India: Sikh groups call for shutdown strike in Amritsar, Punjab State, June 6 to commemorate anniversary of Operation Bluestar
Multiple groups, including the Sikh separatist organization Dal Khalsa, have called for a shutdown strike in Amritsar, Punjab State, June 6 to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Bluestar, a controversial Indian army operation to expel Sikh militants from Amritsar's Golden Temple in 1984. Emergency and essential services are typically unaffected; private entities including shops, educational institutions, fuel stations, and transport services usually close as a precaution or in solidarity with commemorative events. Activists will also likely attempt to gather at the Golden Temple. Additional unannounced gatherings are most probable at Sikh temples, parks, public squares, government buildings, and major intersections. Events could draw up to a few hundred attendees.
Officials have deployed at least 5,000 security personnel in the city; the tightest security is affecting the Golden Temple and its vicinity. Localized traffic delays are likely during large demonstrations, especially if participants block or march on roadways. Police may forcibly disperse disruptive gatherings, potentially prompting clashes, arson, and vandalism. Communal violence between Sikhs and other religious groups cannot be ruled out. Officials may impose curbs on movement and telecommunication services if significant violence breaks out.
Although there are no specific terror threats to the anniversary, officials typically tighten security near sensitive locations such as government buildings, religious sites, and crowded public places as a standard counterterror measure. A series of small explosions occurred near the Golden Temple May 6, 8, and 10, likely prompting heightened vigilance including personnel and vehicle checks, as well as traffic restrictions in the area.
Operation Bluestar was a response to deteriorating law and order in Punjab, where separatist militancy had taken root. The controversial assault left more than 500 people dead, though unofficial estimates claim that the number of casualties was much higher. The assault - which involved the use of artillery and armored vehicles - and the perceived desecration of the Sikh's holiest shrine enraged Sikhs in India and abroad and significantly increased ethnoreligious tensions in the country. Sikh militants vowed retaliation, and two Sikh bodyguards assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi Oct. 31, 1984; subsequent riots in Delhi killed thousands of Sikh civilians. Although Sikh separatist violence declined considerably by the early 1990s, a small number of hardline Sikh groups continue to advocate the creation of an independent "Khalistan" homeland. Dal Khalsa organizes strikes and protests annually surrounding the anniversary of Operation Bluestar.
Avoid all rallies due to possible clashes. If violence breaks out, leave the area immediately. Heed the instructions of local security personnel. Allow additional time to reach destinations near protest venues. Plan to take detours around all gatherings as a precaution. Confirm business appointments, transport reservations, and road status June 6 if operating in Amritsar. Heed all security and traffic advisories.