and instigation of the public by several high-profile politicians and actors[60] over Gandhi's death led to the killings of more than 3,000 Sikhs in the ensuing 1984 anti-Sikh riots.[39] In the aftermath of the riots, the government reported that 20,000 had fled the Dehli; the People's Union for Civil Liberties reported "at least" 1,000 displaced persons.[61] The most-affected regions were the Sikh neighbourhoods of Delhi. Human rights organisations and newspapers across India believed that the massacre was organised.[62][63][64] The collusion of political officials in the violence and judicial failure to penalise the perpetrators alienated Sikhs and increased support for the Khalistan movement.[65]


    Since the November 1984 pogrom, the Sikhs considered themselves a besieged community.[66] The majority of Sikhs in Punjab would come to support the insurgents as harsh police measures, harassment of innocent Sikh families, and fake encounters from the state had progressively increased support, and provided fresh motives for angry youth to join the insurgents, who were extolled by the community as martyrs as they were killed by police.[66] Police activity discriminatory towards Sikhs increased alienation greatly, triggering indiscriminate militant incidents.[66] However, the insurgent groups were also highly vulnerable to infiltration by security forces, providing possible motive as to frequent assassination of those suspected of being informants.[66]

    A section of Sikhs turned to militancy in Punjab; some Sikh militant groups aimed to create an independent state called Khalistan through acts of violence directed at members of the Indian government, army or forces. Others demanded an autonomous state within India, based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Rajiv Gandhi congratulated a "large number" of Sikhs in a speech in 1985 for condemning the actions of the militants "for the first time."[67]

    An anthropological study by Puri et al. had posited fun, excitement and expressions of masculinity, as explanations for the young men to join militants and other religious nationalist groups. Puri et al. stated that undereducated and illiterate young men, and with few job prospects had joined pro-Khalistan militant groups with "fun" as one of the primary reasons, asserting that the pursuit of Khalistan was the motivation for only 5% of "militants".[68][69][full citation needed] Among the arrested militants were Harjinder Singh Jinda, who was a convicted bank robber and had escaped from prison, Devinder Singh Bai, a suspect in murder case and was Bhindranwale's close associate, and two drug smugglers, Upkar Singh and Bakshish Singh.[70] However, retired Indian Army general Afsir Karim had described "myths" that had become part of the conventional wisdom of the establishment, including that of "Sikhs have no cause to be dissatisfied or disgruntled" or "have no grievances", or that "terrorism and violence is the work of a handful of misguided youth and criminals and can be curbed by strong measures taken by the state law and order apparatus", stating that the terrorism was a preliminary stage of insurgency in Punjab, that it was well organized, and that the militants were highly motivated and that crime was not their motive.[71] Army leaders during the earlier operation had noted that "it was now evident that this was no rabble army, but a determined insurgent army fired up with religious fervour."[53] The movement would only begin to attract lumpen elements in the late 1980s, joining for the allure of money rather than the long cherished cause of a separate homeland for the Sikhs,[72] as well as by entryists like Naxalites who "took advantage of the situation for their own ends."[67]

    According to Human Rights Watch in the beginning, on the 1980s, militants committed indiscriminate bombings in crowded places, as Indian security forces killed, disappeared, and tortured thousands of innocent Sikhs extrajudicially during its counterinsurgency campaign.[73] On the same day, in another location, a group of militants killed two officials during an attack on a train.[36]: 174  Trains were attacked and people were shot after being pulled from buses.

    The Congress(I)-led Central Government dismissed its own Punjab's government, declaring a state of emergency, and imposed the President's Rule in the state.[36]: 175 

    The Operation Blue Star and Anti-Sikh riots across Northern India were crucial events in the evolution of the Khalistan movement. The nationalist groups grew in numbers and strength.[4] The financial funding from the Sikh diaspora sharply increased and the Sikhs in the US, UK and Canada donated thousands of dollars every week for the insurgency. Manbir Singh Chaheru the chief of the Sikh militant group Khalistan Commando Force admitted that he had received more than $60,000 from Sikh organisations operating in Canada and Britain. One of the militant stated, "All we have to do is commit a violent act and the money for our cause increased drastically."[74] Indira Gandhi's son and political successor, Rajiv Gandhi, tried unsuccessfully to bring peace to Punjab.[52]

