A UK-based Sikh campaign group on Thursday said it has launched an appeal to make public the secret files believed to hold details of Britain’s alleged involvement in the 1984 Operation Bluestar that killed hundreds of people.
Sikh Federation UK’s appeal with the UK’s Information Tribunal is expected to be heard early next year.
It centres around four files “withheld” during an official UK government inquiry ordered by former prime minister David Cameron into Britain’s alleged involvement in the military action on Golden Temple in 1984. “The first tier tribunal will consider this case in the New Year and it will be inappropriate to comment any further,” a UK cabinet office spokesperson said.
The files include one titled “UK/Indian relations: Situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985”. The other documents include a Joint Intelligence Committee file on India; one with details of then British PM Margaret Thatcher’s meetings with a close adviser of Indira Gandhi; and other papers under “India: Political” related to events around Indira Gandhi’s assassination in October 1984.
Sikh Federation UK, which believes the closed files will shed more light on the extent of Britain’s alleged involvement in the military operation in Amritsar, had earlier complained to the UK’s information commissioner to make these documents public but it was decided to keep the files closed as they were “too sensitive”.
The group has now issued an appeal against this decision on the grounds that the commissioner did not take into account the “thousands of civilian casualties during the Amritsar massacre as a public interest factor in favour of disclosing the information”.
In 2014, Cameron had ordered the Heywood Review into the exact nature of British involvement in the operation at Golden Temple in June 1984 after documents released previously under the 30-year declassification rule had implied British SAS commanders had advised the Indian government as it drew up plans for the removal of militants from the Sikh shrine. The report concluded that the nature of the UK’s assistance was “purely advisory” and provided to the Indian government at an early stage of planning.