The Indian government mounted a massive display of military and police power throughout northern India this week, and the first anniversary of the Army attack of the Sikhs' most sacred shrine passed without the violence threatened by religious extremists.
The gulf between Sikhs and Hindus appears to have grown even wider in recent months, however, and there are fears that new trouble may yet break out.
Many observers here are concerned that the terrorist acts of reprisal promised by militants merely were postponed because of the heavy government security during what the Sikhs had proclaimed "genocide week". The week was called to honor the more than 1,000 Sikhs killed last year when the Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple at Amritsar to root out extremists who had turned the holy place into a heavily armed fortress.
"Massive action by the government kept the damage down this week," said Jagjit Singh Aurora, a retired Army lieutenant general and a national hero for his military exploits in the 1971 war with Pakistan.
A Sikh, he shocked many last year by denouncing the Army action at the Golden Temple. Since then he has tried to be a healing influence between the government and Sikhs torn between their support of India as a nation and their religious identity in this overwhelmingly Hindu country.
But the alienation between the two religious groups appears to have grown deeper during the past year, intensified by the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards on Oct. 31.
At least 2,500 Sikhs were massacred in what Aurora called "organized carnage" by Hindu mobs after the assassination.
Those attacks caused many Sikhs to question their future in this country just as Gandhi's assassination raised doubts among Hindus about Sikh loyalty to the Indian nation.
"It's going from bad to worse. It doesn't look as if it is going to get resolved in a sensible manner in the near future," Aurora said.
Although India's 14 million Sikhs make up just 2 percent of the population, they hold a much higher percentage of top positions in the Army, police force and government civil service. Their homeland, the Punjab, on the strategic western frontier with Pakistan, is the breadbasket of India. Sikh demands include greater water rights, more local autonomy and a Sikh capital.
The Sikh fear of another bloodbath -- especially if militants unleash a reign of terror such as the series of bomb blasts that rocked the country last month -- is so great that many scratched their names off the gateposts of their homes. Because all Sikh men have the word singh, which means lion, in their names, they are easily identified.
Furthermore, a growing number of Sikhs in urban areas like New Delhi are seeking to blend into the crowd by removing their most identifying features -- a full beard and uncut hair wrapped in a turban. The tenets of the Sikh religion, formed in an effort to reconcile Hinduism and Islam, forbid shaving or cutting hair.
In the Punjab, on the other hand, things are different. In that hotbed of Sikh militancy, where things are so tense that the government bars foreigners, many Sikhs who had shaved or cut their hair are now letting their hair and beard grow, according to travelers to the area. Saffron-colored turbans are proliferating, indicating the wearers' willingness to become a martyr for the religion and the drive to separate the Punjab from India.
As an indication of this secessionist feeling, United News of India reported Friday that the flag of "Khalistan," the name that would be given to a breakaway Sikh state, was hoisted in the Golden Temple complex Thursday night.
Sikh extremists justified the assassination of Indira Gandhi on the grounds that she had ordered the attack on the Golden Temple.
"Since then things have never been the same," said Kuswant Singh, the internationally known Sikh historian, novelist and editor. "It will go down in the annals of our history as the point of great divide, even the point of no return."
This extremism, including the killing of moderate Sikhs and Hindu leaders in the Punjab, is making it difficult for mainstream Sikh politicians to retain influence with their constituency without becoming more radical themselves.
As a result, the main Sikh party in the Punjab, the Akali Dal, is badly split and the 90-year-old father of extremist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed by the Army in the Golden Temple complex, is being pushed to form a new, more radical party.
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, though, expressed confidence before leaving India Wednesday for a trip abroad, including the United States, that the government could reach some political accommodation with the Sikhs. He said government initiatives, including freeing Sikh leaders from jail and starting a judicial inquiry into the anti-Sikh bloodbath that followed the assasination of Indira Gandhi, his mother, had set the stage for returning the Sikhs to mainstream India.
Western diplomats and Aurora disagreed, however, saying Gandhi had offered too little, too late.