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Please see this link which includes a BBC Television interview with Lord Singh

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26027631

Golden Temple attack: UK advised India but impact ‘limited’

The Golden Temple is the holiest shrine for SikhsThe Golden Temple is one of the holiest shrines for Sikhs

British military advice was given to India ahead of the 1984 deadly attack on a Sikh temple but it had only “limited impact”, MPs have been told.

Foreign Secretary William Hague was delivering the findings of a review into claims an SAS officer helped Delhi plan the raid which killed hundreds.

The storming of the Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar was intended to flush out Sikh separatists.

Mr Hague said UK assistance was “purely advisory” and given months beforehand.

The inquiry was launched last month after declassified documents were said to suggest Margaret Thatcher’s government was involved in planning the raid, called Operation Blue Star.

Official figures put the death toll at 575, but Mr Hague said other reports suggested “as many as 3,000 people were killed including pilgrims caught in the crossfire”.

William Hague said a review had concluded British advice had “limited impact” on the Amritsar operation

“This loss of life was an utter tragedy,” he said.

“Understandably members of the Sikh community around the world still feel the pain and suffering caused by these events.”

Continue reading the main story

Analysis

image of Sanjoy MajumderSanjoy MajumderBBC News, in Delhi

The military commander who led Operation Blue Star, Lt Gen Kuldeep Singh Brar, has told the BBC that he had no knowledge of any advice from Britain to India.

In 2007 a former Indian intelligence officer, B Raman, claimed agents from the UK’s MI5 had visited the Golden Temple four months before the raid. The UK government review appears to corroborate the claim that a British adviser was sent.

But it also appears that the British advice was limited to a few people and certainly not shared with military commanders.

In India, Operation Blue Star has always been seen as a military disaster, which led to the loss of hundreds of lives – including those of civilians – and to the eventual assassination of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The latest revelations will only lead to more questions about the assault on the Golden Temple, why it was a disaster and if, in fact, it could have been averted.

Delivering his statement, Mr Hague set out the UK’s involvement in planning for the raid.

He told the Commons that the British government had received an urgent request for help from Indian authorities who wanted to regain control of the temple from Sikh militants.

In response, an unnamed British military adviser was sent to India in February 1984, and he recommended any attack should be a last resort, MPs heard.

The adviser suggested using an element of surprise, as well as helicopters, to try to keep casualty numbers low – features which were not part of the final operation, Mr Hague said.

No equipment or training were offered, Mr Hague said, and the Indian plan “changed significantly” in the following three months, to cope with a considerably larger dissident force and extensive fortifications within the temple complex.

The investigation, carried out by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, involved searching 200 files and 23,000 documents.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I hope the manner in which we have investigated these dreadful events will provide some reassurance to the Sikh community, here in Britain and elsewhere.”

He added: “A single UK military officer provided some advice. But critically, this advice was not followed, and it was a one-off.”

Retired Lt Gen Kuldeep Singh Brar, who led Operation Blue Star, maintains he had no advice or support from Britain.

“If some things went around months earlier or weeks earlier with other agencies, intelligence agencies, I am not aware of them,” he told the BBC.

“From the time I was given command of Operation Blue Star until I planned it and executed it, let me emphatically tell you that there was no involvement whatsoever as far as the British are concerned.”

Indian army soldiers in the Golden Temple after the attack in June 1984Indian army soldiers moved to flush out Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple in June 1984

Paul Uppal, the UK’s only Sikh MP, said many Sikhs would be “relieved that it was just purely advice that was given”.

He praised the speed and thoroughness of the review and said it could be an “important step” towards “some closure” for Sikhs.

But Lord Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, called Mr Hague’s statement “smug and condescending”.

On the claim that UK advice had a “limited impact” of the Golden Temple attack, Lord Singh said: “It is like saying that I had only a minimal involvement in a massacre or a holocaust.”

He said the language in the documents was “insulting” to Sikhs – suggesting they were all extremists – and the UK’s real motivation in assisting India was keeping its arms contracts.

But Mr Hague said the review had found “no evidence” UK military advice in February 1984 had been “linked to defence sales or any other policy issue”.

