The Guardian – British government ‘covered up’ its role in Amritsar massacre in India

This article is more than 2 years old and also appeared on my blog at that time

A Sikh group is demanding an inquiry into the SAS’s involvement in the storming of Harmandr Sahib [Golden Temple] in 1984

Jamie Doward

London – UK, 29 October 2017. The government has been accused of covering up the full extent of the UK’s support for India’s bloody crackdown on Sikhs in 1984.

A new report calls for a full inquiry into the role played by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the events leading up to a massacre in which hundreds, possibly thousands, of Sikhs and Indian soldiers died.

In 2014 David Cameron ordered a review after the accidental release of secret documents revealed that a British SAS officer had been drafted in to advise the Indian authorities on removing armed Sikh militants from Harmandr Sahib, Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

The documents said the plan, known as Operation Blue Star, was carried out with the full knowledge of the Thatcher government.

A report, Sacrificing Sikhs, published by the Sikh Federation UK, described Cameron’s review, conducted by Sir Jeremy Heywood, as a “whitewash”.

It claims that attempts to expose the full facts have been thwarted by government secrecy rules and conflicts of interest. More than half of the Foreign Office’s files on India from 1984 have been censored in whole or in part.

Some documents suggest the Foreign Office was aware of what was at stake when the Indian authorities approached the UK for help.

A week before the Golden Temple assault, Bruce Cleghorn, a diplomat, wrote that “it would be dangerous” for the UK government “to be identified” with “any attempt to storm Harmandr Sahib in Amritsar”. He was also named in correspondence discussing possible SAS assistance to India immediately after the massacre.

In 2015, Cleghorn became a Foreign Office “sensitivity reviewer” whose job involved censoring documents about the Amritsar massacre before they were released to the National Archives.

Sir John Ramsden, a member of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives, which adjudicates on government censorship applications, was a member of the Foreign Office’s south Asia department in 1984.

Ramsden wrote a letter advocating further SAS assistance for India immediately after Operation Blue Star and also argued in favour of equipping India’s paramilitary forces.

The role of the SAS officer in the days before Operation Blue Star are shrouded in secrecy as are the full extent of the fatalities. The Indian government puts the figure at about 400. Sikh groups say it was in the thousands.

According to the Sikh Federation’s report, immediately after the SAS officer carried out his reconnaissance with an Indian special forces unit, the Sikhs pulled out of peace talks believing they had seen a commando unit move into the city.

The negotiations never recovered and eventually the Indian army stormed Harmandr Sahib in June 1984. Four months later, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by one of her Sikh bodyguards, prompting reprisals that led to the deaths of more than 3,000 Sikhs.

The report suggests the UK was keen to help India because the country was one of its biggest purchasers of military equipment between 1981 and 1990. It also claims that repressive measures against Sikhs were carried out in the UK to appease the Indian government and secure arms deals.

“The government needs to finally come clean about Thatcher’s role in the Amritsar massacre and India’s crackdown on Sikhs,” said the report’s author, Phil Miller.

“Whitehall censorship of historical files is like an old boys’ club that prevents the public from ever knowing how taxpayers’ money was spent. This culture of secrecy around Britain’s special forces and intelligence agencies is undemocratic and unsustainable.”

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “This report casts serious doubts on the adequacy and integrity of the in-house Heywood review commissioned by Cameron. There has been a massive cover-up and parliament and the public have been disturbingly misled. An independent public inquiry to get to the truth is the only way forward.”

Sputnik – New Delhi urges Pakistan to stop harbouring ‘elements’ indulging in ‘Anti-India Activities’

New Delhi has called on Islamabad to provide clarification on certain key issues, including the appointment of what it has described as a “controversial” individual in a committee associated with Kartarpur Corridor between Pakistan and India that is expected to provide Sikhs with visa-free passage to holy shrines.

New Delhi – India, 09 June 2019. India has demanded that Pakistan take action against the pro-Khalistani “elements” advocating the formation of a separate Sikh state in the Punjab region.

“Our stand is very clear which we have reiterated earlier also that Pakistan gives refuge to persons and groups which indulge in anti-India activities. We have said it earlier also that Pakistan should take action against them.

We expect and demand it and this is something which is as per the international norms also”, Raveesh Kumar, a spokesperson for India’s Foreign Ministry, told a briefing this week.

His remarks came as a response to a question about anti-India slogans raised in Pakistan on the 35th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, a 1984 Indian military operation against Khalistani militants in Punjab.

The comment was made on the same day as Indian media reported that pro-Khalistani activist Gopal Singh Chawla chanted anti-New Delhi slogans on the operation’s anniversary.

“From all over the world groups have come together against the massacre which took place on 06 June 1984, the people who lost their lives from the Sikh community. On that day, the cruel Indian government attacked the Golden Temple. And we want to tell the cruel Indian government, we want to say that the way Indira died, the way we punished Indira, we will punish others.

We will make a Khalistan. And we people from the Sikh community also promise that, till India will not stop their cruelties on Sikhs, we will also not stop”, Republic TV cited him as saying.

Kumar as well reiterated what Indian officials have previously said: they objected to Chawla’s becoming a member of the Kartarpur Corridor committee, which seeks to implement an ambitious project and create a border corridor between India and Pakistan, linking the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib, which is located in India’s part of Punjab, and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, situated in Pakistan-administered Punjab.

“We have shared our concerns. First thing is that we remain committed to realising the long pending demand of the Indian pilgrims to visit the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib. We want them to visit in a safe, secure and easy manner but you are also aware that we have shared our concerns and sought clarifications and reports that controversial elements have been appointed by Pakistan to a committee associated with this project”, Kumar said.

The corridor is expected to open to pilgrims in November to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev.