06 June 2007

WE REMEMBER 1984- MASSACRE BLUE STAR - 6 JUNE 1984 - The Last Time I Saw Amritsar Redux

Mai was in Amritsar with her husband, Mani, and thirteen year old son, Sandeep, at the time of Blue Star. This account is from her personal blog, sometimes - 2. It appeared in slightly different form earlier in this blog.


This is another story I had not intended to tell publicly, but the family have prevailed upon me because, they say, it's a great story, and might actually give someone some encouragement someday. So here goes.

I have cleaned up the story and the language considerably, since I want to keep my blog at a PG-13 rating. It was a lot rougher than I have actually written it.

[ Maman read what I had written and said, 'Cleaning up is one thing. Whitewashing is another. Mani wrote me about what he saw and you've left out almost everything. If this is to be any kind of a record, you need to add at least some of that.' OK, I'll try to add some. The new stuff will be written like this.]

June 4, 1984. We had been in Amritsar since mid-May, visiting relatives, of which we have many in that area. The date, for those of you who don't recognise it, was the beginning of Operation Blue Star or more properly, Ghallughara, when the Indian army stormed the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple), looking for 'terrorists.' They found thousands of people there commemorating the anniversary of the shaheedi of Guru Arjun Dev Ji. They opened fire on the whole complex, and killed, who knows how many. Fortunately, we were at a cousin's house when it all started and thus were safe, or so it seemed.

No such luck. Two days later, the police barged in and took us all. Fortunately, as it turned out, the three of us had our passports on us. I'm not sure exactly where we were taken, a police station somewhere. They separated the men and the women; I was afraid that that was last I'd see of my men.

Then t hey put each of us women in different rooms. And I waited. For the first time in my life, I was really scared. After a time, a very young policeman came in. Although my hands were bound behind me, I managed to pull out my Canadian passport.

He was not impressed.

'Are you Sikh?' Expressionless.

'Yes.' Calmly.

'Wrong answer.' He slapped me across the face.

'Are you Sikh?' Expressionless.

'Yes.' Calmly.

'Wrong answer.' He slapped me HARD across the face.

'Are you Sikh?' Expressionless.

'Yes.' Calmly.

'Wrong answer. And you're also really stupid.' He doubled up his fist and slugged me in the mouth.

'Are you Sikh?' Smiling slightly.

'Yes. I'm Khalsa.' Blood was coming out of my mouth. I wish I could say I was unafraid, but that would be a lie. A BIG lie. I have, to this day, never been so terrified in my life. But I managed to keep my voice steady.

He reached over to me and tore my shirt off. Then he pulled out my kirpan. 'The little Saint Soldier has her little knife, I see.' In a sarcastic voice. He drew the blade across my throat. I laughed nervously. A strange reaction.

Unlike most Sikhs, I usually do not carry a blunt kirpan. I know, I know. A kirpan is a religious article, not a weapon. I'm sorry if I offend anyone here, and I know I will, but I have never believed that our f ather Guru Gobind Singh Ji intended us to be unarmed. I usually carried a razor-sharp two-edged medieval French war dagger that had belonged to a lady ancestor of mine. I suppose it couldn't really be called a kirpan, but it was what I carried. I'm not sure why that day, I didn't have HT, my dagger, on me. If I had, I would be dead. So I laughed nervously.

That seemed to infuriate him and he pulled my pants down. At this point a second cop came in. The first one started pulling at my hair. 'You Khalsa have a real fetish about this, don't you? Is it true that you'll die before letting it be cut?'

I nodded. 'Yes.'

'Stupid. '

The second cop handed him a big pair a scissors. He pointed them at my hair. 'I'm going to use these. The choice is yours: here,' pointing at my hair, 'or here?' He cut the top of my kechera, so they fell down. pointed at the scissors my crotch. [He laughed and laughed.]

Paralysed with terror, I said nothing, but inside I screamed with every fibre of my being, ' GOBIND!!!!' No 'Guru,' no 'Singh,' no 'Ji.' Just, ' GOBIND!!!!'

