New Delhi: Lieutenant General Kuldip Singh Brar has been living a quiet and retired life in Mumbai ever since his retirement from the Indian Army in 1992. But while on a private visit to the UK, the 78-year-old army officer was recently attacked by four people near the extremely busy Marble Arch area at Oxford Street in Central London.
The attack is indicative of the fact that after years of peace, Punjab could again see a resurgence of radicalism. It also brought back memories of the Khalistan movement and Operation Bluestar, when General Brar led the army into the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, Punjab, to weed out Sikh terrorists, including Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, out of the temple.
Just as during the operation in 1984, General Brar put up a tough fight even this time. The gallant services veteran fought three of the four assailants and suffered a knife wound in the neck and face. The attackers fled when his wife, Meena, who accompanied him, raised an alarm.
Incidentally, Indira Gandhi, who was the Prime Minister at the time of Operation Bluestar and General A.S, Vaidya, who was the Chief of Army Staff, were both assassinated by the militants. The other two army officers, General K. Sundarji (army commander) and General Dayal (Co-commander) have since died natural deaths.
Says General Brar, “That leaves just me. And the extremists have been after me for long.”
He speaks to Gulf News in an exclusive interview.
GULF NEWS: What makes you say, “We are going back to the ’80s, to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s time and it’s starting all over again?
LT GEN KULDIP SINGH BRAR: There are increasing signs of the youth in Punjab being motivated and indoctrinated by hardcore pro-Khalistan elements abroad. This is happening, particularly in the US, Canada, UK and West Europe by glorifying the deeds of the Bhindranwale cult and by circulating doctored footage of Operation Bluestar. Unfortunately, the liberal laws in the UK and the US allow such activities against Indians to continue. And basically it is the unemployed youth that is being easily lured with financial support. Pakistan’s Intelligence agency ISI is also collaborating with pro-Khalistan cells abroad to propagate the ideology of separatism.
But aren’t people in Punjab also to be blamed for it?
There are signs of radicals regrouping in Punjab as the Shiromani Akali Dal government in Punjab is lending them tacit support and turning its back on the resurgence of militancy. This is encouraging the hardliners. I also blame the Akali politics for building up tension. They should stop honouring people.
Isn’t it ironical that no monument has been constructed for the soldiers who laid down their lives during Operation Bluestar, but demand for raising a Bluestar memorial for the terrorists is being heeded?
It is indeed shameful. Our armed forces have lost so many men in uniform fighting for the country against external and internal forces, yet there is no memorial to remember or honour them. Whereas the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, with the approval of the Akali Dal, is building a memorial inside the Golden Temple complex to honour Bhindranwale and his followers who died during Operation Bluestar.
How do you feel on hearing the word ‘martyrs’ for people who died supporting Khalistan?
It is sad to see murderers being glorified and made out to be martyrs. Recently, on the 20th anniversary of General A.S. Vaidya, who was also involved in Operation Bluestar, a function was held inside the Golden Temple complex. But strangely, this was held to honour the families of his two assassins, who were sentenced to death and executed.
Even Balwant Singh Rajoana, accused of assassinating former Chief Minister of Punjab Beant Singh has been declared a martyr. Though he hasbeen sentenced to death, the Akali Dal leaders have been seeking clemency for him from the President of India.
You have mentioned hate blogs, messages and YouTube videos on the Net — tracking your whereabouts. Have you become aware of these only after the London attack?
I have been aware of these for the past many years. I had seen the ‘Hate Brar’ and ‘Kill Brar’ blogs appearing on YouTube and Facebook, besides some pro-Khalistani websites. I have submitted printouts of these to both the military and the police authorities for information and necessary action.
There have been reports that the Intelligence Bureau had information of plans by some Khalistani sympathisers in Germany to attack you in June. Was your security enhanced thereafter?
No, my security had remained the same. In fact, I was never informed about any plot being hatched, but learnt of it only after returning from London. And this too from newspaper reports that quoted the home ministry officials.
Isn’t it strange for a country to spend millions of rupees on 24/7 security for politicians, but the actual warriors of the country are left to fend for themselves on their trips abroad?
Yes, it is strange but true and one hopes this incident is taken as a wake-up call.
Are you satisfied with the investigations going on in London regarding the attack on you?
The legal system of UK is excellent and their investigative agencies are very focused. I am sure it will not be long before the assassins are caught.