Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Today in History


Operation Blue Star


Operation Blue Star

In the 1977 elections, a coalition led by the Sikh-majority Akali Dal came to power in the northern Indian state of Punjab. In an effort to split the Akali Dal and gain popular support among the Sikhs, Indira Gandhi's Congress helped bring the orthodox religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to prominence in the Punjab politics.[106][107] Later, Bhindranwale's organisation Damdami Taksal became embroiled in violence with another religious sect called the Sant Nirankari Mission, and he was accused of instigating the murder of the Congress leader Jagat Narain.[108] After being arrested in this matter, Bhindranwale disassociated himself from Congress and joined hands with the Akali Dal.[109] In July 1982, he led the campaign for the implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which demanded greater autonomy for the Sikh-majority state. Meanwhile, a small section of the Sikhs including some of Bhindranwale's followers, turned to militancy in support of the Khalistan movement, which aimed to create a separate sovereign state for the Sikhs.[110] In 1983, Bhindranwale and his militant followers headquartered themselves in the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, and started accumulating weapons.[110] After several futile negotiations, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian army to enter the Golden temple in order to subdue Bhindranwale and his followers. In the resulting Operation Blue Star, the shrine was damaged and many civilians were killed. The State of Punjab was closed to international media, its phone and communication lines shut. To this day the events remain controversial with a disputed number of victims; Sikhs seeing the attack as unjustified and Bhindrawale being declared the greatest Sikh martyr of the 21st century by Akal Takht (Sikh Political Authority) in 2003.


The day before her death Indira Gandhi visited Orissa on 30 October 1984 where she gave her last speech:

"I am alive today, I may not be there tomorrow. I shall continue to serve till my last breath and when I die every drop of my blood will strengthen India and keep a united India alive."[111]

Indira Gandhi delivered her last speech at the then Parade Ground in...

Indira Emerges Once More


By 1980, the people of India had had enough of the ineffectual Janata Party. They reelected Indira Gandhi's Congress Party under the slogan of "stability." Indira took power again for her fourth term as prime minister. However, her triumph was dampened by the death of her son Sanjay, the heir apparent, in a plane crash in June of that year.

By 1982, rumblings of discontent and even outright secessionism were breaking out all over India. In Andhra Pradesh, on the central east coast, the Telangana region (comprising the inland 40%) wanted to break away from the rest of the state. Trouble also flared in the ever-volatile Jammu andKashmir region in the north. The most serious threat, though, came from Sikh secessionists in the Punjab, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Operation Bluestar at the Golden Temple:

During this period, Sikh extremists were waging a campaign of terror against Hindus and moderate Sikhs in the Punjab. Bhindranwale and his following of heavily armed militants holed up in the Akhal Takt, the second-most holy building after the Golden Temple itself. The leader himself was not calling for the creation of Khalistan; rather he demanded the implementation of the Anandpur Resolution, which called for the unification and purification of the Sikh community within India.

Indira Gandhi decided to send the Indian Army on a frontal assault of the building to capture or kill Bhindranwale. She ordered the attack at the beginning of June, 1984, even though June 3rd was the most important Sikh holiday (honoring the martyrdom of the Golden Temple's founder), and the complex was full of innocent pilgrims. Interestingly, due to the heavy Sikh presence in the Indian Army, the commander of the attack force, Major General Kuldip Singh Brar, and many of the troops were also Sikhs.

In preparation for the attack, all electricity and lines of communication to the Punjab were cut off. On June 3, the army surrounded the temple complex with military vehicles and tanks. In the early morning hours of June 5, they launched the attack. According to official Indian government numbers, 492 civilians were killed, including women and children, along with 83 Indian army personnel. Other estimates from hospital workers and eyewitnesses state that more than 2,000 civilians died in the bloodbath.

Among those killed were Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the other militants. To the further outrage of Sikhs world-wide, the Akhal Takt was badly damaged by...