The result was instantaneous. I was not afraid. I was not in pain. I don't know how I knew they wouldn't dare cut my hair; I couldn't care less what else they might do to me. My dad's words came to me: 'No one can humiliate me without my consent.' I laughed. 'I'm Khalsa.' I looked at the mirror across the room. I'm not a complete idiot. I know mirrors in interrogation rooms are one way glass. And I was certain that the cops were forcing my son and husband to watch this. Sadistic f* cking bastards! I nodded to my unseen men and smiled.

He slugged me in the stomach. It didn't hurt. He slugged me like that several more times until he finally knocked me off my feet and I fell to the floor. I have never felt so calm and complete, as strange as that sounds. I was completely unafraid.

He stood over me and [stared at me, now completely naked, lying on the floor. He kicked me in the head repeatedly. Then, he pulled me up by my hair and with the help of his colleague sat me in a chair. He cut open a hot chili and rubbed it all over my face, up my nose and into my eyes. I didn't react at all.

[He opened my legs and rubbed the ch ili all over my vaginal area. The second one pulled me forward to my feet, while the first one shoved it up my anus. He pulled it out and stuffed it into my mouth. The whole time, he was trying to taunt me by saying all sorts of insulting things. None of it got through to me at all. I will not record what he said, partly because it was mostly in colloquial Punjabi, of which I understood little, and partly because it would serve no purpose beyond teaching someone how to be insulting.]

After he finished with the chili, he started with the scissors, which turned out to be very sharp. Little cuts, not big ones, all over my breasts, then my stomach. When I didn't react to that, the bottoms of my feet. By this time, he was completely livid. I thought he was going to maybe cut my throat or gouge my eyes.

Again he grabbed me by the hair and threw me on the ground, and opened my legs. He raised the scissors over my crotch, clearly intending to use them as a weapon of rape. He stopped, clearly savouring the moment.

At exactly that instance, the door opened and someone burst through, yelling. 'Stop!! We have orders not to mess with the Canadians.'

He glared at me, with pure hatred. But he stopped. The second cop untied my wrists.

I stood up, pulled up my kechera, then my pants. My shirt was torn beyond any usefulness, though. My mouth was still full of blood. which I spat on the floor at his feet.
He spoke, very softly, so only I could hear,'If I ever see you again, you'll be sorry I didn't finish with you today.'

[So what was going on in me, while he was torturing me? (I believe this does qualify as torture.) I could see, hear and feel everything that was going on. But I felt no pain, either physically or psychologically, then or later. Instead, I was aware of various voices singing the Mool Mantar, over and over. It was the most beautiful thing you could imagine. It completely transported my being to another level where pain simply doesn't exist. This was the second time something like this had happened to me in this life - and it has not been repeated since.

[I was operating in two completely different states of being. All of my senses seemed to be in overdrive. My hearing was enhanced. Colours were vivid and alive. I was fully, completely conscious and aware. I want to emphasize that I was not being brave or strong or heroic. And I am not masochistic . I was as calmly joyful as I could ever imagine being. It simply made no difference to me what they were doing. Why do I think this happened to me? Because I relied on a promise made by one who was a father to me. There is nothing special about me in this. Any Khalsa in this position has the right, perhaps even the obligation to do the same. No special, secret words, no silly rituals, just the total intention.

[I'd like to make a couple of aside comments here. First, there are still a few things I have left out, for the sake of decency. I was not raped., if rape is vaginal penetration. Please notice that it takes nothing fancy to torture someone, no special equipment, in this case, just a chili, a pair of scissors and something to tie my hands. Also, very little imagination.

[I have not mentioned that, at this time, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy. They, of course, had no way of knowing that. Not that it would have made any difference to them! Why I didn't lose the babies then and there I can only ascribe to the fact that I was being protected by my Guru in some fashion.]

I just kept smiling. "I'd like my kirpan back, please.' The second cop handed it to me, along with my passport.

They took me, still half naked and bleeding, to a hallway, where I was reunited with Mani and Sandeep. With great dignity, my son took off his shirt and helped me put it on. 'Here, Mom.' His voice was shaking a bit. I looked at them. They had been roughed up a bit, and normally neither would have ever tied a turban so sloppily. We would discuss all that later. I evidently got the worst treatment, physically.