    The opportunity that the government had after 1984 was lost and by March 1986, the Golden Temple was back in control of Sikh institution Damdami Taksal.[4] By 1985, the situation in Punjab had become highly volatile. In December 1986, a bus was attacked by Sikh militants in which 24 Hindus were shot dead and 7 were injured and shot near Khuda in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab.[75] [76] By the beginning of 1990, the Sikh militancy had begun to kill proportionately more Sikhs than Hindus. In the period of 1981-1989, 5,521 people, including 451 police personnel had been killed by terrorists. In the period 1990-1991, 6,000 people, including 973 police officers, paramilitary, home guards and special police personnel had been murdered.[77] Militant organizations such as Babbar Khalsa began issuing edicts in an attempt to restore ideological justification for the millitancy which had now acquired significant criminalization in its praxis. Schools were ordered to mandate religious uniforms and ban skirts for girls, other demands included the promotion of the Punjabi language, a proscription on alcohol, cigarettes, meat and certain wedding conduct. Militants set fire to various bank branches to enforce their promotion of Punjabi, journalists and newspaper deliverymen were gunned down to coerce the media into portraying the militants in a more favorable light and to append honorific titles before certain militants' names.[78]

    Killings committed by militants (based on newspaper reports 89/90)
    1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 Total Source
    Innocents killed 339 55 478 815 1839 1800 1800 7126 [79]
    Police or security personnel killed 20 8 42 95 42 428 440 1075

    Alleged Pakistan involvementEdit

    According to Indian general Afsir Karim, there was "nothing to suggest that the initial break between Sikhs and the national mainstream was engineered by outside agencies."[80] The first impetus occurred shortly after Independence in 1951 when Punjabi Hindus, under the influence of local Hindu radical groups,[80] abandoned Punjabi to call Hindi their mother tongue in falsified censuses to prevent the formation of the Punjabi Suba, which brought out other differences between the two communities in the open.[80] Despite this, it required an event of the magnitude of Operation Blue Star to give rise to militancy in an organized form.[80] The pre-operation period generated enough heat to draw Pakistan interest, but it was Operation Blue Star which gave the final push to angry Sikh youth to cross the border and accept Pakistani assistance and support.[80] Even then their anger was "not particularly against the Hindu population but against the humiliation of Blue Star compounded by the anti-Sikh riots of 1984."[80]

    In 1964, Pakistani state-owned radio station began airing separatist propaganda targeted for Sikhs in Punjab, which continued during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.[70] Pakistan had been promoting the Sikh secessionist movement since the 1970s. The Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had politically supported the idea of Khalistan wherever possible. Under Zia ul Haq, this support became even more prominent. The motive for supporting Khalistan was the revenge for India's role in splitting of Pakistan in 1971 and to discredit India's global status by splitting a Sikh state to vindicate Jinnah's Two-nation theory.[4] Zia had seen this as an opportunity to weaken and distract India in another war of insurgency following the Pakistani military doctrine to "Bleed India with a Thousand Cuts". Former Director General of ISI Hamid Gul had once stated that "Keeping Punjab destabilized is equivalent to the Pakistan Army having an extra division at no cost to the taxpayers."[81]

    Since the early 1980s, for the fulfillment of these motives, the spy agency Inter-Service-Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan became involved with the Khalistan movement.[4] ISI created a special Punjab cell in its headquarter to support the militant Sikh followers of Bhindranwale and supply them with arms and ammunitions. Militant training camps were set up in Pakistan at Lahore and Karachi to train them. ISI deployed its Field Intelligence Units (FIU) on the Indo-Pak Border. Organisations like Bhindranwale Tiger Force, the Khalistan Commando Force, the Khalistan Liberation Force and the Babbar Khalsa were provided support.[4]

    A three-phase plan was followed by the Punjab cell of ISI.[4]

    • Phase 1 had the objective to initiate alienation of the Sikh people from rest of the people in India.
    • Phase 2 worked to subvert government organisation and organize mass agitations opposing the government.
    • Phase 3 marked the beginning of a reign of terror in Punjab where the civilians became victims of violence by the militants and counter-violence by the government, due to which a vicious cycle of terrorism would be induced and utter chaos would ensue.[4]

    The ISI also attempted to make appeals to the five-member Panthic Committee, elected from among the religious leaders of the Panth at the Panj Takhts as the upholders of the Sikh religion, as well as the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee due to its substantial financial resources,[4] and as both Sikh committees had major political influence over Punjab and New Delhi.[4]