Lord Singh, Network of Sikh Organisations: “Why should Britain be involved in the attack on a religious minority”

Jasvir Singh, director of the City Sikhs Network, which represents Sikh professionals in the UK, said the information disclosed in the review “harks back” to colonial times.

“I think there are lots of people in the Sikh community who are upset that the British could be involved in this, even to a limited extent,” he said.

Mr Singh said many details about British involvement in the 1984 attack were still unclear, and called for “transparency” from the authorities.

UK Sikh groups have said the government review should have looked not only at June 1984 but also the events that followed, and Mr Singh also criticised this “narrow scope”.

Continue reading the main story

Storming of the Golden Temple

  • 1982: Armed Sikh militants, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, take up residence in the Golden Temple complex
  • 3-8 June 1984: The Indian army attacks the Golden Temple, killing Bhindranwale, his supporters and a number of civilians
  • 31 October 1984: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who had given the go-ahead to Operation Blue Star, was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards
  • November 1984: More than 3,000 are killed in anti-Sikh riots across India

The Indian government said the UK had kept it “informed on this matter”.

“We have noted the report and the statement made,” an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said.

Indira Gandhi assassinated

David Cameron ordered the review last month after Labour MP Tom Watson said he had seen papers from Margaret Thatcher “authorising Special Air Services (SAS) to work with the Indian government”.

Mr Watson cited two letters released under the 30-year rule. He said a 1984 letter from the prime minister’s office stated that a British adviser had “visited India and drawn up a plan” which had been approved by the Indian government.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said “serious questions” remained about British involvement, and called for all relevant documents to be released.

The Sikh separatists at the Golden Temple in 1984 had been demanding an independent homeland – called Khalistan – in Punjab.

In October 1984 Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in what was thought to be a revenge attack for what happened at the Golden Temple.

A month later, more than 3,000 people were killed in anti-Sikh riots across India.

London: (02 Feb 2014)

In a recent rally in India Rahul Gandhi was reported to say some congress politicians ‘were probably involved’ in the Delhi anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984.

Asked to comment by the Times of India Lord Singh said:

“I welcome Rahul Gandhi’s statement accepting that that ‘some Congressmen were probably involved’ in the November 84 genocide of Sikhs. He also agrees that the attacks on Sikhs were unwarranted and evil. In view of this will Rahul Gandhi institute an open inquiry as to why no action was taken against a spokesman on All India Radio repeatedly called for the killing of Sikhs with the words ‘khoon ka badla khoon’? Similar incitement in Rwanda led to a lengthy imprisonment by the International Criminal Court.”

He added: “In view of the need to improve relations between the Hindu and Sikh communities, will Mr. Gandhi agree to an open and independent Truth and Reconciliation Inquiry into the events of 1984 that moves to punish those responsible for violence on either side so that we can move to closure on this unfortunate period in Indian History?”

 [Ends]

Notes to Editors.

1.      The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 100 Gurdwaras and other UK Sikh organisations in active cooperation to enhance the image and understanding of Sikhism in the UK. 

Hardeep Singh
Press Secretary
The Network of Sikh Organisations 
www.nsouk.co.uk

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/137b1408-7dd9-11e3-95dd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2qku6Ocwx

By Griselda Murray Brown and Kiran Stacey

The campaigner speaks out following revelation about UK government’s possible involvement in tragic incident
Lord Singh

Lord Singh is widely known for his contributions to the “Thought for the Day” slot on BBC Radio 4, urging religious tolerance in gentle, measured tones, but his influence extends far beyond the breakfast table. This tireless campaigner is currently demanding an apology from the British government over its possible involvement – revealed this week – in the 1984 attack by the Indian government on the Sikh temple at Amritsar.

A practising Sikh, Singh co-founded the Inter Faith Network for the UK in 1987 to promote better relations between religions, and in 2008 he became the first Sikh to address a major conference at the Vatican. He set up the Network of Sikh Organisations in 1995, co-ordinating pastoral care for Sikhs in hospitals, prisons and the armed forces. The Prince of Wales, Anglican bishops and the Metropolitan Police are among those who have consulted him, and he has advised the government on race relations. In 2011, he was made a crossbench life peer in the House of Lords – the first member to wear a turban.

