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Home / World News / Operation Bluestar: Sikh group pushes for new probe into UK role

Operation Bluestar: Sikh group pushes for new probe into UK role

The Sikh Federation (UK) released a report that said many questions remained answered about the UK’s role in advising the Indian government in the run-up to Operation Bluestar in 1984.

world Updated: Nov 01, 2017 22:14 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Soldiers take positions outside the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984.
Soldiers take positions outside the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. (India Today Group/Getty Images)

Several Labour Party MPs on Wednesday backed calls by a UK-based Sikh group for an independent inquiry into Britain’s role in the circumstances surrounding the 1984 Operation Bluestar that triggered a series of key developments in India’s recent history.

The Sikh Federation (UK) released a report titled “Sacrificing Sikhs: the need for an investigation” at an event in the House of Commons attended by Labour MPs Preet Kaur Gill, Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi and Sarah Champion.

 Labour has committed itself in its 2017 election manifesto to conduct such an inquiry, but the ruling Conservative Party is opposed to reopening the issue.

The controversy over Britain's role in Operation Bluestar arose when some documents, declassified in January 2014, suggested the Margaret Thatcher government had approved a special forces adviser’s visit to India at the request of the Indira Gandhi government to consult on moves to counter Sikh extremists holed up in the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The revelation led to demands for more files to be declassified and an inquiry by cabinet secretary Jeremy Haywood when the David Cameron government was in office. 

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

Sikh Federation (UK) chair Bhai Amrik Singh said: “David Cameron should apologise when he reads the report and Jeremy Heywood should be sacked for misleading his bosses - David Cameron and William Hague - as what they said in Parliament and in direct appeals to the Sikh community on television now appear to be false.”

The report released by the group said many questions remained answered, and that Britain's role went much beyond what has been admitted. It suggested that the Margaret Thatcher government helped the Indira Gandhi government with an eye on large arms deals.

Singh said the report contradicts the findings and conclusions reached by Heywood, and alleged that Parliament was “wilfully misled”.

He added: “The need for an independent public inquiry to uncover the truth is now essential to rebuild community trust and demonstrate we still have some decent people in government.”

Operation Bluestar left around 600 people dead and deeply hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community. Five months later, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Her killing triggered an anti-Sikh pogrom, leaving more than 4,000 Sikhs dead.