The Unequal Battle of 20th Century – The Battle of Amritsar, Punjab, 4-7 June 1984

battle front

The human history has witnessed some of the great unequal battles where the opponents were heavily disproportionate in numbers and arms. However, the sheer fighting spirit and display of some extraordinary bravery has made some of them famous and are remembered even today. Let’s take a brief look on some of the famous unequal battles the world has seen.


The Battle of Thermopylae, Greece, 480 BC, saw a great fight between 300 Greek Spartans and the Massive Persian Army. The Spartans were able to hold the Persian Invasion for three days undeterred from the Opponent’s strength. There is lot of literature and cinematography work prepared on this subject and is easily available.


The Battle of Karbala, Iraq, 680 is considered as holy war where Muhammad Sahib’s grandson Hussain took on the huge army of the Umayyad Caliph. Hussain and his six month old son were killed in this battle. The Islamic world remembers this martyrdom of Hussain with immense religious fervour.


The Battle of Chamkaur, 1704, the tenth master Guru Gobind Singh Ji along with 40 Sikhs took on 1 Million of the Mughal Army and Hill Chiefs at Chamkaur. Despite the heavy odds against the Sikhs, the Mughal forces failed to capture the Tenth Guru.

The older Sahibzadas, Baba Ajit Singh ji and Baba Jujhar Singh ji showed some extraordinary courage and bravery along with the other Singhs before they achieved martyrdom.


The Battle of Saragarhi, North-West Frontier Province, Present Pakistan, 1897, The Sikh Regiment under the British Raj held their post against 10,000 Afghan fighters.

The Sikhs, only 21 in strength, fought till their last breath and did not turn their back on the enemy.This battle is considered by some military historians as one of modern history’s greatest last-stands.


In the 20th century the brave Sikhs of the Guru, once again, stood up for the cause of *justice and equality and fought to defend their holiest place against the invasion of the Indian Defence Forces strategically backed up by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.



Here’s a look as to why the Sikhs should remember and look at this as one of the greatest unequal battle of their History.



Indian Defence Forces The Sikh Defenders
Overall In charge – Lt Gen KS Sunderji *Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
Sub Ordinate- Lt Gen RS Dayal Gen Shubeg Singh
Maj Gen Kuldeep Brar Bhai Amrik Singh & Others
Army Divisions: Madras,Bihar,Dogra
Navy Divers and Air Force Back Up
15,000 Troops at Darbar Sahib Complex
35,000 Troops as reserved back up 80 – 150 Sikhs
100,000 Troops across Punjab Untrained in Warfare
Besides, CRPF,BSF,ITBP,PP and Special
Total estimated strength 500,000
Then the world’s fourth largest Army
38 Tons Vijayanta Tanks of 105mm Guns Unarmed*
Heavy Artillery 25 Pounder Cannons * Unarmed as their arms were toys in
Howitzers/Mortars Comparison to the opponent’s.
3.7 Inch Howell Gun LMGs, Rifles, Carbines & Handgrenades
Armed Personnel Carriers :APCs
Armoured Cars, Helicopters
Chemical Gas Canisters*
(* used against Geneva and Hague
State of Punjab
Military Encirclement of Darbar Sahib
42 Gurdwaras on target in Punjab
The Invasion was planned at least couple No movement of the defenders
of years before June 1984 In the complex until May 84
Army gets an “ Ok” in Jan 84
Special Commando Group raised and
trained with a replica of Darbar Sahib
Indian Army moves in 30 May 84 Sandbagging and fortifying the Premises
Punjab cut off from the rest of the world Sikhs do their part with their limited
No Rail/Road/Air/Telecom or even foot resources
Blanket Ban on Media
Foreign Media asked to leave
International Community taken into
Confidence on the attack
PM briefs the country of her last resort
Army gets ready identify Sikh as Enemy
Attack is named Operation Bluestar.
Guru Arjan’s Martyrdom day (Equivalent
to Diwali/X’mas/Eid) selected for Attack
Fierce battle took place for 72 Hours 72 Hours of Solid defence
Full might of the Indian Defence Forces No reinforcement or back ups
on Akal Takht Fought in extreme heat with no water,
Akal Takht bombarded and destroyed food, electricity, sleep or toilet facility
Darbar Sahib dome gets bullets Toy weapons to defend their Holy Place
Sikh Reference Library ransacked with Some rare feats of bravery, valour and
125 bundles of rare literature taken away High spirits on display
Library and Teja Singh Samundri hall put Fought till their last bullet and last breath
to fire *Sant JSKB gets 70 odd bullets
Toshakhana Looted Sikh villagers who came out towards
Rooms in Parikarma sprayed with bullets Amritsar met with Guns and Tanks aimed
42 other Gurdwaras attacked on them
Estimated figure 5000 Jawans 80-150 Sikhs
Whole scale sacrilege of the Holy place No coverage on the plight of Sikhs
and of the Sikhs Total Media Black Out for Sikh Concerns
The trapped Sikhs were treated like Indian Army hailed for their Victory
Prisoners of War including children and Officers engaged in the Battle were
Elderly decorated with medals of Bravery
Devotees shot in cold blood including
children as young as two
No food, water, medical assistance
No access for voluntary Organisation like
Red Cross
Disposed of dead and not yet dead in
Municipal garbage trucks
Estimated 100,000 to 120,000 killed in
Punjab in that week.
Media projected this as a Victory
Over the terrorists to save the Unity and
Integrity of the Country

battle 2

It is hard to find any parallel to this Unequal Battle that the Sikhs fought defending their holiest shrine. It is also hard to find any parallel in the history where a holy place of any religion was put to such a brutal attack with wholesale sacrilege, incomprehensible cruelties on innocents and war-scale destruction.


Lest we forget.


Karnjit Singh

06 Aug 2015



Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and the opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of SADA Times  and SADA Times does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same


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