A Sikh temple seems like an odd place to attack if you’re anti-Muslim. The War Nerd speaks in praise of Sikhs:
Then along comes the founder of Sikhism, Nanak, and says, “There is no Muslim, there is no Hindu.” Meaning the Hell with both of you. Sikhs were radicals from the start. All the little traditions people know about them started out as in-your-face rebel yells in the Punjab. Like those beards: only the Mughal were allowed to wear long hair and beards. So the Sikh all let theirs grow longer than John and Yoko’s. That name, “Singh,” every Sikh guy has? It means “Lion” but the real point is that it replaced all the caste names they had before. Like Malcolm making his last name “X.”
A Sikh temple is also an odd place to attack if you want a soft target:
One of the great last stands in Sikh history happened less than 25 years ago, when 200 Sikh militants holed up in their version of the Mormon Tabernacle, the “Golden Temple” in Amritsar, India. Anybody with sense knew those 200 Sikhs were going to fight like demons, because that’s what Sikhs have been doing for the past 400 years. Sikh military history is so packed with glorious last stands that George Armstrong Custer would be a smalltime footnote if he’d worn a big turban to go with that long hair and beard of his.
It was 1984, and the Indian Army must have known it was in for a big bloody mess to get the temple back, especially since its upper ranks are filled mostly with Sikh generals, Sikhs being the designated hitters of the Indian war game. But Indira Gandhi was PM, and she was a lady who didn’t like being disobeyed, so she ordered her Sikh Commanding General to overrun the temple.
Mistake. The Sikh CO inside the temple was a dude named Shahbeg Singh, who pretty much single-handedly engineered the collapse of the Pakistani Army in the 1971 Indo-Pak War. It was Shahbeg who organized the Mukhti Bahini, the Bangladeshi guerrillas who made history by being the first Bengali armed force in history not to pee in their dhotis and flee at the sound of gunfire. In fact, this Sikh must’ve given the Bengalis some kind of Sikh blood transfusion because they fought well enough to make the West Pak garrisons surrender en masse even before Indian troops crossed the Bengal border. After that it was the end of history for East Bengal, except for a bunch of whiney George Harrison begging chanteys, and a tidal wave or two.
Well, this same Shahbeg arranged the defense of the Golden Temple so well that at the end of a seven-day battle with the Indian Army’s best units, his 200-odd amateur militants had inflicted 83 KIA on the army and even managed to blast the first tank to enter the compound. They paid a price, naturally – at least 500 Sikh dead and the Temple blasted into gold dust. But Sikhs — well, if there’s one thing you can say about ‘em, it’s that they’re willing to pay any price.
And they make the enemy pay, too. Less than five months after Indira Gandhi ordered the attack on the Temple, she was strolling into her garden to be interviewed by that fat old Brit with the Russian name, Peter Ustinov, when the Sikhs got their revenge. It must have been a pretty scene, the fat man sweating in the Delhi heat, Indira swirling up in her best sari — when BOOM! Two of her bodyguards, who were Sikhs, naturally, opened fire on her with machine guns, turning her into human chutney.