Several hundred police and paramilitary security forces raided residential buildings in Amritsar's Golden Temple complex today in search of Sikh separatist guerrillas who shot a senior Congress (I) Party official yesterday.
The security force did not enter the Golden Temple shrine itself -- Sikhism's holiest shrine -- or the adjacent Akal Takht, which was heavily damaged when Indian Army troops attacked the complex last June to flush out separatist guerrillas. But today's predawn raid was the first forcible entry into buildings in the complex by a sizable contingent of security forces since the June attack.
Officials of the Akali Dal, the mainstream Sikh political party, charged that Punjab police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force officers had "humiliated and harassed" Sikh pilgrims who had been staying in several hostels on the Golden Temple complex grounds.
State officials said that three Sikh "terrorists" were arrested during the raid, which they said was conducted in search of suspects in yesterday's shooting of Raghunandan Lal Bhatia, general secretary of the All-India Congress (I) Party.
The officials said that the search was completed without any clashes and that officials of the temple management committee were notified beforehand and asked to cooperate.
However, management committee secretary Bhan Singh and Akali party secretary Gurdev Singh denied that police gave notice before the raid and said that six persons, including a ceremonial guard, were taken away by the authorities. They said police seized one of the World War I vintage bolt-action rifles that normally are carried by the ceremonial guards, and several ceremonial swords carried by Sikh pilgrims who were staying in the hostels.
While the raid appeared to signal the resolve of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's government not to allow the Golden Temple to be used again as a sanctuary for Sikh separatist guerrillas, Sikh leaders warned that it would set back efforts to reach a negotiated settlement of Sikh grievances.
Temple management committee acting president Prem Singh Lalpura, in a telegram to Punjab Gov. Arjun Singh, called the police action "a most provocative and brutal act," and questioned the government's claims that it is anxious to resolve the Punjab crisis.