Born Indarjit Singh in 1932 in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, he moved to the UK as a baby. Singh’s father, a doctor, had been involved in the Indian independence movement and was “virtually exiled” to east Africa; after studying in Britain he decided to move his family there rather than returning to India. So, in 1933, Singh, together with his two elder brothers and mother, joined his father in Birmingham.

Singh now lives in the detached Victorian house in Wimbledon, southwest London, that he and his wife, Kanwaljit, bought in 1974. Forty years after the Singhs moved in with their two young daughters, the home feels lived-in but well-maintained, and various decorative objects attest to the couple’s broad tastes: an engraving of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, north India, the holiest Sikh shrine; an ancient Greek-style plate; a painted Alpine scene; and a Japanese print.

Singh met his wife in India, when he was working there as a mine engineer, and they moved to England in the mid-1960s – first to Birmingham, then London when Singh was offered a job in civil engineering. He later studied for an MBA and moved into local government. Kanwaljit, in turn, has worked as a primary schoolteacher, a headteacher and a school inspector. In 2011 she was awarded an OBE for services to education and interfaith understanding.

Wall hanging of the Golden Temple

Over tea and homemade samosas, Singh recalls his childhood in Birmingham – where, in 1939, the Indian population was estimated at just 100. “My parents had a very tough time. They wouldn’t give my father a hospital job so he set up his own practice as a GP. He was a very determined chap, but the patients didn’t come too quickly. My mother even had to pawn some of her jewellery for things like bread and milk.” At this, he breaks into laughter, his eyes almost disappearing as his face creases. “But they came through it all, and the practice grew and grew.”

Singh is serious in his beliefs but quick to laugh at life’s absurdities – even the absurdity of prejudice. The Singh brothers were the only non-white pupils at the local grammar school. “Everyone knew that Britain was top and everybody else was down there,” he gestures to the floor. “There was a history teacher who looked directly at me in class and said ‘They come over here, they get educated and they go back to India to harass us’.” Did that upset him? “No,” he says, “it was par for the course. We knew it was wrong but it was the game being played. It was snakes and ladders and your ladders had broken rungs.”

Indarjit Singh's dining room

After graduating from Birmingham university in 1959 with a first-class degree in engineering, Singh applied to the Coal Board to become a mine manager. However, at his interview he was squarely informed that “miners in this country wouldn’t like an Indian manager”. So he decided to leave home for India, a country he barely knew.

At that time, relations between Sikhs and Hindus in India were deteriorating. They had lived together harmoniously for centuries. But that changed with the Partition of India in 1947, when Pakistan was carved out as a Muslim land and bloodshed ensued as Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs found themselves on the wrong sides of the new borders. The Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had promised Sikhs “an area and a set-up in the north where in [they] may also experience the glow of freedom” – but no such provision was made. Sikhs felt increasingly marginalised and there was rioting in Punjab.

“When I went to India, Sikhs had no voice,” says Singh. “There was no Sikh press and if you wrote complainingly to the papers you were ignored. Being British, I thought ‘This is unfair, I’ve got to do something about it’.” A smile spreads slowly across his face. “If I wrote to the papers as a Sikh, there wasn’t a chance they’d print it, so I decided to write as my next-door neighbour in England, Victor Pendry, and my letter to the Hindustan Times was published. It had a huge ripple, especially in the Sikh community. My wife had heard about Victor Pendry before she met me.”

Mantelpiece at Indarjit Singh's home

At this point, Kanwaljit enters to refill our teacups. She is busy in the smaller back sitting room (she still works as a freelance school inspector), but she wants to check that we have everything we need. The couple’s grown-up children moved out years ago and the house feels big for two – big enough for a study each and several spare bedrooms. Initially, they made alterations to the place – “we knocked two rooms into one through-lounge, and built a kitchen extension and a garage” – but after a while they “got a bit lazy”. It seems likely they were less lazy than busy.

Singh co-founded the Inter Faith Network for the UK while still working full-time, and in 1989 he became the first non-Christian to be awarded the UK Templeton Prize “for the furtherance of spiritual and ethical understanding”. He wrote regularly for the Sikh Courier from 1967 and when, in 1983, its owner didn’t like Singh’s proposed articles on communal violence between Sikhs and Hindus in India, Singh left to establish a new publication, the Sikh Messenger, of which he remains editor.