    Sikhs in Pakistan were a small minority and the Panthic Committee in Pakistan assisted the propaganda campaign of ISI in its propaganda and psychological warfare. The Sikh community in the country and abroad were its target. Panthic Committee delivered religious speeches and revealing incidents of torture to the Sikhs. Sikhs were instigated to take up arms against the Indian Government "in the name of a hypothetical autonomous Sikh nation".[4]

    ISI used Pakistani Sikhs as partners for its operation in the Indian Punjab. The militant training program was spread over and the Sikh gurdwaras on both sides of International border were used as place for residence and armoury for storing weapons and ammunitions.[4]

    The direct impact of these activities was felt during the Operation Blue Star where the Sikh insurgents fighting against the army were found to be well trained in warfare and had enough supply of ammunitions.[4] After the Operation Blue Star several modern weapons found inside the temple complex with the Pakistan or Chinese markings on them.[82]

    Training and infrastructureEdit

    Pakistan had been involved in training, guiding, and arming Sikh militants.[4] Interrogation reports of Sikh militants arrested in India gave details of the training of Sikh youth in Pakistan including arms training in the use of rifles, sniper rifle, light machine gun, grenade, automatic weapons, chemical weapons, demolition of buildings and bridges, sabotage and causing explosions using gunpowder by the Pak-based Sikh militant leaders and Pakistani army officers. A dozen militant training camps had been set up in Pakistan along the International border. These camps housed 1500 to 2000 Sikh militants who were imparted guerrilla warfare training.[70] Reports also suggested plans of ISI to cause explosions in big cities like Amritsar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Delhi and targeting politicians.[83][84] According to KPS Gill, militants had been mainly using crude bombs but since 1990s more modern explosives supplied by Pakistan had become widespread in usage among them. The number of casualties also increased with more explosives usage by the militants.[4]


    By providing modern sophisticated weapons to the Sikh extremists, the Pakistani ISI was efficacious in producing an environment which conducted guerrilla warfare.[4]

    A militant from Babbar Khalsa who had been arrested in the early 1990s had informed Indian authorities about Pakistani ISI plans to use aeroplanes for Kamikaze attacks on Indian installations. The Sikhs however refused to participate in such operations on religious grounds as Sikhism prohibits suicide assassinations.[4] In a hijacking in 1984 a German manufactured pistol was used and during the investigations, Germany's Federal Intelligence Service then confirmed that the weapon was part of a weapon consignment for the Pakistani government. The American government had then issued warnings over the incident after which the series of hijackings of Indian aeroplanes had stopped.[4]

    End of violenceEdit

    Between 1987 and 1991, Punjab was placed under an ineffective President's rule and was governed from Delhi. Elections were eventually held in 1992 but the voter turnout was poor. A new Congress(I) government was formed and it gave the Chief of the Punjab Police (India) K.P.S. Gill a free hand.

    Under his Command, police had launched multiple intelligence-based operations like Operation Black Thunder to neutralise Sikh militants. Police was also successful in killing multiple High-value militants thus suppressing the violence and putting an end to mass killings.[85]

    By 1993, the Punjab insurgency had petered out, with a last major incident being the assassination of Chief Minister Beant Singh occurring in 1995.[4]

    1,714 security personnel, 1,700 soldiers, 7,946 militants, and 11,690 non-combatants were killed throughout the conflict. Some sources have stated higher figures for non-combatant deaths, which go as high as 250,000 deaths. These higher figures have been disputed and described as closer to the Council of Khalistan's estimates.[19][20][16][86] The Akali Dal estimated that 145,000 Sikhs were killed from 1984-1994.[11]: 135  A total of 62,000 people were arrested or detained, but only 223 of them would be charged.[15]: 288–292 


