The killing of the family was another graphic sign that [Sikh] separatists, pursuing their vague, politically unlikely goal of an independent Sikh theocracy called Khalistan ("Land of the Pure") in Punjab, have escalated a campaign of terror and retribution against civilians as well as government forces.
In June, 1984, [Indira Gandhi] ordered the army into the temple. In the battle that followed, according to government reports, at least 83 soldiers and 493 civilians, including fundamentalist Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, were killed. More fatefully, a key building inside the temple grounds, the Akal Takht, was seriously damaged. Damage to the temple was given as the motive for Gandhi's assassination in October, 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
Aurora and other moderate Sikh leaders fear that unless some concessions to the Sikh cause are won now, they will be lost in a flood of Sikh-baiting as elections near. The effectiveness of attacking Sikhs as a way of gaining attention was demonstrated recently when Bombay political leader Bal Thackery stirred a furor by suggesting a boycott of Sikh businesses until terrorism stops in Punjab.