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Treading on Hallowed GroundCounterinsurgency Operations in Sacred Spaces$
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C. Christine Fair and Sumit Ganguly

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195342048

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195342048.001.0001

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The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple

A Tale of Two Sieges

(p.37) 2 The Golden Temple
Treading on Hallowed Ground

C. Christine Fair

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines two important operations waged by Indian security forces to counter Sikh insurgents operating in India's northern state of Punjab, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The first operation was a military as well as a public-relations debacle. The Indian Army had inadequate and flawed intelligence about the strength and capabilities of the insurgents who had entered and occupied the Golden Temple, and they failed to forge a viable public-relations strategy and ultimately used excessive force to prevail. Fortunately, the Indian state was capable of learning from its initial errors. When Sikh militants again attempted to use the temple as a sanctuary, the Indian security forces launched a second assault, which involved a prolonged siege, but one marked by careful attention to the sentiments of religious authorities and by a deft public-relations strategy. The two contrasting episodes underscore how the same regime, under different circumstances, can cope with and respond to the requirements of a counterinsurgency operation in a sacred site.

Keywords:   counterinsurgency, sacred site, Sikh insurgents, Indian Army, Golden Temple, sanctuary

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