Later we discussed the incident. Mani looked in my eyes. 'There for a moment, I thought you might break.'

I met his gaze. 'So did I'

'I could see you change. All of a sudden, it was like you became someone else. What happened?'

I told him. He turned to our son. (Of course, all this happened 22 years ago, so all the quotes have been approximations, except this, which I remember verbatim.) 'Your mother is a magnificent person. You won't find another like her, but I hope when you get married, you'll marry a woman you can love and admire as much as I do my wife.' What woman could possibly forget such praise from her husband? (It goes both ways. A man could not forget such praise from his wife, either.)

Sandeep looked at me, and said, in a whisper, 'Mom, you were so lucky they got stopped when they did.'

Both of us said, in unison, 'Luck had nothing to do with it.'

I will leave the story there, only noting that it was not my strength and courage that made me strong; it was a gift from my father Guru. The only part I can really take any credit for is crying out for help when I needed it.

[We could not get back to our family home that day, but fortunately, some good people saw us right outside the police station and took us in.

[Although some of the city's water was cut off, where our host family lived, it was running. I f elt incredibly dirty. Thank God for a good shower! Mani helped me clean up, washed and conditioned my hair - which, against all odds, was intact - and combed it out for me. He couldn't believe I could walk on those lacerated feet, but even afterward, while I was healing, I was in no pain. I have a few scars left, my hearing was slightly damaged, but nothing too important. Mani, being a physician, thoroughly examined me, but even with the beating I had taken, there were no major injuries.]

[Our hosts, who were Hindus, gave us clean clothes, some really good food, comfortable beds and a feeling that there were still some decent people in Amritsar. We burned our old clothes, except I kept the shirt Sandeep had given to me. Our family in Amritsar is still keeping it today, as a remembrance.]

There is much more I could write about Amritsar at this time, the smell, the heat, the noxious insects, the sacred sarovar filled with blood and dead bodies, but that can be found elsewhere on the net. I'm trying to record only my personal experiences.

[Now, Maman has read the new version and is almost satisfied with it , so I will leave it as it is.]

For more information, try Googling or Yahooing on 'Operation Blue Star.'




A 22 year old Hindu Amritsari man I email insists that that is a complete fabrication. His reasons are so silly that I have never answered them, but I am very, very angry at him right now for suggesting that this whole Blue Star is something to laugh at; I very much doubt I will answer any more of his emails.Here are his two objections:

They knew we were Canadians. Not wanting an international incident, they would have left us alone

Punjabi police do not mistreat women unless they are close relatives of terrorists or suspected terrorists.

The first presupposes that the underlings who were first in charge of us would care about such niceties as international relations more than they would care about the pure pleasure of tormenting us. I will point out that as soon as someone in charge realised that foreigners were being worked over, they were ordered to stop, orders that were immediately, if reluctantly, obeyed.

Do I need to even comment on the second? Does anyone believe that these [Punjabi police] have respect for women? Shall we start with K.P.S. Gill? (It takes more than a turban and 'Singh' somewhere in your name to make you a Sikh!)

But totally insulting to me is the implication that I am not the close relative of someone involved in the Khalistan movement - in local police language, a terrorist! How dare he imply that my family accepts the yoke of the Hindus, the perfidy of Mr. Gandhi and company. Now is it clear to everyone why I decline to identify my family?

There are a couple things that I personally wonder about, though. As foreigners, why were we not quickly escorted out of Punjab? Or why didn't we disappear? They must have known that we would eventually tell our story.

And why did they just turn us lose. Unless I am mistaken, the city was under curfew at that time. We should not have been on the street. What would have happened if those good people (whom Guru Ji sent) had not met us?

These are questions that have only occurred to me years later; at the time, and for some time after, I was in an altered state of consciousness where such things had no meaning. Indeed, the aftereffects of that spiritual state remain with me still.

Why was I chosen for special treatment? I believe it had something to do with my brown hair, green eyes and fair skin. They must have believed that I would be the weak link in the chain. They were wrong. Among us, there were no weak links.

