Britain’s elite special air service (SAS) advised former prime minister Indira Gandhi on flushing out Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar three months before Operation Bluestar was launched in June 1984, says a top secret note released by the National Archives in London.
The is the first time that the involvement of the SAS has been revealed in the bloody episode that led to Gandhi’s assassination and riots on the streets of New Delhi and elsewhere. Both India and Britain had placed a tight lid on this involvement.
The document written by private secretary BJP Fall in the Foreign and Commonwealth office was part of official documents declassified and released earlier this month.
The documents mainly related to the tenure of Margaret Thatcher as the prime minister, who had agreed to send an SAS officer to India. The document, with the subject line ‘Sikh Community’, is dated 23 February 1984.
The document is addressed to Hugh Taylor, private secretary to the home secretary. Only four copies were made of the document classified as ‘Top Secret and Personal’.
The note says: “The Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The foreign secretary decided to respond favourably and, with the PM’s agreement, an SAS officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs Gandhi. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Indian Government may put the plan into operation shortly.”
It goes on: “An operation at the Golden Temple could exacerbate communal violence in Punjab. It might also increase tension in the Indian community here, particularly if knowledge of the SAS involvement were to become public. We have impressed upon the Indians the need for security; and knowledge of the SAS officer’s visit and of his plan has been tightly held in both in India and in London.”