Assassinated General Cremated, Sikhs Vow to Kill Three MoreMAYANK CHAYYA , Associated Press
Aug. 11, 1986 2:11 PM ET
PUNE, INDIA PUNE, India (AP) _ India's former army commander, assassinated because of the assault on the Sikhs' Golden Temple two years ago, was cremated Monday with full military honors. Sikh radicals vowed to kill three more generals.
Gen. Arun Shridhar Vaidya's body was draped in a flag and transported on a gun carriage. He was mourned by 50,000 people lining the funeral route, many of whom shouted: ''Long live General Vaidya, Brave Son of India 3/8''
Punjab's most powerful Sikh terrorist organization claimed responsibility for killing the retired general Sunday as he drove home with his wife near army headquarters in Pune, 70 miles southeast of Bombay. Mrs. Vaidya was wounded.
A statement by the Khalistan Commando Force said Vaidya was killed because he ordered the attack in June 1984 on the temple in Amritsar that is the holiest of Sikh shrines. Sikh radicals want an independent Sikh nation in Punjab, which would be called Khalistan.
Vaidya ordered the assault on instructions from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated in October 1984 by Sikh members of her personal bodyguard.
About 1,200 people, most of them Sikhs, were killed when troops assaulted the temple complex to drive out Sikh terrorists who had taken refuge there.
Typed statements from the Khalistan Commando Force left at press offices in Amritsar said: ''The Sikhs will continue to teach lessons to those who attacked the Golden Temple.''
The group said Gen. Khrishnaswami Sunderji, the current army commander, and two generals in charge of the temple attack also were on its assassination list.
Sunderji attended the cremation Monday. Viadya's son-in-law, an army major, lit the funeral pyre of sandalwood and incense as hymns were chanted in accordance with Hindu tradition.
In New Delhi, Parliament adjourned after two minutes of silence to mourn Vaidya.
The general, India's most decorated soldier, had received death threats from Sikh militants since the assault on the temple, including one last Friday. He retired Jan. 31.
Punjab is the only Indian state in which Sikhs are a majority. They make up about 2 percent of India's 750 million people, most of whom are Hindus.
Pune was virtually closed down Monday by a general strike in protest of the assassination.
Police reported little progress in tracking the four clean-shaven young men who overtook the general's car on two motorcycles and opened fire. Sikh men normally wear beards and turbans.
Commissioner Bhasker Misar told reporters Monday it was ''entirely possible'' the killers fled in the 30 minutes police needed to establish roadblocks. He said one motorcycle was found abandoned in the city.
According to police, the assassins had been tracking Vaidya for days and were familiar with the area. They said some Sikh soldiers who deserted after the Golden Temple assault were natives of Pune.
The assassination is considered a major security scandal for the government and Pune police, since Vaidya was known to be a target of Sikh terrorists.
On Sunday, Misar acknowledged ''a big lapse and security failure.''
A nationwide security alert has been issued to prevent Sikh terrorism elsewhere in India. Security has been tightened at all airports, railway stations and other key facilities, and protection for prominent individuals has been increaased.
The attack in Pune was the first assassination by Sikh terrorists outside Punjab and New Delhi.
About 30 terrorists have been arrested in Punjab in the last 10 days. Police also have raided hideouts and seized large caches of arms and ammunition.
On Saturday, security forces arrested Manbir Singh, commander-in-chief of the Khalistan Commando Force in Punjab.