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Cameron orders probe into SAS-Op Bluestar link

British prime minister David Cameron on Monday ordered an inquiry after Sikh groups reacted with fury over newly released documents revealing that the British elite force, SAS, had advised India on Operation Bluestar.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2014 16:58 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times

Prime Minister David Cameron Monday night ordered an inquiry after Sikh groups reacted with fury over newly released documents revealing that the British elite force, SAS, had advised India on flushing out Sikh militants months before Operation Bluestar in June 1984.

The documents, undigitised so far, were discovered by Phil Miller, a researcher at charity organisation Corporate Watch, and were immediately seized upon by Labour MP Tom Watson and several Sikh groups, who called on the Cameron government for a full inquiry.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "These events led to a tragic loss of life and we understand the very legitimate concerns that these papers will raise. The prime minister has asked the cabinet secretary to look into this case urgently and establish the facts".

He added: "The PM and the foreign secretary were unaware of these papers prior to publication. Any requests today for advice from foreign governments are always evaluated carefully with full ministerial oversight and appropriate legal advice."

National Archives sources told HT that the document was part of a cache of documents related to Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister released earlier this month, and that the specific file was related to "Thatcher's involvement in negotiating British arms sales to India".

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), headed by Lord Indarjit Singh, said last night that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had been in contact with him, and that it had "readily accepted the offer of support from Lord Singh to support any investigation".

Gurmel Singh, secretary-general of Sikh Council UK, : "I am shocked and disappointed that there could have been any involvement by the UK Government and armed forces in planning the attack on the Golden Temple Complex including Sri Harmandir Sahib and Sri Akal Takhat Sahib."

He added: "Thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed in the attack which took place on one of the holiest days in the Sikh calendar. As well as loss of life, buildings and property was destroyed and the historical Sikh reference library was ransacked. This is and remains one of the darkest episodes in Sikh history."

Calling for an urgent enquiry into the British government’s involvement in the events of 1984, including a full disclosure of all documentation, Singh said he wanted to "know what else were the UK Government saying and doing over all that time".

Chair of Indian Affairs Sub-Committee of Sikh Council UK, Gurdial Singh Atwal said, "The Sikh community is this year commemorating the 30th anniversary of the events of 1984. We are also proudly commemorating the 100th anniversary of Sikh involvement and sacrifices in World War I".

He added: "As proud and loyal British Sikhs it is a matter of great offense and distress that a UK Government could have been involved in planning an attack on our beloved Sri Harmandir Sahib. This involvement has been hidden for too long and as British Sikhs we now demand to know the whole truth."

Labour MP Tom Watson said: "It is not unreasonable to ask for an explanation about the extent of British military collusion with the government of Indira Gandhi. In the year when Sikhs commemorate their role in the centenary of World War I and mourn for loved ones lost in the events of 1984, this latest revelation will be deeply felt".

He added: "I am writing to the Foreign Secretary about this matter and will raise it in the House of Commons. I expect a full explanation".

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