Thursday May 23, 2024

Violence, rioting, terrorism in Indian Punjab during last 35 years

By Sabir Shah
January 05, 2016

Shaken quite regularly by rioting, communal violence and terrorism during the last 35 years, the security situation in Indian Punjab continues to be a thorn in the flesh of those at the helm of affairs in New Delhi.

Already pricked and tormented by numerous separatist movements across the country, the Indian rulers have now been stunned by the most recent Pathankot Airbase shooting incident, which has resultantly ignited a fiery media debate on the quality of intelligence and planning of the country's security forces.

It is imperative to note that less than six months after the July 27, 2015 Dina Nagar incident, terror has again struck the same vicinity because the historic city of Pathankot is situated at a driving distance of just 26 km and an aerial distance of 21 km from the town Dina Nagar. 

Both cities are located at a two-hour drive from Pakistan's Wahgah border.

According to a prestigious Indian newspaper "The Hindustan Times," the Pathankot airbase is a strategic security installation that is home to a large fleet of MIG 21 fighter planes and MI-25 attack helicopters.

The "Hindustan Times" has stated: "The airbase, not very far from the Pakistan border, was attacked by a group of militants suspected to be operatives of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based group blamed for the December 2001 attack on Parliament that killed 11 people. Earlier in the day, NSG officer Lt Col Niranjan was killed when an improvised explosive device went off during a combing operation, raising questions over whether standard operating procedures for such occasions had been adhered to." 

Here follows the list of some notable terror attacks that have struck East Punjab since the 9/11 episode:

On January 1, 2002 three Indian Army personnel were killed and five others injured when a group of unidentified terrorists had attacked them at a firing range in Damtal, close to Eastern Punjab's border with Himachal Pradesh.

On January 31, 2002 two persons killed and 12 others injured in explosion in a Punjab Roadways bus at Patrana in Hoshiarpur district.

On March 31, 2002 two people were killed and 28 others injured in a bomb blast on the Ferozepur-Dhanbad express train at Daroha, about 20km from Ludhiana.

On April 28, 2006 at least eight persons were wounded in a bomb blast on a bus carrying 45 passengers at the Jalandhar bus terminal.

On October 14, 2007 some seven persons, including a 10-year old child, were killed and 40 others injured in a bomb blast in a cinema hall in Ludhiana.

On July 27, 2015 another seven people, including a Punjab Police Superintendent, were killed when three terrorists had carried out a strike on a police station in Dina Nagar town of Gurdaspur district. All three militants were also killed.

While the Indian rulers have always had the audacity to persistently spell out the rhetoric of "Shining India," an extensive research conducted by the "Jang Group and Geo Television Network" shows that between 1981 and 1995, East Punjab was haunted and bewildered every day by the Sikh insurgency.

Here follows a list of some of the major incidents in this regard also:

On September 29, 1981 five members of a Sikh organisation "Dal Khalsa" had hijacked an Indian Jetliner to Pakistan as a mark of protest against the arrest of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala, who had been accused of being involved in the murder of a Jalandhar-based Hindu newspaper owner Jagat Narain. All passengers were rescued by Pakistani commandos though.

In January 1982, Harsimran Singh, chief organiser of the Dal Khalsa, was arrested from Mohali and a 10-year ban was consequently slapped on the Dal Khalsa by the Indian government in May 1982.

Between June 3 and 8, 1984, the Operation Blue Star was launched on orders of Premier Indira Gandhi to gain control of Harmindar Sahib Complex in Amritsar and remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala and his armed followers from the sacred Sikh buildings. The offensive was launched by the Indian Army troops equipped with tanks, heavy artillery, helicopters, armored vehicles and chemical weapons.

About 4,000 Sikh soldiers in the Indian army had mutinied, numerous Sikhs had resigned from armed and civil administrative office and several had returned awards and honours they had received from the government. 

This is what Sir Mark Tully, BBC’s Delhi correspondent in 1984, had written in the edition of the June 6, 2014 "Telegraph: "Bhindranwale’s was one of 42 bodies found inside. The Indian army had suffered 331 casualties." 

According to official estimates, total casualty figures of Operation Blue Star had rested at around 2,000.

Some 83 Indian army soldiers and 492 civilians were killed, though many unconfirmed reports suggested that the casualties were over 5,000.

This was followed by Operation Woodrose to prevent the outbreak of widespread public protest in the state of Punjab. The government had arrested all prominent members of the Akali Dal, the largest Sikh political party and about 100000 youth had been taken into custody within first four to six weeks of this operation.