As to the rest of my family that were taken that day, at their request, I have little to say except that the three of us got off much more lightly than they did.


  1. Operation Blue Star was the biggest undercover genocide in history. I can't believe you had to go through all of that, it's gross and very disgusting. But do not worry, keep faith in God and let him punish the evil minded son of b**es that planned it.

  2. Dear Anonymous ji,

    LOL, I came out OK. And I learned that Guru Papa ji really does look after his children.

    Plus this experience toughened us all up for what was to come in Delhi.

    This was the Hukam of Vaheguru and I leave the perpetrators to their own karams, I do not take that on myself. Remember, no matter what happens, a Sikh may die but cannot be defeated!

    Chardi kala!

  3. Your experience was truly horrifying. And I really respect you for standing up to those beasts the way you did.

    What I would really like to understand is this huge dislike for Gandhi and his ilk that you seem to have.

    The Sikhs need and call for Khalistan is something that I am unbale to grasp...will you be kind enough to explain?

    If not here even a email would do.

  4. Dear Pinku - The worst to me was my son needing to see me like that. A mother's bare breasts are a terrible sight to a young man.

    As for my dislike of MK Gandhi, I could write a book, but another Sikh already has. I'll just briefly mention two objections to him.

    First, his 'peaceful, bloodless revolution' that he so liked to brag about was possible only because of the blood of Sikh martyrs who had been resisting the British as freedom fighters for a long time.

    Second, the Sikh community agreed to support Mr. Nehru and Mr. Gandhi before independence since we were promised our own autonomous or at least semi-autonomous region in Punjab. We were completely betrayed by these two, being told that the situation had now changed. It was clear, they had never intended to honour the promise to us. And to add insult to injury, the partition divided our homeland between two warring nations.

    Those two reasons, as a starter.

    As for Khalistan, I think self-determination is the hope of every people. As for the NEED for Khalistan, I became a Khalistani as I stumbled over all those dead bodies in Delhi...

  5. Dear Mai!
    I have been going through this blog of yours---and I intend to do some more reading, God willing. First of all, as a Muslim, I don’t know why my brain hasn’t been numbed by all the humanitarian crises I see around me these days. It’s time I got used to it, but each time I stumble across stories, pictures or videos depicting inhuman brutality, I feel the pain anew.
    As one woman to another---I’m proud that u stood up to that torture, and didn’t have to face more. I’m glad that u found new life after going through all those ordeals. I feel thankful that u’re here to share your experiences with us, and let us know what living nations must undergo to pay the price of freedom.

    Reading your last comments, some of the things which often go through my mind have come back. I hope that we can talk, and that I’ll understand things from ur point of view, so I’ll express them. Mai, at the time Sikhs were struggling for Khalistan, we were struggling for a country too. 2 minorities in Bharat, same aspirations. Both wanted to save their future generations from the bloody claws of a monstrous majority.
    Then why are we told that the Sikh majority failed to understand our feelings at the time of partition, when they had the same ones? If there had been mutual cooperation, both would have gained their goal in a better way. We’re still at war with the Hindu extremism, and u haven’t gained ur goal either. I feel the horror of what the Sikhs went through at the Golden Temple, but why did many of them inflict the same upon the Muslims at that time? Of course, Gandhi and Nehru always talked about their being no group in India other than the Hindus and the British, yet the Sikhs failed to see through their promises?
    I’m not trying to be offensive Mani, and I’m sorry if u get annoyed with my inquisitiveness. But I need to understand this further. I need to know because it’s something which still affects u and us. And because President Zia went out on his way to assist the Sikh freedom movement in Bharat, and that movement was betrayed by Benazir Bhutto. That affects u and us in many ways, yet misunderstandings remain. I want to get to know things better, and comprehend them. Hope u don’t mind…

  6. Dear Ma'am.

    it was very very sad to hear your sad experience... but what to do...
    Khalistan is not answer of our problem, our society is intermingled that we have to live together...
    But then people like Maryam will always come up to take advantage of situations.