Bolivia marks capture, execution of 'Che' Guevara 40 years ago


Gary Prado, the former Bolivian soldier who captured Ernesto "Che" Guevara, is angry the renowned Argentine revolutionary still has legions of fans four decades later.

"There was nothing of the heroic guerrilla about him," Prado, 68, said at his home here. "The attention Che Guevara has received is totally disproportionate to his reality."

To Prado's chagrin, thousands of Guevara devotees are expected to travel this week to the town where his body was displayed and the remote village where he was executed to mark the 40th anniversary of his death. The events are organized by Bolivia's Che Guevara Foundation.

Backed by the CIA and following a tip from a Bolivian peasant, Prado, then a captain, led his soldiers through southeastern Bolivia to capture Guevara on Oct. 8, 1967, and hold him overnight in a ramshackle schoolhouse in the village of La Higuera.

"It was a sorry sight to see him dirty and banged up," said Prado as he sat behind an antique desk. "His dream was over and his adventure had ended in failure."

The following day - 40 years ago today - Guevara was executed on orders from Bolivian President Rene Barrientos and his body flown by helicopter to nearby Vallegrande, where a haunting photograph was shot showing a Christ-like figure lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestro Senor de Malta hospital. His remains were then buried clandestinely at a nearby landing strip. In 1997, a Cuban team exhumed the bones and flew them to Cuba.

"Imagine Che Guevara's trial. It would have gone on forever - it would have been a circus. They (the Bolivian government) decided to avoid that problem," said Prado. "There were no prisons secure enough to hold him in Bolivia at that time. ... They said let's end this story once and for all."

But the story hardly ended. Instead, Guevara became an international icon and the subject of countless myths and misconceptions - especially in the region where he fell.

Prado himself features in the myth that suggests that those involved in Guevara's capture and execution were subsequently cursed. In 1991, Prado was paralyzed in a gun accident and now uses a wheelchair.

Gen. Joaquin Zentano, the commander in charge of the army division that hunted down Guevara, was assassinated in Paris in 1975. Barrientos died in a helicopter crash in 1969.


On This Day: Che Guevara Executed


On Oct. 9, 1967, Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara was killed by CIA operatives and members of the Bolivian army.

On Oct. 8, Bolivian Rangers who had been trained by U.S. Army Special Forces found Ernesto “Che” Guevara, in Churro Ravine, Bolivia. They opened fire, wounding Guevara and killing two of his men.

According to the National Security Archive’s “The Death of Che Guevara: Declassified,” after being encircled, Guevara shouted, “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.” 

Guevara was then taken to a schoolhouse in La Higuera and held overnight. The following day, he was executed by Sgt. Jaime Teran, though details of the execution differ.

In varying accounts, Teran is portrayed as a willing executioner or as the loser of a drawing of straws who reluctantly carried out the execution. According to the U.S. Department of Defense report, Che refused to be seated for the execution, telling Teran, “I will remain standing for this … Know this now, you are killing a man.”

Teran shot Guevara multiple times with his M2 Carbine. According to Richard Harris, author of “Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara's Last Mission,” other soldiers fired at Guevara immediately after the execution.

In an interview with the BBC, Felix Rodriquez, a Cuban-American former CIA agent who interrogated Che, 
described Che’s reactionwhen Bolivian authorities decided there would be no trial for him, and that he would be executed: “Che turned white … before saying: ‘It’s better this way, I should have died in combat.’”

Che Guevara was an Argentine doctor who, after witnessing a CIA-backed coup in Guatemala in which expropriated land was returned to the United Fruit Company, became a Marxist revolutionary. While working in Mexico City as a doctor he met Fidel and Raul Castro, who were planning to return to Cuba to overthrow United States-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. 

After joining the Castro brothers in their efforts, Che soon proved himself as a brave and intelligent fighter in the Cuban Revolution and was promoted to the highest role within the rebel group: comandante. 

After Castro seized control of Cuba, Guevara was put in charge of country’s economy; he nationalized industries, eliminated material incentives like raises and extra pay, and performed manual labor in an...