Commemorating Hurt: Memorialising Operation Bluestar
The storming of the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar by the Indian army in June 1984, in Operation Bluestar, has become a commemorative event in the ritual calendar of the Gurdwara. Memorialized every year on June 6, Ghallughara Dihara (Day of Genocide), telescopes the modern event with medieval Afghan invasions, while ritual performances evoke a history of persecution and sacrifice. At the Darbar Sahib and its eponymous Golden Temple, rituals subtly discount the pre-eminence of particular Khalistani leaders killed in the army action. Instead, a sense of restoration of divine authority embodied in the Akal Takht prevails over the memory of charismatic leaders of Khalistan.
But as a transnational ritual, the meaning of Ghallughara Dihara has altered. Among Sikhs of the diaspora the assertion of trauma and the representation of the Disappeared as martyrs’ link continued assertions of political persecution in the ‘homeland’ with claims for political asylum and rights of residence.