Why did anti-Sikh riots break out in 1984?

Slaughter in the Golden Temple

"In the morgue of the 600,000-inhabitant city of Amritsar, soldiers piled the bodies in large piles. In the hospital, too, garbage trucks unloaded mountains of corpses. If life was still moving under the bodies bleeding from many wounds, no doctor cared for the wounded. Soldiers gave him that Then the dead were piled in piles of 50 on piles of wood and burned. ",

... Der Spiegel quotes eyewitnesses to the storming of the holy of holies of the Sikh religion, the Golden Temple of Amritsar, by the Indian army. The result of the slaughter: several hundred soldiers killed and up to 5,000 victims on the part of the Sikhs. It was the tragic escalation of a battle of strength between militant Sikh groups and the Indian government, whose roots lie in the division of the Indian subcontinent by the British in 1947.

The homeland of the Sikhs, the rich and fertile region of Punjab, was torn apart, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs fled the new Islamic state of Pakistan to India. During these troubled times, the vision of a separate independent state called Khalistan on Indian soil germinated among the Sikhs.
The Sikhs demanded more religious independence, the annexation of Sikh communities in other provinces to the Punjab and a fairer distribution of water resources. In the 1970s, Sikh organizations were formed that no longer shied away from violence. They soon openly called for an independent state in the Punjab. Their spiritual leader became the farmer's son Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who preached from village to village.

In 1982 the dispute between the radical Sikhs and the government escalated. Bhindranwale and his armed companions holed up in the temple area of ​​Amritsar. In early June 1984, Bhindranwale gave a final interview.

“Are you a saint? / No, I'm a Sikh, I have nothing on politics. / Why are you fighting? / To break the chains of slavery that strangle us. / How far will you go? / As far as I am
have to go."

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi could not stand by and watch the goings-on of the militant Sikhs. In the upcoming elections she threatened to be punished by the majority of the Hindus. Days before the storm on the night of June 5th to 6th, 1984, the entire province of Punjab was completely cordoned off. It was only two weeks later that ARD correspondent Rainer Wolfgramm was able to get a picture on site.

"When you saw afterwards what ammunition, weapons and equipment was actually hidden in this golden temple complex, you can only be amazed that there was not even more in the air. So there were tons of guns, there were tons of homemade bombs, there were hand grenades. "

The actual Golden Temple of Amritsar, picturesquely situated in the middle of an artificial basin, was only slightly damaged. Bhindranwale had holed up with his followers in the sanctuary "Akal Takht" opposite, which was perforated by machine gun fire. Bhindranwale himself was killed by 70 bullets.

It was a traumatic event for the Sikh community. Their vision of their own state sank into a bloodbath. But it was much more serious that Sikhs had shot at Sikhs, that a Sikh had commanded the action. Every fifth officer in the Indian army was and is still a Sikh today. Riots broke out across the country. Numerous Sikh soldiers mutinied, Sikh officials resigned from their offices. On October 31, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was murdered by her own Sikh bodyguards in revenge for Amritsar. As a result, angry Hindus attacked the Sikhs.
In the Tagesschau of November 4, 1984 it says:

"After the riots last night, Delhi offered a picture of devastation. The mutilated corpses of Sikhs are found again and again. Over 200 dead have been counted in the Indian capital alone. Eyewitnesses report unimaginable atrocities. Sikhs were beaten to death with iron bars or burned alive. "

About 3,000 Sikhs were murdered across the country in the first days of November 1984. The conflict between Hindus and Sikhs smoldered for a few more years. But the uprising was not a mass movement. Soon they remembered the traditionally good relationship. There has long been no talk of a Sikh state of its own.