Tensions with the Sikh community came to a head in June 1984 when India’s prime minister, Indira Gandhi, ordered the army to storm the Golden Temple complex and remove Sikh separatists, with co-ordinated raids on gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship). The attack fell on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan, founder of the Golden Temple, when thousands of pilgrims were gathered. Official estimates put civilian deaths at about 400, but independent reports claim thousands died. Four months later, Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards in an act of vengeance, and anti-Sikh rioting swept across India, killing thousands more.

Indarjit Singh's living room

It is now almost 30 years since the attack, an anniversary that has brought fresh information. A document released by the British government, under the 30-year rule, has revealed that Geoffrey Howe, the then foreign secretary, sent an SAS officer to India in the months before the attack to advise Gandhi’s government on its tactics.

The revelation has led David Cameron, the UK prime minister, to order an inquiry and the Foreign Office has accepted Singh’s offer of support. “I would like the authorities to take the opportunity to try and bring closure on something that is creating continuing suspicion between the Hindu and Sikh communities,” he says. “I want an open, international inquiry into those events – then you can punish those that are guilty on either side and give a sense of closure.”

For all his mild-mannered charm, Singh is not one to back down – and his drive is that of a much younger man. “It’s always worth having a say and keeping to your principles,” he insists. Three decades after the killings at the Golden Temple, he will be doing that more than ever.

——————————————-

Favourite thing

Singh’s house is full of awards: an OBE, a CBE, an honorary doctorate and countless tokens of appreciation from gurdwaras across Britain. But “the superior thing” is a painting by his granddaughter, which he has since framed. “I went to their house when her mum was away and I was deputed to do her plaits. She said ‘No one has ever done them quite like that’, and the next time I went there she presented me with it”.

Here is a link to an article in India Today on 14th January 2014

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/thatcher-colluded-with-indira-for-op-bluestar-labour-mp/1/336038.html

A British MP and a Sikh member of the House of Lords claimed that top secret documents suggested Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government helped Indira Gandhi plan the storming of the Golden Temple in 1984 to flush out militants from the shrine, an operation that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Tom Watson, the Labour lawmaker from West Bromwich East, and Lord Indarjit Singh said the documents released under Britain’s 30-year rule included “papers from Mrs Thatcher authorising the SAS (Special Air Service) to collude with the Indian government on the planning on the raid of the Golden Temple”.

The government apparently “held back” some more documents and “I don’t think that’s going to wash”, he told BBC Asian Network.

“I think British Sikhs and all those concerned about human rights will want to know exactly the extent of Britain’s collusion with this period and this episode and will expect some answers from the Foreign Secretary,” Watson said.

He wrote on his website that he would write to the Foreign Secretary and raise the issue in the House of Commons to get a “full explanation”.

“But trying to hide what we did, not coming clean, I think would be a very grave error and I very much hope that the Foreign Secretary will…reveal the documents that exist and give us an explanation to the House of Commons and to the country about the role of Britain at that very difficult time for Sikhism and Sikhs,” he added.

On his website, Watson referred to documents that were made public by the organisation “Stop Deportations”. The organisation said these documents were among a series of letters released at the New Year by the National Archives in London.

A letter marked “top secret and personal” dated February 23, 1984, nearly four months before the incident in Amritsar, titled ‘Sikh Community’, reads: “The Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

“The Foreign Secretary decided to respond favourably to the Indian request and, with the Prime Minister’s agreement, an SAD [sic] officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Gandhi. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Indian Government may put the plan into operation shortly.”

Lord Singh, also the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations in the UK, now wants the UK government to reveal the extent of British government involvement in both Houses of Parliament

London: (13th of Jan 2014) The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) can confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been in contact with Lord Singh, further to a leak of documents, indicating Thatcher’s approval of SAS collusion with the Indian government’s attack on the Golden Temple in 1984.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron has ordered an inquiry into the then governments involvement.

The FCO have readily accepted the offer of support from Lord Singh to support any investigation.

[Ends}

 

Notes to Editors.

1.      The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 100 Gurdwaras and other UK Sikh organisations in active cooperation to enhance the image and understanding of Sikhism in the UK.

Hardeep Singh

Press Secretary

The Network of Sikh Organisations

http://www.nsouk.co.uk/


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