UK role in Op Bluestar: Labour MP reiterates call for public inquiry
Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi has reiterated the demand in sections of the Sikh community and others for a public inquiry into the Margaret Thatcher government’s role in the 1984 Operation Bluestar, which emerged in documents declassified in 2014.
Raising the issue in the House of Commons on Thursday, Dhesi, who is the first turban-wearing Sikh MP in the British parliament, asked leader of the house, Jacob Rees-Mogg, to include a debate on the issue in the house business.
It was revealed in a declassified note in 2014 that SAS, Britain’s elite special forces, had advised former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on flushing out Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple, three months before the operation was launched in June 1984.
The then David Cameron government ordered an inquiry following an uproar. It concluded that Britain’s involvement was ‘purely advisory’ and was ‘fundamentally different’ from that carried out by Indian security forces. UK-based groups have since demanded a public inquiry.
Dhesi told MPs: “This week marks 36 years since the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, ordered her abhorrent attack on the most revered Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. It eventually led, under a media blackout, to the destruction of historic structures, the genocide of the Sikhs and the burning of the Sikh reference library. That is why Sikhs can never forget 1984”.
“I am sure the Leader of the House will agree with me that it is atrocious that many still struggle for justice. Perhaps he can explain to me why, despite recent revelations and given the huge demand from within the British Sikh community and the support of the Labour party and other Opposition parties, an independent inquiry to establish the extent of the Thatcher Government’s involvement in the attack has still not been held? May we have a debate on that,” he asked.
Rees-Mogg responded: “It is an important anniversary to remember. The question the hon. Gentleman raises is one he could raise in an Adjournment debate, but I have every confidence that Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had, would always have behaved properly”.
Labour committed itself to holding the public inquiry in its 2019 election manifesto, if elected to power, besides tendering an apology for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre.