Police and federal security forces today raided the Golden Temple in search of Sikh radicals who proclaimed a separate nation. Police and intelligence sources said about 50 people were taken into custody.
Reporters heard at least one shot immediately after the security forces entered the sprawling white marble temple complex, the Sikh religion’s holiest shrine.
An indefinite curfew was imposed around the temple and the public was ordered out.
Home Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao told Parliament that some arrests were made, but did not specify how many. He said security forces were continuing their search for suspected Sikh extremists.
The raid came one day after five Sikh militants held a news conference inside the temple and declared “the beginning of the battle” for an independent Sikh nation of Khalistan in Punjab state, where most of India’s 13 million Sikhs live.
Elsewhere in India, Sikhs are outnumbered by Hindus, who make up most of the country’s population of 750 million people.
The five said a Khalistan Commando Force would provide the core of the Sikh nation’s army, and they appealed to Sikhs worldwide to support their cause. “The Sikhs should now be ready for every sacrifice for the achievement of Khalistan,” they said in a statement.
The government filed sedition charges against the five and said it would not tolerate any call for a separate state.
The Sikh militants in the temple had vowed to fight if security forces entered the shrine.
Rao told Parliament the raid was called by Punjab’s elected government of moderate Sikhs, whom the radicals drove from the temple in January. He said the government will not permit any region to become a base for anti-national activities.
The radicals’ proclamation of Khalistan was “a grave matter,” said Rao, adding, “We are determined to deal with it firmly.”
In June, 1984, the army stormed the temple to rout Sikh militants who were using it as a base for attacks on Hindus. At least 1,200 people were killed in the assault, mostly Sikhs. The temple later was returned to Sikh control.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot to death Oct. 31, 1984, and Sikhs were convicted of killing her in retaliation for the temple raid.