    Think of just 3 things:
    1.Why this BlueStar operation was ever needed?
    2. Muslims have killed more Sikhs then anybody else - not only at the time of Partition but actually Khalsas were born to fight from Muslims - they even killed our Gurus. How can Zia or anybody else (particularly Muslim)can be our friend? Whole of Khalistan movement was farce, created by then rulers of Pakistan and India to misuse us and our energy.
    3. Sikhs were originally Hindus, same traditions same festivals same rituals, just molded in different ways - in the same way as North Indian marriages are different with Bengali or Marathi

  7. Dear H. Maryam Ji - (First, a complete irrelevent aside, does the H preceding your name mean you have made Hajj? Just curious. I'm like that.) - Dear sister, many questions. Many answers, none of them very satisfying, I'm afraid. I find it hard to talk about the Partition for many reasons, the Great Betrayal when our homeland was split between two warring countries, when every group concerned forgot our common humanity, when a shameful history, second only to the European Holocaust of the Jews at the time. I can neither answer nor solve these problems, nor can I find a way to heal these old, festering wounds from before my birth. I wish I could.

    All people long for self-determination, the freedom to be who they are without interference or prejudice. I look at Occupied Kashmir, Occupied Khalistan, Occupied Palestine as starters. Then let us add Sri Lankan Tamils and God only knows how many others. I cannot begin to solve all these.

    Mostly I concentrate on my own people the Sikhs, although lately, I've spent a lot of time and energy on the civilians of Gaza.

    To fully answer your comment would take a book, at least, a book I have neither the time nor knowledge to write.

    May I answer in this way, as our Gurus have taught us: Are we all not children of the same Father God? And in my own heart, can we not merely accept each other as sisters - and brothers - with all our differences find the greatest good for all? May God bless us all!

    Dear Ravijeet SinghJi. Dear Sir - I would prefer Dear Brother, but I address you in the same manner you address me -

    1. Operation Bluestar was not needed. Even if Indira wanted Sant Bhindrawale, there were other, less destructive ways.

  8. Hindu Supremacy of India doesn't recognise Sikhs. Hindu Supremacy enforces Sikhs to conform to Hindu Domination and restores to lethal brutality on Sikhs who don't. It therefore subjugates Sikhs to be part of Hindus. We should start working on finding the reasons why this happened to us. It didn't happen to us because of Indira Gandhi only but because of our refusal to submit to the Genocidal impulse of Hindu Supremacism.

  9. Dear H. Singh ji - We Sikhs, whether Singhs or Kaurs, are a tough bunch and are never likely to give in to oppressors, whether Muslims in the past, hinus now, or whoever shows up in the future.

    If we are ever overcome, it will be us doing it to ourselves, for example, killing our girls, with its many repercussions. Or forgetting the teachings of Guruji. I believe we will continue to live and survive and thrice.

    Chardi kala!

  10. Thanks for the answer, Mai! Well, I have performed Hajj, but that is not what H. with my name refers to:) Rather, it indicates that I'm a Hafiza (have memorized the whole Quran).

    I agree that we need to concentrate more on the common points between us than the ones on which we disagree. I wish:(
    But if that is how most people in this world would have thought, there would have been no trouble in Gaza today. Nobody would have been asking for a free Khalistan, or Kashmir---Pakistan won't have been created. Unfortunately, most people don't look for the common factors, or even if they do, somehow, they're lead away from them by those they follow.
    Thanks for the discussion anyway. I hope that are well, and that you'll always stick to the 'humane side' before anything else. And that we'll be able to stand up to the trials that are coming. This world is such an unpredictable place, God knows what's in store for our future!

  11. Dear H. Maryamji - So you have memorised the entire Quran. That is a tremendous accomplishment. You are to be much congratulated. As Guru NaNAK dEV JI Said, "If you are a Muslim, be a Good Muslim."

    I have much enjoyed getting know you a bit. People of good will, whatever their bewliefs must talk and get to know and give encouragement to each other.

    Even if the world is filled with hatred and violence, I try to have neither in my heart.

    I try not to let the negativity of others, whatever form it takes, get to me. After all, as they say, it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

    Love and chardi kala to you.


