Troops Ring Golden Temple on Rally Eve
AMRITSAR, India (AP) _ Security forces ringed the Golden Temple Tuesday on the eve of a big anti- government rally called by Sikh militants to honor Sikhs killed in the army assault on the holiest Sikh shrine two years ago.
Posters put up by Sikh militants said the Wednesday rally on ″Martyrs’ Day″ will be a ″mass protest against the repressive and tyrannical policies of New Delhi rulers who are treating Sikhs as second-class citizens.″
During June 4-7, 1984, about 1,000 civilians and 200 soldiers were killed in the army attack on armed Sikh extremists holed up inside the shrine complex.
The militants are observing June 1-7 as ″Genocide Week″ throughout Punjab to protest the temple assault. The raid prompted the vengeance assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards five months later.
Amritsar Police Chief H.K.S. Kahlon said Tuesday that about 3,000 paramilitary soldiers and hundreds of police have been deployed around the temple complex and on highways and bridges leading to the historic shrine.
Troops set up roadblocks and searched vehicles and pilgrims going to the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s equivalent of the Roman Catholics’ Vatican.
State authorities reported more than 1,000 Sikh militants were arrested under preventive detention laws in continuing police sweeps across Punjab, India’s breadbasket.
Kahlon said the administration would act firmly to quell any violence during the rally Wednesday inside the temple’s main convention hall.
″If the situation warrants, we will not hesitate to impose curfew around the Golden Temple,″ Kahlon told reporters at a briefing.
Sikh extremists meanwhile vowed Tuesday to step up their terrorist campaign for an independent Sikh homeland to be called ″Khalistan,″ or land of the pure. At least 84 people have been killed in the past 30 days alone in hit- and-run attacks.
″Sikhs should unitedly rally behind the Khalistan commando force in our fight against the government,″ said a press statement issued by ″General″ Manbir Singh, India’s top Sikh fugitive.
His group claimed responsibility in a separate statement Tuesday for the weekend killing of three prominent Hindus, including Ram Lubaya, a leader of a rightist political party, who was assassinated near this Sikh holy city.
A spokesman for Sikh militants, Manmohan Singh, said that although authorities announced the withdrawal of all security forces Monday from the Golden Temple, hundreds of plainclothes police remained inside the complex.
″We will throw out all the government agents from the Golden Temple,″ Manmohan Singh told The Associated Press.
Kahlon said security forces would enter the 17th-century temple Wednesday only in case of major violence.
Sikhs form about 2 percent of the 750 million population of India, which is overwhelmingly Hindu.