British Sikh group seeks new probe into UK’s role in Operation Blue Star | india-news | Hindustan Times
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British Sikh group seeks new probe into UK’s role in Operation Blue Star

The report alleges a cover up by the UK and dismisses a previous internal review into alleged British Special Air Service (SAS) involvement in the military operation at the Golden Temple.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2017 11:38 IST
Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi comes out after offering prayers at Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. (HT file photo)
Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi comes out after offering prayers at Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. (HT file photo)

A new report by a British Sikh group has called for an independent public inquiry into the exact nature of the UK government’s assistance to the Indian Army during the 1984 Operation Blue Star, describing a previous internal review as a “whitewash”.

“Sacrificing Sikhs: The need for an investigation”, to be officially launched in the UK Parliament complex, has been produced by the Sikh Federation UK and backed by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Sikhs.

It alleges a cover up by the UK government and dismisses a previous internal review conducted by civil servant Jeremy Heywood in 2014 into alleged British Special Air Service (SAS) involvement in the military operation on Golden Temple in Amritsar as a “whitewash”.

“I am deeply concerned with the findings of the report ‘Sacrificing Sikhs’, which demonstrates that the Heywood Review was a whitewash,” said Preet Kaur Gill, the first female Sikh MP to be elected to the House of Commons and chair of the APPG for British Sikhs.

“The British government, knowing full well of the contribution Sikhs made during both the First and Second World Wars, betrayed their trust and are indirectly involved in the persecution of thousands of Sikhs,” she said.

She said the report, commissioned by the Sikh Federation, had unearthed facts that cannot simply be ignored and require further investigation.

The report claims that the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had sent an SAS officer to advise the Indian Army ahead of the operation at the Sikh shrine in June 1984 and “demonstrated Britain’s complete support for a military solution”.

“India requested British training and equipment for its police paramilitary units immediately after the SAS officer had advised on coordinating paramilitary units for an attack on Amritsar. The Foreign Office wanted to supply India with internal security equipment that it knew could be used to raid Amritsar,” it claims.

The report, based on archival UK government documents, adds that immediately after the SAS officer carried out his “reconnaissance” of Amritsar with an Indian special forces unit, Sikhs pulled out of peace talks claiming they had seen a commando unit move into the city.

“The negotiations never recovered, and ultimately lead to the all-out-assault in June 1984,” it notes.

The report links British assistance for Operation Blue Star to India’s position as one of the country’s biggest purchasers of military equipment in the 1980s during the Thatcher-led regime, who herself shared a close relationship with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the time.

British involvement in the Army operation against extremists inside Golden Temple first emerged in January 2014 with the release of documents under the UK’s 30-year declassification rule.

Then Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned the Heywood Review in the immediate aftermath, which concluded that the UK’s involvement was purely advisory.

Miller, the author of the latest report, claims the UK government is hiding almost a third of historic files that could shed light on SAS involvement in the Indian para- military operation.

“Information about the special forces and intelligence agencies is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information and Public Records Acts, meaning that only an independent inquiry is capable of recovering the truth,” he notes.

Opposition Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who had written to Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year calling for “a fresh, independent investigation into this episode in British history” is planning to reiterate his stance in another letter to Downing Street in the wake of the latest report.

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation UK, said: “This report casts serious doubts on the adequacy and integrity of the in-house Heywood Review commissioned by Cameron. There has been a massive cover-up and Parliament and the public have been disturbingly misled.

“An independent public inquiry to get to the truth is the only way forward.”