  12. Thanks for being such a ray of light! It's amazing to see tur willingness to keep smiling.

  13. Hi, again, H. Maryam - It's always such a pleasure to hear from you!

    It's called chardi kala (translates as "high spirits" and means so much more) and it's not only one of the defining traits of we Sikhs as a whole, it's a religious obligation. It not only makes life livable under difficult circumstances, it's also a lot of fun. :)

  14. Panji
    I, too, am Guru Gobind SIngh Ji's Daughter and always heard of these awful yet inspiring stories. I never heard something like this happen to a canadian. You must be great sangat to be around. I don't need to tell you this but you must be in such Chardi Kala...and your son after seeing such violent things must be a great Singh. May Waheguru always be with us and give us the strength we never even knew we have until we need it.

    Daljit Kaur

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Dear Bhenji Daljit Kaur,


    It's true, you never know what you'll do until you're actually in the situation. You can only prepare so that if/when it does happen, you'll be able to do the right thing.

    My son was a great Singh. I am very proud of him. He achieved shaheedi a few hours after being blessed with Amrit in Delhi, November 1984. That is also told in this blog.

    Chardi kala!


  17. I am an Canadian hindu. I am absolutely disgusted of guys like Gobind Ram, A hindu that is the biggest bas**** of em all. He's a disgrace to us loyal hindus. Also the punjab police can go **** themselves and end their lives for what they did to you, your family and the other sikhs. Absolutely disgusting, may gobind ram, indira gandhi burn in hell. Anti Sikh Hindus are my and my families/relative's biggest enemies, and this is coming from a sikh loving hindu. :)

    I love Sikhs like you, you and your son are very brave.


    1. fuck you Anonymous
      for speaking ill of Indira Gandhi..............are u condoning the sikhs action of trying to further break our country into smaller pieces............I do not condone the brutality meted out to the sikhs during 1984 carnage but I also wont stand silently and allow some morons to further divide our motherland in the name of religion.

  18. Amazing and sad! Hats off to you. I am an Indian half sikh and son of a military officer and we were there in Amritsar during these tumultuous times. All i have to say is that We are all sons of the same father/mother.

    U all were very brave.

  19. Most recent Anonymous ji,

    We are all children of the same Supreme Being for sure.

    With all due respect, you cannot be half Sikh. Sikh is not genetic. It is being a follower of a peculiar way of life. My Dad was Sikh, my mother was Roman Catholic. My genetics are half Punjabi and half assorted other stuff. My chosen way of life is Sikh.

    I would love to read what happened to you in Amritsar at that time.

    Us brave... I guess we were. We faced our fears and did what we had to do in spite of them. Of course, we didn`t do this on our own. We had all been taught from birth what to do and when the time came, we did it. Still it wasn├Ęt us, it was the kirpaa of Waheguru.

  20. Gurfateh parvaan Karnie Pyaarie Gursikh Bhenji Sri Vaheguru ji ka khalsa Sri Vaheguru ji ki fateh Bhenji Vaheguru Dhan Vaheguru dhan tuade kurbaani bhenji vaheguru thank u bhenji for sharing your story the pain u must of gone through re writing this bhenji i can't being to even think Vaheguru. bhenji my bname is kiranjit kaur please email me at
    thank u bul chuk maaf karnie bhenji gurfateh parvaan karnie Sri Vaheguru ji ka khalsa vaheguru ji ki fateh. P.S me just seen ur blog now gurmukho

  21. Kiranjit Kaur ji,

    Yes, these were difficult to write. At least, instead of repeating the same things over and over, I can guide people here.

    I like your e-mail address!

  22. Bhain Ji, Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh. I can't explain that how Waheguru ji asked me to this blog and then your inspirational, sad but also a story of Chardi Kala(as I never ever heard of this site before). Thanks a million to Waheguru Ji, I think who blessed me to read about u. I wish Guru ji do kirpa on me, so I could remember him every instance of my life. U gave me such a big inspiration. May I could walk on your footsteps. Plz do ardaas for me and I have no words to thanks you to do such kurbani's for US.



Please feel free to speak your mind. Dissension is allowed and welcomed. I only delete illegal comments and spam. OK, maybe obscene, but not usually.

If you want to contact me personally, my address is theroadtokhalistan@gmail.com