Four months after the operation, on October 31, 1984, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her two Sikh bodyguards--Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, in what was viewed as an act of vengeance. Subsequently, more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in the ensuing anti-Sikh riots.

On October 5, 1985, half a dozen Hindu bus passengers aboard a bus traveling from Dhilwan in Kapurthala district to Jalandhar were killed by Sikh militants. In a separate incident, a police sub-inspector and a tax inspector were also killed aboard a train. By this time, more than 175 people had been killed by the militants in various incidents 

On October 6, 1985, some Sikh groups had announced that they would go for their separate homeland Khalistan at all cost. President's rule was hence imposed by the Indian government in an attempt to bring Punjab's order back.

On October 16, 1983, at least three people were killed and 25 injured in a bomb blast during a Hindu festival in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab.

On October 21, 1983, some Hindu train passengers were killed in Gobindgarh.

On September 12, 1984, eight Hindu bus passengers were killed.

In February 1986, 15 persons were killed and many injured in indiscriminate firing in Nakodar.

On March 28, 1986, some 13 Hindus were killed in indiscriminate firing in Ludhiana.

On March 29, 1986, 20 Hindu labourers were killed in Jalandhar.

On November 30, 1986, 24 Hindu bus passengers gunned down in Khudda.

In January 1987, a Congress Sikh leader, Sant Singh Liddar, was murdered.

In May 1987, Sukhdev Singh, the son of the moderate Akali Dal leader, Jiwan Singh, was murdered by militants.

On July 3, 1987, Gurnam Singh Uppal, a moderate Sikh leader and the President of the Punjab unit of Democratic Youth Federation of India, was killed.

In July 1987 again, 80 bus passengers were killed in Fatehabad on three Haryana Roadways buses.

On October 20, 1987, 12 persons were shot dead at various places in Delhi on Diwali day.

On February 19, 1988, bombs exploded by Babbar Khalsa at Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Patiala had killed 120 people.

On March 3, 1988, at least 35 persons were victims of indiscriminate firing at a festival in Hoshiarpur.

On May 15, 1988, 40 persons were gunned down in different incidents at Samana, Patiala, Jalandhar and Mukerian

On May 16, 1988, 26 people were killed (3 member of a family, 3 bus passengers and 20 others) in Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Gurdaspur.

On May 17, 1988, some 35 labourers were killed in Kharar.

On June 19, 1988, at least 15 persons were blown to pieces when a bomb had exploded at an electronics shop in Kurukshetra.

On September 7,1988,15 rail passengers killed in Amritsar district.

In November 1988, 25 persons were killed in a Batala bomb blast.

In December 1988, seven Hindu passengers were kidnapped from a Chandigarh-bound bus and killed.

On June 25, 1989, 27 RSS loyalists were shot dead by some Khalistani militants at Moga town's Nehru Park.

On August 27, 1989, indiscriminate firing on a train at Kabarwala station had left dozens dead.

On March 7, 1990, 32 people were shot dead in indiscriminate firing in a crowded market of Abohar.

On June 17, 1991, at least 80 to 126 train passengers were killed in Ludhiana city. The militants had stopped the two trains about a kilometre from Ludhiana station by pulling their emergency cords, hence triggering emergency brakes. Media had stated that attackers had apparently gone through the train, identifying Hindus and then went back to kill them, while sparing Sikhs. Between April and June 1991, at least 700 people had died in Indian Punjab.

On August 31, 1995, Eastern Punjab's Chief Minister Beant Singh was killed by a suicide bomber. The killing was in retaliation for the alleged human rights violations during the counter-insurgency operations launched by the state in troubled areas.

As far as terrorism across the whole of India is concerned, more than five dozen major incidents of terrorism have jolted the country since 1984.

Here follows the chronology and timeline of the terror-related occurrences that have claimed 10 or more lives across the border during these last three decades or so: 

On August 2, 1984, a bomb blast in Tamil Nadu had killed 30 people.

In July 1987, at least 34 Hindu bus passengers were killed in Haryana by suspected Sikh terrorists.

On June 15, 1991, gangs of gunmen had opened fire on two passenger trains in Ludhiana city, initially killing over 90 people.

In April 1993, a landmine attack in Karnataka had killed 22 people, making it the deadliest explosive attack in Karnataka during the 20th century.

