Avtar Singh Atwal
|Died||25 April 1983 (aged 40)|
|Allegiance||Indian Police Service|
|Rank||Deputy Inspector General of Police|
|Awards||President's Police Medal for Gallantry|
Avtar Singh Atwal was a Deputy Inspector General in Punjab Police. He was murdered by a follower of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at the steps of Golden temple while coming out after prayers on 25 April 1983  His murder set in motion a chain of events that led to the commencement of the Operation Blue Star. He was a posthumous recipient of President's Police Medal for Gallantry.
He was survived by his wife and son. His wife Amrita Atwal later joined the Punjab Civil Services. His son, Harbir Atwal, also joined the Punjab Police as an Inspector.
On 23 April 1983, Atwal while serving as the DIG of Police Jalandhar range, had visited the Golden Temple for prayers. After which he was returning to his official car stationed outside the temple premises. A lone gunman from the armed group of Bhindranwale was standing near the imposing gates of the Golden Temple. Unarmed Atwal coming out of the Darbar Sahib and descending the stairs on the way out was shot at, from behind by the gunman. Meanwhile, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale described the killing as "the handiwork of the Government to malign Sikhs". The hail of bullets, killed Atwal and critically injured two others. The killing took place in broad daylight metres away from his bodyguards and official car. Immediately after the shootout, Atwal's bodyguard and car driver escaped in his car. A group of Punjab Armed Police jawans were stationed nearby but instead of nabbing the assassin, they also fled along with the crowd from the shooting spot. The militants from inside the temple came out to celebrate around Atwal's body and fired celebratory shots in the air. His corpse remained on the temple steps for several hours, and the Police force did not picked it up fearing further firings from the militants. Punjab CM Darbara Singh then telephoned Bhindranwale asking to allow the dead body to be picked up to which he agreed.
The "Top Cop" Atwal's killing shocked the entire state of Punjab. It established a fear of Bhindranwale's gunmen among the locals. The Sikhs sympathetic to the Akali movement were also appalled by the incident as they viewed it as a violation of the sanctity of the Golden Temple. Akali leaders had an emergency meeting to discuss the aftermath of the murder. Akali Dal leaders like Harchand Singh Longowal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra immediately denounced the murder in clear terms on record. Meanwhile, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale described the killing as "the handiwork of the Government to malign Sikhs".
Chief Minister of Punjab Darbara Singh advised Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi to send Police force inside the Golden temple. The law and order situation in Punjab continued to deteriorate further and leading to the PM taking the decision of sending in army to assist the local law enforcement and to flush out the militants out of the temple in Operation Bluestar.
Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi (2013) is a TV documentary which premièred on ABP News Channel series, Pradhanmantri. This documentary directed by Puneet Sharma and narrated by Shekhar Kapur showed the circumstances of Atwal's murder.
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