    Punjab Insurgancy Chronology Outline
    Date Event Source
    March 1967 Akali Dal heavily defeats INC Indian Congress Party in successive elections after 1967 Punjab Legislative Assembly election.
    March 1972 Akali Dal loses in Punjab elections, Congress wins.
    17 October 1973 Akalis ask for their rights through Anandpur Sahib Resolution
    25 April 1980 Gurbachan Singh of Sant Nirankari sect shot dead.
    2 June 1980 Akalis lose suspect election in Punjab [87]
    16 Aug 1981 Sikhs in Golden Temple meet foreign correspondent about their views on Khalistan [88]
    9 Sep 1981 Jagat Narain, Editor, Hind Samachar group murdered. [89]
    29 Sep 1981 Sikh Separatists hijack aircraft to Pakistan. [90]
    11 Feb 1982 US gives Visa to Jagjit Singh Chauhan. [91]
    11 Apr 1982 US Khalistani G.S. Dhillon Barred From India [92]
    July 1982 Sikh militants storm the parliament in a protest related to the deaths of 34 Sikhs who were tortured in police custody. [93]
    4 Aug 1982 Akalis demand autonomy and civil rights for Punjab [94]
    11 Oct 1982 Sikh stage protests at the Indian Parliament which is violently broken up [93]
    Nov 1982 Longowal threatens to disrupt Asian Games but Sikhs are mass arrested and abducted before reaching the games,protests disrupted [95]
    27 Feb 1983 Sikhs permitted to carry daggers in domestic flights [96]
    23 April 1983 Punjab Police Deputy Inspector General A. S. Atwal was shot dead as he left the Harmandir Sahib compound by a unknown gunman, widely believed to be anti-Damdami Taksal and anti-brindranwale Sikh group AKJ, who had also occupied the Darbar Sahib Complex with firearms [97]
    3 May 1983 Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, talks of violence being perpetuated against Sikhs without being reported since 1977 in Haryana, Rajasthan and some villages of South Punjab and for India to act [98]
    18 June 1983 A detective inspector from Punjab police killed by Sikh militants. [99]
    14 July 1983 Four policemen killed by Sikh militants. [99]
    21 September 1983 Senior superintendent of Punjab Police wounded and his guard killed by Sikh militants. [99]
    29 September 1983 5 Punjab Police constables killed by Sikh militants in a week. [99]
    14 Oct 1983 3 people killed at a Hindu festival in Chandigarh [100]
    5 Oct 1983 6 Hindu passengers dragged off bus and shot dead in 1983 Dhilwan bus massacre. [101][99]
    6 Oct 1983 President's rule imposed in Punjab [99]
    Oct 1983 3 Hindus pulled off a train and killed. [102]
    21 Oct 1983 A passenger train was derailed and 19 agricultural labourers from Bihar were killed by Sikh militants along with 2 other passengers. [99]
    18 Nov 1983 A bus was hijacked and 4 Hindu passengers were killed by Sikh militants. [99]
    9 Feb 1984 A Hindu wedding procession in Hambran of Ludhiana district bombed by Sikh militants. 14 reported dead. [103]
    14 Feb 1984 Six policemen abducted from a post in Amritsar and one of them killed in captivity. [97]
    14 Feb 1984 More than 12 people killed in Sikh-Hindu riots in Punjab and Haryana. [99]
    19 Feb 1984 Sikh-Hindu clashes spread in North India. [104]
    23 Feb 1984 11 Hindus killed and 24 injured by Sikh militants. [105]
    25 Feb 1984 6 Hindus killed in a bus by Sikh militants, total 68 people killed over last 11 days. [106]
    29 Feb 1984 Bhindranwale still openely speaks of first seeking civil rights for Sikhs and Punjab before seeking Khalistan, as opposed to the AKJ group. [107]
    28 March 1984 Harbans Singh Manchanda, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president murdered. [108]
    3 April 1984 Militants popularity grows and so does instability in Punjab. [109]
    8 April 1984 Longowal writes – he cannot control Bhindranwale anymore [110]
    14 April 1984 Surinder Singh Sodhi, a follower of Bhindranwale, shot dead at a temple by a man and a woman. [111]
    17 April 1984 Deaths of 3 Sikh Activists in factional fighting. [112]
    27 May 1984 Ferozepur politician killed by Sikh militants after confessing to fake police encounters with "terrorist" killings. [113]
    1 June 1984 Total media and the press black out in Punjab, the rail, road and air services in Punjab suspended. Foreigners' and NRIs' entry was also banned and water and electricity supply cut off. [114][115][116]
    1 June 1984 Operation Blue Star to remove militants from Harmandir Sahib commences, Punjab shut-down from outside world. [117]
    3 June 1984 Army takes control of Punjab's security. [118]
    6 June 1984 5 day-long battle over control of the Golden Temple concludes. [119][120]
    6 June 1984 Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale shot dead by military. [121]
    7 June 1984 Indian military finally take full control of Harmandir Sahib after 8 days. Operation Bluestar concludes. [122]
    8 June 1984 27 Sikhs killed in protests in Srinagar, Ludhiana, Amritsar after Government forces indiscriminately fired on protesters. [123]
    9 June 1984 Weapons and Ammunition of Sikh militants inside the Golden Temple seized by Indian troops. 2 Indian troops and 4 militants killed in shootout on the outskirts of Amritsar. [124][check quotation syntax]
    10 June 1984 Reports of Anti-Sikh riots and killings in Delhi. [125]
    11 June 1984 Negotiators close to a settlement on waters. [126]
    24 August 1984 7 Sikh militants abduct 100 passengers in 1984 Indian Airlines Airbus A300 hijacking. [127]
    31 October 1984 Indira Gandhi assassinated by her 2 Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh in retaliation for Operation Bluestar. [128]
    1 November 1984 In the retaliation of Indira Gandhi's assassination, 1984 anti-Sikh riots begin in Delhi. [62]
    3 November 1984 Anti-Sikh violence concludes. A total of 2,733 Sikhs were killed in the violence. [62]
    23 June 1985 Air India Flight 182 was bombed by Sikh terrorists killing 329 passengers (including 22 crew members); almost all of them Hindus
    20 August 1985 Harcharan Singh Longowal assassinated by Sikh militants. [129]
    29 September 1985 60% vote, Akali Dal won 73 of 115 seats, Barnala CM [130]
    26 January 1986 Sikhs have a global meeting and the rebuilding of Akal Takht declared as well as the five member Panthic Committee selected and have draft of the Constitution of Khalistan written. [131]
    29 April 1986 Resolution of Khalistan passed by Sarbat Khalsa and Khalistan Commando Force also formed at Akal Takht with more than 80,000 Sikhs present. [132]
    25 July 1986 14 Hindus and one Sikh passenger killed in the 1986 Muktsar Bus massacre by Sikh militants. [133]
    30 November 1986 24 Hindu passengers killed in the 1986 Hoshiarpur Bus massacre by Sikh militants. [134]
    19 May 1987 State Committee Member CPI(M) Comrade Deepak Dhawan was murdered at Village Sangha, Tarn Taran. [135]
    7 July 1987 Sikh militants from Khalistan Commando Force attacked two buses. They singled out and killed 34 Hindu bus passengers in 1987 Haryana killings. [136]
    12 May 1988 Operation Black Thunder II initiated to remove militants from Harmandir Sahib. [137]
    10 January 1990 Senior Superintendent of Batala Police, Gobind Ram, killed in bomb blast in retaliation for him and his Hindu police officers along with the BSF gang-raping Sikh women during a search on Gora Choor village. [138][139]
    16 June 1991 80 people killed on two trains by Sikh militants. [140]
    17 October 1991 40 people killed and 197 injured in 1991 Rudrapur bombings by Sikh militants in Uttarakhand. All of the victims were Hindu civilians.
    25 February 1992 Congress achieves a major victory in Punjab Assembly elections. [141]
    7 January 1993 Punjab's biggest police encounter done in village of Chhichhrewal Tehsil Batala; 11 Khalistani militants were successfully eliminated. [141]
    3 September 1995 CM of Punjab Beant Singh killed in bomb blast by Sikh militants. [142]