The March 12, 1993 Bombay bombings, a series of 13 bomb explosions that took place in Bombay (now Mumbai), had resulted in over 250 fatalities and 700 injuries. The attacks were allegedly coordinated by Dawood Ibrahim, don of the Bombay-based international organised crime syndicate named D-Company.

The December 30, 1996 Brahmaputra Mail train bombing in Western Assam had killed at least 33 people.

The February 14, 1998 Coimbatore bombings in the city of Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) had resulted in 60 deaths. A Muslim fundamentalist group "Al Umma," having a strong presence in Chennai, was blamed for the attack.

On October 1, 2001, the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly complex in Srinagar was hit by a car bomb and three suicide bombers, leading to 38 deaths. A militant outfit "Jaish-e-Mohammed" was blamed.

On December 13, 2001, the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi was attacked by five terrorists, leading to deaths of around a dozen cops and parliament staffers. A 45-minute gun battle had commenced, just minutes after both the Houses of Parliament had adjourned for the day. Senior ministers and over 200 members of parliament were inside the Central Hall of Parliament when the attack had taken place. 

The Indian government had initially accused Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. However, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba had denied any involvement in the incident.

The May 13, 2002 train crash was the result of an act of sabotage which caused the derailment of a passenger train at Jaunpur city in Uttar Pradesh. A dozen people had perished in this act. 

The December 21, 2002 derailment and crash of a passenger train in Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh had resulted in 20 deaths.

The September 10, 2002 rail disaster was the derailment of a train on a bridge in Rafiganj city in North-Central India, killing between 130 and 200 people. A local Maoist terrorist group, the Naxalites, was blamed.

The September 24, 2002 terrorist attack at the Akshardham temple in Ahmedabad (Gujarat) had left 31 dead.

On March 13, 2003, a terrorist bomb attack on a commuter train in Mumbai had left 11 dead.

The August 25, 2003 Mumbai bombings had killed 54 people. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba was blamed. On August 31, 2003, three suspects - Ashrat Ansari, Haneef Sayyed and his wife Fahmeeda were arrested. All the three were convicted and sentenced to death in August 2009.

The July 28, 2005 Jaunpur train bombing had destroyed a carriage of an express train near the town of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, killing 13 people.

The October 29, 2005, Delhi bombings had killed 63 people and had injured at least 210 others. The bombings came only two days before the important festival of Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba was consequently blamed.

The March 7, 2006 Varanasi bombings had led to at least 28 deaths.

The July 11, 2006, Mumbai train bombings had taken place over a period of 11 minutes on the Suburban Railway in Mumbai. The bombs were set off in pressure cookers on trains plying the Western line of the Suburban Railway network. Some 209 people were killed and over 700 were injured.

The September 8, 2006 Malegaon bombings, which had taken place some 290 km to the northeast of Mumbai, had led to 37 deaths. The attacks were initially blamed on Pakistan but a charge-sheet filed in 2013 had put the blame on India-based Hindu radicals.

The February 18, 2007, Samjhota Express bombings had claimed 68 lives. Bombs were set off in two carriages, both filled with passengers, just after the train had passed the Diwana station near the city of Panipat, some 80 kilometres north of New Delhi. Of the 68 fatalities, most were Pakistani civilians, but the victims also included some Indian civilians and Indian military personnel guarding the train.

The May 18, 2007, Hyderabad Makkah Masjid bombing, caused by a cell phone-triggered pipe bomb, had led to 16 deaths.

The August 25, 2007, Hyderabad bombings had left 42 families mourning. According to initial reports, the banned Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami militant outfit of Bangladesh was suspected for the serial blasts. 

The November 24, 2007, explosions at courthouse complexes in the cities of Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad had killed 16. 

The May 13, 2008, Jaipur bombings had led to 63 deaths.

The July 26, 2008, Ahmedabad blast had killed 29 people. 

The September 13, 2008, Delhi blasts had killed 21.

The September 27, 2008, Delhi blast had killed one and the September 27, 2008, bombings in Maharashtra had killed 10 human beings. 

The October 21, 2008, Imphal bombings had killed 17.

The October 30, 2008, Assam bombings had killed 81 people. 

The November 26, 2008, Mumbai attacks had killed 177 people. 

The February 13, 2010, Pune bombings had claimed 17 lives.

The July 13, 2011, Mumbai bombings had killed 26 and the September 7, 2011, Delhi blasts had together killed another dozen people.

The February 21, 2013, Hyderabad blasts had claimed 16 lives.

The March 13, 2013, Srinagar incident had led to another seven deaths.