Dinesh Kumar in Mumbai
“I feel no sorrow for them,” he adds saying he is aware that the attackers who had launched a murderous assault on him in London had been indoctrinated as they had otherwise been quite young at the time of the operation that took place over 29 years ago.
While speaking to The Tribune, Lt General Brar, who was attacked by four Sikh youths on the night of September 30, 2012 while on a vacation with his wife on a street in central London, says he will never go to the UK again. The quantum of punishment for the four convicts, comprising three attackers and a woman accomplice, is scheduled to be announced by a London court tomorrow.
“I love the UK but would like to avoid going there. I am not keen anymore (to visit the UK). There is no fun in going to a place where you have to keep looking over your shoulder and watching your back and ending up becoming wary each time you see someone suspicious,” says Lt General Brar who, as General Officer Commanding (GOC) 9 Division in the rank of major general, led Operation Bluestar, which involved Army troops entering the Golden Temple, to forcibly evict Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed militia that had been spreading terror in Punjab at that time.
The Army lost 83 soldiers, including four officers, while another 248, including 13 officers, were wounded in the operation, which Lt General Brar describes as his Army career’s “most difficult” and “traumatic” assignment.
Lt General Brar is also averse to visiting the Golden Temple. “I have never been there after Operation Bluestar. I have seen it at its worst and there was no religious sanctity whatsoever then. Operation Bluestar restored the sanctity. Visiting the Golden Temple will bring back all sorts of memories, some unhappy which I would not like to relive. I am aware there is a lot of anger against me.
Why revive that anger by going there?” he says adding that he will not entirely rule out ever visiting the Sikh shrine.
Life for Lt General Kuldip Singh Brar has changed “hell of a lot” and “is no longer as comfortable as it used to be”. Travel has become “severely restricted” for the retired Lieutenant General who’s security has been upgraded to Z-plus.
From earlier being able to drive off in his micro-sized Nano car to either meet his friends or shop at will, Lt General Brar now has a revised security setup comprising both police commandos and Army men who follow him every time he steps out of his house located in the high-security Navy Nagar here.
Crowded places are often avoided and his travel plans out of Mumbai are well-coordinated. He now has to inform the Army a week in advance for every domestic travel and three weeks in advance for every travel overseas. Yet Lt General Brar hasn’t stopped travelling - he has twice travelled overseas since the attack.
Lt General Brar is full of praise for the doctors who attended on him after the attack, the professionalism of the police and prosecution, and the speed with which the courts have tried the case. “The entire process - from investigation to trial - was completed in 10 months. Here it would have taken years and nothing would have happened,” he says.
Lt General Brar, who declined to go to the UK to depose when approached by the London Metropolitan Police, appeared before the court through video conferencing - a rare if not an altogether first time hookup for an Indian by a court overseas.
The linkup was done at the Taj Hotel, incidentally a major scene of the 26/11 attacks by Pakistani terrorists, over three days from July 16 to 18.
He was examined for a couple of hours each day - first by the prosecution and then by the defence. The sole person present in the room was an official from the London Metropolitan Police who only assisted with the video linkup equipment.
His wife was examined once on the last day. Both were not allowed together into the video link room and were asked not to discuss the case among themselves during the days the proceedings were on. “We honoured that,” said Mrs Brar.
Lt General Brar, who was stabbed in the back, on the cheek and the neck, has since fully recovered from the attack except for some numbness in the neck area which is expected to disappear with time. During the video conferencing, he was handed a sketch of the scene of the attack and shown a detailed CCTV footage of his movements of that evening.
The defence, he said, asked him questions about Operation Bluestar with the intent of building a case that it had caused a lot of anger and hurt among the Sikh community. At one point, the defence even asked whether he had been the first to attack the convicts.
During the video link, Lt General Brar says he could see the judge, the prosecutor lawyer, three defence lawyers and some media men in the background but never the accused who were convicted without his having to identify them. The UK is quite harsh in dealing with terrorism and their message is that they will not allow such activity, he says adding that there continues to be a lot of propaganda eulogising Bhandranwale and Khalistan overseas.