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Labour Party promises probe into UK role in Operation Bluestar

The Labour Party’s manifesto for the June 8 election in the UK has promised to conduct an independent inquiry into the British military’s role in Operation Bluestar, conducted in 1984 to flush out Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

world Updated: May 16, 2017 22:25 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Labour Party,election manifesto,Khalistan
Senior army officers at the site of Operation Bluestar, which was ordered in 1984 by Indira Gandhi, then prime minister, to remove Sikh separatists who were amassing weapons in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. (India Today Group/Getty Images)

The Labour Party’s manifesto for the June 8 electionreleased on Tuesday promises an independent inquiry into Britain’s role in Operation Bluestar at Amritsar’s Golden Temple in 1984 , when British special forces were allegedly involved.

The manifesto did not specifically mention India but promised to remove international students from overall migration statistics – a major demand of higher education stakeholders, who believe students are not immigrants since most return after completing studies.

Including them in the statistics has prompted new curbs, leading to a sharp fall in the number of Indian students coming to the UK in recent years.

The controversy over UK’s role in Operation Bluestar arose when some British documents declassified in January 2014 led to an inquiry by the cabinet secretary. There have since been demands by UK-based Sikh groups for an independent inquiry, since other documents were allegedly not released.

The cabinet secretary’s inquiry report hadsaid military advice was given to the Indira Gandhi government at an early stage (in February 1984, Operation Bluestar was carried out in June), that it had a limited impact, and that it was anyway not followed by the Indian Army that eventually planned and carried out the operation.

The manifesto said: “Labour remains committed to an independent inquiry into Britain’s military role in the 1984 raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar.”

Bhai Amrik Singh of the Sikh Federation UK told HT: “We are delighted with the commitment shown by the Labour Party by making the pledge of an independent public inquiry in the manifesto. This puts real pressure on the Conservatives to revisit the issue.

“We will be increasing legal pressure before June 8 and the British government will want to avoid the truth being dragged out in the courts.”

Community sources said the mention had more to do with Labour’s bid to consolidate the Sikh vote in some constituencies, particularly in the Midlands. The manifesto also briefly mentioned the Kashmir issue.

“We will also urge negotiations towards a political resolution in all other regions currently experiencing conflict, including Kashmir, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen,” the manifesto said.

Releasing themanifesto that focused “on the many” rather than “the few” allegedly favoured by the Conservatives, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his government will always welcome and hail the contribution of immigrants to Britain, including Indian professionals in different sectors.

The party said if it won the elections, its government would frame new immigration rules that will be “informed by negotiations with the EU and other partners, including the Commonwealth”.

The manifesto added: “We will continue to mark the ongoing centenary of the First World War, and the sacrifice of all those who died during it. Labour remains committed to honouring the role of all who have served our country, including the Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish soldiers who fought for Britain.”

First Published: May 16, 2017 17:38 IST