Sikhs mark 25th anniversary of Indian temple raid

Hundreds of Sikhs shouted separatist slogans in the Indian state of Punjab Saturday as they marked the 25th anniversary of an assault on the Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine.

Sikhs gathered in the northern city of Amritsar to commemorate the 1984 raid, called Operation Blue Star, which was ordered by then-prime minister Indira Gandhi, to flush out militants who were holed up in the temple demanding an independent Sikh homeland.

While most mainstream Sikhs do not support the idea of a separate nation, hardliners continue to demand an independent "buffer state" between India and Pakistan called "Khalistan."

"There would be nothing wrong in giving an independent area to the Sikh community," said Ram Singh, who turned out to mark the anniversary.

"At least Sikhs would not feel suffocated and incidents like Operation Blue Star would never occur."

The assault left scores dead, hundreds wounded and resulted in substantial damage to the shrine complex.

In October that year Gandhi was shot dead by her two Sikh bodyguards -- triggering anti-Sikh riots in which thousands of people were killed, most of them in the streets of the Indian capital New Delhi.

Roving gangs wielding iron rods and sticks invaded homes, dragging out Sikh families and killing men and boys as police turned a blind eye, witnesses said.

Two decades later, in 2004, Manmohan Singh made history when he took office as the country's first Sikh prime minister, but the anniversary of the Golden Temple raid is still observed with bitterness.

"The wounds of Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple are still unhealed," said Simranjit Singh Mann, local president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, a Sikh political party.

in Bulgaria. AP