A video, “Operation Woodrose, June 1984 – September 1984” has been released recently under very suspicious and doubtful circumstances. The video is making highly inflammatory allegations that the India Army, post Operation Blue Star in June 1984, carried out another operation called Woodrose, whereby, it rounded up as many as one Lakh innocent Sikh boys, tortured them in custody and engineered the disappearance of about 20,000.
The video is dubious in nature. It a has no credits so the producer or production house is not known; the names of the anchors are not given; the army shots are generalist in nature and could have been taken from any old file; at no stage is the army shown rounding up the boys as is alleged, there is no statement of victim families; Overall the quality of the video is very poor and the content is disjointed, without attribution and totally false. There is, nevertheless, a need to dispel that impression that the video seeks to create. The You Tube version associates it with the foreign based anti-India and Khalistani Sikh for Justice (SFJ) movement.
On 1, June, 1984, the Indian Army, on orders of the Government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, launched an attack on Shri Harminder Sahib, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs located at Amritsar, Punjab. The government felt the necessity for this extreme action due to the presence of the Sikh militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala, along with his close aides within the Gurudwara complex; the objective of the operation was to flush them out.
The operation had been sub-divided into two parts. Operation Metal, whose objective was to clear the Gurudwara complex of militants, and, Operation Shop, whose objective was to raid extremist hideouts throughout Punjab and mop up the remainder militants in the countryside.
For a few days after the attack on Shri Harmandir Sahib, the army carried out mopping operations under Operation Shop. Premises of some Gurudwaras and other suspect areas were searched. Weapons found were handed over to the state government authorities. These were considerable in number. Within a short period of time, the Army formation (9 Division) which had been called in to conduct Operation Blue Star went back to its permanent location.
Alongside Operation Blue Star, operational divisions deployed on International Border in Punjab strengthened their defensive posture by replacing the BSF pickets with regular troops; this exercise was called Operation Woodrose. It continued for a few months along the border to dissuade Pakistan from indulging in any misadventure.
Over the years, a massive misinformation campaign was created by foreign sponsored and foreign based inimical forces to say that Operation Woodrose was carried out in the months after Operation Blue Star to “prevent break out of widespread public protest.” It was alleged that the Army, by virtue of special power given to it, took Sikh youth into custody and engineering massive “disappearances.”
Operation Blue Star is well documented and has elicited considerable criticism in the political as well as military domain. However, the depiction of Operation Woodrose as a brutal pogrom carried out by the Indian Army is totally false and propagandist in nature.
There are several pointers to the fact that the carnage, as alleged, did not take place. The foremost among these is the inherent ethos and tradition of humanity that the Indian follows. The Army has, for long, been fighting insurgency and terrorism across many regions in India as a part of its responsibility of guarding the sovereignty and integrity of the nation from external as well as internal threat. There has been no instance of it using indiscriminate force against own people, especially innocent civilians, in the discharge of this duty. It is, in fact, known to have taken casualties of its own personnel to reduce collateral damage to civilians in the conduct of operations. There exists no chance of the Army being a party to an activity of the type being alleged by the propagandist forces.
The aforementioned being an explanation of subjective nature needs to be supported by objective pointers. It is well recorded that the order to conduct Operation Blue Star came as a surprise for the Army and it got barely a few days for preparations. How would it, in such a short time, have created facility and infrastructure to detain 100,000 people and also torture them?
Media, especially foreign media and intelligence agencies of most countries were keeping a close watch on the situation. Under the circumstances, such alleged carnage could not have gone unnoticed; it would have been reported across the world and elicited an immediate international reaction. No such thing happened.
All Ranks of the Indian Army (Officers, JCOs and Soldiers) posted in Punjab after Operation Blue Star, including the Sikh troops, deny any such atrocity having been committed by the army.
There is no trace whatsoever of the alleged 15-20, 000 “disappearances.” The contention that they crossed over is not plausible since the army, post Operation Blue Star, effectively sealed the border. The fact is that no such disappearance took place.
All allegations of extra judicial atrocity by Army in Punjab, under Operation Woodrose or otherwise, are false and designed to tarnish the good name of the force. It is a propagandist attempt by forces inimical to India.
The terrorist movement in Punjab, sponsored and inflamed by Pakistan was a very tragic chapter in the history of independent India. There is none in the country who does not wish that it had not happened at all. The inherent nationalist fibre of the Punjabis, especially the Sikhs, ultimately prevailed and the movement died down ignominiously. Punjab has managed to put a balm on the terrible wounds and move on.
The enemy, however, has not given up on his nefarious designs and is constantly looking for an opportunity to inflame sentiments. It has created organisations in foreign shores to assist in taking its immoral agenda forward. The video is a machination of this evil lobby and is designed to break the fabric of the nation by attacking the close bond between the soldiers and the people, especially in Punjab. The 35th Anniversary of Operation Blue Star and the ongoing initiative to open the Kartarpur Corridor are being leveraged to push it forward.
The people of Punjab are not likely to be taken in by these falsities. They will treat the video and all other literature of this nature with the contempt that it deserves.
(Jaibans Singh is a columnist and author)