    See alsoEdit

    1. ^ Served as Chief of Army Staff for two years during the insurgency


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    2. ^ Dogra, Cander Suta. "Operation Blue Star – the Untold Story". The Hindu, 10 June 2013. 9 Aug 2013.
    3. ^ Mahmood 1996, pp. Title, 91, 21, 200, 77, 19.
    4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Kiessling, Hein (2016). Faith, Unity, Discipline: The Inter-Service-Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1849048637. Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
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    7. ^ Mahmood 1996, p. 83: "Here, I concentrate on the epochal battle at the Golden Temple between the militants and the Indian Army that has spawned what we now know as the Khalistan movement."
    8. ^ Karim, Afsir (1991). Counter Terrorism, the Pakistan Factor. Lancer Publishers. p. 36. ISBN 978-8170621270. Archived from the original on 30 March 2023. Retrieved 26 February 2021. Previously the conflict had been limited to a few radical groups, after [Operation Blue Star], it touched the whole of Punjab, with organized insurgency not taking root in Punjab until after the operation.
    9. ^ Gates, Scott; Roy, Kaushik (2016). Unconventional Warfare in South Asia: Shadow Warriors and Counterinsurgency. Routledge. p. 163. ISBN 978-1317005414. Retrieved 10 October 2017 – via Google Books.
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