How many Indians died during the Khalistani Movement

India’s tryst with modern terror began with the Khalistani Movement. What started as a game for political power between the Congress and the Akalis in Punjab snowballed into a terror movement that engulfed most of North India. It was aided by Pakistan who wanted to do a Bangladesh to India.

The purpose of this piece is not to go into the reasons for this movement or express an opinion as who was right or wrong.

Key events that I recall during the 1980’s were –
• The clashes between the Damdami Taksal, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and the Nirankaris, in 1978.
• The assassination of the Nirankara Baba, Gurbachan Singh, in 1980.
• Akali Dal protests at Delhi border during the 1982 Asian Games.
• Senseless killings of innocents in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana.
• Killing of anyone who spoke against Bhindrawale for e.g. owner of Punjab Kesari group Lala Jagat Narain.
• Bomb blasts across North India including those called tiffin and transistor bombs. This was also depicted in the serial Hum Log.
• Conversion of the Golden Temple into a virtual garh or fort by Bhindrawale and his armed followers.
• Operation Blue Star 1984.
• Shooting down of Mrs Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards and killing of Sikhs by Congress thereafter.
• Thousands of Indians were forced to leave their homes in Punjab and move to other states. Some were compelled to their land and property for a pittance.
• Bombing of Air India aircraft Kaniskha in 1985 that left 329 dead. It left Toronto but never reached its destination Delhi.
• I worked in Punjab for nearly three years i.e. 1988 to 1990. We drove 50 kms one way from Chandigarh to Rajpura daily and through a town called Banur. Quite often we heard gun shots while returning home. On one side were terrorists and the other were CRPF. After I shifted from Mumbai to Chandigarh got the scare of my life when one night a CRPF jawan put his gun on my throat and asked for identity proof. That was when we were returning from Ludhiana to Chandigarh.
• Shooting down of the head of the Bhakra Nangal Dam by terrorists for allegedly causing flooding of Punjab due to release of dam waters.
• Rajiv Gandhi – Longowal Accord and killing of Sant Longowal thereafter.
• Mumbai cop Julius Riberio’s Bullet for Bullet policy.
• The AK47 entered the Punjab conflict for the first time in May 1987 and dominated the conflict thereafter.
• Successful conduct of Operation Black Thunder that was led by super cop K P S Gill.
• Complete breakdown of the judicial system in Punjab for conviction of criminals and terrorists.
• Backed by Congress CM Beant Singh Punjab Police, supported by other armed forces, broke the back of the terror movement.
• Death of Beant Singh in bomb blasts.

Since the movement took place during the pre internet/satellite TV news era there is not much hard data that one can find on the number of Indians killed during those years. I was fortunate to stumble across the South Asia Terrorism Portal ( which has some useful data. The attached PDF file has data on annual fatalities in terrorist violence 1981-2012, details of Civilians, terrorists and Security Forces personnel killed in Punjab between 1981-1999, district wise killings 1981 to 2000, district wise terrorists arrests in Punjab between 1989 to 1999, policemen/paramilitary forces injured by terrorists in Punjab between 1991-1999. Key data –

Annual Fatalities in terrorists related violence 1981-2012

Civilians Terrorists Security forces Total
1981 13 14 2 29
1982 13 7 2 22
1983 75 13 20 108
1984 359 77 20 456
1985 63 2 8 73
1986 520 78 38 636
1987 910 328 95 1333
1988 1949 373 110 2432
1989 1168 703 201 2072
1990 2467 1320 476 4263
1991 2591 2177 497 5265
1992 1518 2113 252 3883
1993 48 798 25 871
1994 2 76 0 78
1995 0 11 0 11
Sub-total 11696 8090 1746 21532
1996 0 3 0 3
1997 56 1 2 59
1998-2011 31 2 2 35
TOTAL 11783 8096 1750 21629

What happened during those terror struck years was sad? Think of the families of all those who lost their lives. Unlike the Kashmir terror movement that was restricted to mostly the state of Jammu and Kashmir, this one affected people of North India and to an extent Western India.

A once prosperous state of Punjab lost its eminence because no one wanted to invest new money there.

I hope all political parties who mixed religion with politics and those responsible for terrorism in Punjab reflect and ask themselves some very tough questions.  

To read PDF file click here or read here.

Also read
Punjab: A lethal combination of religion and politics
Pictures of Golden Temple
Jallianwala Bagh
Moods of Golden Temple
The unbreakable Hindu-Sikh bond
Amritsar Food
Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama
Number of Indians who lost their lives due to terror attacks
Attari Wagah Border

Shanti Shanti Shanti

Receive Site Updates