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Sikhs Around the World Are Really Embarrassed About That Golden Temple Sword Fight

The day was supposed to commemorate one of the most traumatic moments in Sikh history. Instead, it turned into a huge embarrassment.
Photo via AP/ Prabhjot Gill

Remember that crazy sword fight that broke out at Amritsar’s Golden Temple last week, turning the very holy shrine into the setting for a mediocre Bollywood action movie?

Sikhs in India and around the world remember that too — and they are not happy about that, nor the attention the commemoration for Operation Blue Star suddenly got.

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The day was supposed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of one of the most traumatic moments in the history of the religious group — a military operation that killed hundreds of people in 1984.


Instead, it turned into dozens of men brandishing swords and chasing each other around on the grounds of the holy temple — leaving 12 people injured.

Operation Blue Star, as it was codenamed, was an army raid ordered by India’s then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that attempted to drive out Sikh separatists in the Golden Temple.

The notorious operation killed 400 people, according to the Indian government, with Sikhs saying the figures were much higher.

Gandhi was later assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for Operation Blue Star. This in turn sparked days of massive anti-Sikh riots that killed as many as 3,000 people.

Elsewhere in the world, commemorations of the operation proceeded without incident.

In London, for instance, thousands of people marched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, carrying symbolic black coffins and demanding that the 1984 events be recognized as genocide, the BBC reported.

The Brawl
Unlike what emerged from early reports, the Amritsar brawl did not erupt over who would get to speak first at the commemoration, but as a result of a Shiromani Akali Dal leader being denied the right to speak at the event by organizers, according to the Indian Express.

'As a Sardarni I am so sad, horrified and disappointed.'

The fight was allegedly instigated by members of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), after their leader, Simranjit Singh Mann, sought to address the gathering but was denied the podium by event organizers. He reportedly managed to speak anyway.


But SAD’s secretary general, Maheshinder Singh Grewal, slammed those responsible for the violence and their “sacrilegious conduct” — which he said damaged the reputation of all Sikhs.

Grewal said that those responsible for the violence belonged to a local splinter group attempting to advance its own political agenda — “to gain cheap publicity as well as attempt to revive itself politically.”

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"Today we were supposed to have a solemn remembrance for the martyrs of 1984, so what has happened is very sad," Prem Singh Chandumajra, a spokesman for SAD had said after last week’s incident. "The temple has once again been dishonored today.”

That pretty much summed up how many Sikhs around the world felt.

“As a Sardarni I am so sad, horrified and disappointed that a calm, respected community — the Sikhs — could and would attack, react and behave in such a manner,” Anjana Sahney Thakker, a Sikh from Bangalore, told VICE News.

Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi