Setting the record right on promised Sikh Council support for an independent inquiry into 1984 genocide of SikhsMarch 13th, 2014 | Posted by in 1984 Sikh Genocide | Current Issues - (2 Comments)
STATEMENT FROM DIRECTOR: LORD SINGH OF WIMBLEDON
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune——–
-On such a full sea are we know afloat
And must take current when it serves or lose our venture
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
The need for an open independent inquiry into the genocide of Sikhs should be the most important demand for Sikhs in this 30th anniversary year of the Indian government’s planned massacre of Sikhs in 1984. We now have a better than ever opportunity to make this important Sikh demand a reality for the following reasons:
- The revelation of the then UK government’s involvement, places a moral obligation on the present government to make amends by giving a measure of support for an independent inquiry, on the same lines as it is calling for a UN led inquiry into the massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka
- The centenary commemorations of the start of the Great War (1914-18) give an added reason to remind the UK government that 83,000 Sikhs gave their lives in the two world wars strengthening our demand for reciprocation of support
- Wikileaks documents now available provide USA confirmation that more Sikhs were killed in just 3 days in India than in the 17 years of General Pinochet’s widely condemned cruel and arbitrary rule in Chile
- India has a General Election in May. Two of the three main political parties have said they support an independent inquiry into the events of 1984 and Raul Gandhi, leader of the Congress Party has publically admitted that some Congress party members were involved
- PM Manmohan Singh is also on record as speaking in the Indian Parliament on the genocide of 84 of ‘questions ‘still unanswered’
- A General Election is to be held in the UK next year. There are sizable Sikh populations in many marginal seats and we can make it clear to political parties that Sikhs expect support for Sikh human rights
If we ignore this real opportunity, we will as Shakespeare observes, ‘lose our venture.’ This unusual combination of political developments will not occur again. UK Sikhs will betray the families of those who lost their lives in the genocide of Sikhs if we fail to make the need for an open inquiry the single- minded focus of Sikhs, to the exclusion of all side issues (including a time wasting inquiry into the minutiae of British government involvement which could take years without getting us any further).
Highlighting the Sikh Demand for an International UN-led Inquiry
My position in the Lords gives me a unique opportunity to constantly press politicians on this important issue, and with NSO support I have done this on four separate occasions. Yesterday I met the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord Butler to try to get his support, and am planning to ask a written question to Baroness Warsi as a follow up to the debate. It will not be easy but I will continue trying. One of the difficulties is the game of divide and rule, with the government saying other Sikhs are not necessarily backing the NSO demand. It is important to show Sikhs are united on this issue.
Need for Strategic Thinking
It is a matter of concern that although we are now fast approaching the June anniversary, and that May will see important elections in India, the Sikh Council appears to have no clear policy on what needs to be done. This has been admitted in recent email correspondence in which the Council asked the NSO for information on ten questions relating to background information so that they can begin consultations with constituent members.
Even more worrying, the Sikh Federation faction of the Council is actively seeking to divert attention and destroy momentum with a demand for a time wasting, judge led inquiry into British involvement that could take months, if not years without getting us any further!
In what many consider a historic House of Lords Debate on Monday 3rd March, I said all we want from the UK government is its backing for an International UN led inquiry into the 1984 genocide, on the same lines that HMG is supporting the need for a UN inquiry into human rights abuses against the Tamils in Sri Lanka. I believe that the stance of the Federation faction of the Sikh Council in pursuing minutiae of UK involvement could prove counter-productive in alienating the UK government at a time when we need its support.
Unabashed, the Council are trying to claim credit for Monday’s historic debate in the Lords supposedly achieved with Sikh Council cooperation. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Federation faction of the Sikh Council successfully muddied the waters by briefing Lord Triesman to shift the focus away from my demand for a UN backed inquiry into the behaviour of the Indian government, to instead, a time wasting inquiry into missing documents
As I closed my speech in a strictly time limited debate, in which I had just 10 minutes to set the scene for the debate with a full history of the causes and details of the genocide of 1984,
I tried to impress on the government that Sikhs were united in our desire for an international inquiry and referred to the Sikh Council alongside reference to the NSO. This caused some ambiguity in the relationship of the Director NSO with the Sikh Council.
I would like to make it clear that I and the NSO have no desire to be involved with an organisation that includes factions that do not subscribe to the primacy of the Guru Granth Sahib, and on the current issue, acts in a way which I believe, seriously damages the Sikh cause. I have sympathy for Mr Kandola presiding over a group with conflicting agendas, but in this he is on his own.
My concern over the behaviour of the Sikh Council is that their lack of support may seriously harm this important Sikh demand. What I have written is backed by fact and I will be happy to debate it on any Sikh TV channel.
The NSO asks UK Sikhs and non-Sikhs committed to human Rights, for unqualified support for its demand for a UN-backed international inquiry into the genocide of Sikhs in 1984. It will be a betrayal of the families of victims if we allow ourselves to be deflected from this course.
Note: In preparing this statement the Network of Sikh Organisations wrote to Mr Kandola in an attempt to gain clarity on the Sikh Council’s strategy. Although Mr Kandola responded copying in colleagues, we are still no closer in understanding what their policy on the matter is. In the last communication Mr Kandola promised he would conduct consultation on the issue ending with the words ‘bear with us.’ We now understand Mr Kandola and his team have gone to India to help the UK government deal with asylum seekers.
UK Government involvement in the attack on the Golden Temple and its failure to respect the Human Rights of Sikhs in the Genocide of 1984February 9th, 2014 | Posted by in 1984 Sikh Genocide | Press Releases - (0 Comments)
London: (08 Feb 2014); On Tuesday 4th February representatives of many Sikh organisations met with Rt Hon Hugo Swire, Minister MP at the Foreign Office to express concerns over the Cabinet Secretary’s Report on revelations on UK government support for Indian Army action against Sikhs in the Golden Temple.
UK Sikhs are particularly concerned that despite a promised full inquiry, the Terms of Reference of the Report appear to have been designed to mitigate embarrassment resulting from incriminating documents inadvertently coming into the public domain. The Report of the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood is selective in its examination of documentation and concludes that British involvement was minimal. No mention is made of the background of a decade of increasingly active persecution of Sikhs by the Congress government as detailed in reports by Amnesty International and other human rights organisation.
The then Cabinet’s collective bias against Sikhs in the released papers is seen in a consistent labelling of Sikhs with a pick and mix assortment of pejorative descriptions such as separatist, dissident, extremist, fundamentalist etc. to produce a negative image of the community. The documents also showed the absence of a single word of sympathy for the thousands killed in the attack on the Golden Temple on one of the holiest days in the Sikh calendar and the organised widespread killing of Sikhs later in the year. The Inquiry Report instead seeks to show minimal UK military involvement.
The unanswered question remains why and on what criteria the UK government decided to accede to the then Indian government request for military assistance against India’s 2% Sikh community.
1. Trade of greater importance than Human Rights of Sikhs Lord Singh, Director NSO was invited to meet the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood on 21st January. He explained the hurt and sense of betrayal felt by UK Sikhs over the revelations of British government involvement. The Cabinet Secretary’s response was that his task was simply to look at all documentation and report accordingly. When Lord Singh mentioned that the documents showed that the only concern of the then government seemed to be that a lack of support for the Indian government might jeopardise arms exports, he received the astonishing response from the Cabinet Secretary that he and his team were unaware of any arms trade implications in the papers. Lord Singh responded that he had seen several references to arms sales to India being under threat, and at the Cabinet Secretary’s request, gave his office details of a Cabinet document dated 22 November 1984, referring to a five billion pound arms contract.
· Cabinet papers reveal several other references to arms sale concerns. A two-hour search by an NSO researcher at the National Records Office at Kew, found additional material and importantly evidence of key documents being removed. It has since been confirmed that the missing file related to ‘military intelligence relating to India for 1984’.
· Lord Singh also informed Sir Jeremy Heywood of a personal experience when he went to see a former Cabinet member in November 1984 to express concern over UK government silence over the widespread organised killing of Sikhs throughout India. The staggering response was ‘Indarjit, we know exactly what is going on, it’s very difficult; we’re walking on a tightrope: we have already lost one important contract’.
2. Cabinet papers show that all members of the then Cabinet wilfully ignored the reality of the persecution of Sikhs in India despite evidence then available.
· The UK consistently says that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. Yet a policy decision seems to have been taken by the 1984 Cabinet to give unquestioning support to a Congress government with democratically tainted credentials in military action against India’s minority Sikh community. The decision ignored widely available evidence of the systematic persecution of Sikhs. This freely available evidence included:
· A detailed report by Amnesty International in 1983 (AI Index: ASA 20/01/84 Distr: SC/CO) documenting widespread human rights abuses by the government.
· A Report by highly respected Hindu civil rights lawyers entitled ‘Who Are the Guilty’, was smuggled out of India in November 84 and personally placed by Lord Singh in the pigeonholes of every MP.
· A presentation was also given to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights who unanimously decided to send a two man investigating team to India. The Indian Government refused them visas. They appealed saying that their inquiry would help reduce tensions in the UK. They were still refused visas.
3. Censorship of foreign journalists.
· Jane Corbyn, a highly respected journalist from Channel 4, in India at the time of the organised killing of Sikhs in the first week of November, had her film confiscated by the Indian authorities. She did however manage to smuggle a duplicate copy to the UK. This censorship of foreign journalists is mentioned in the documents and was only relaxed after the end of the organised killings of Sikhs throughout India.
· Perusal of the released papers also reveals Cabinet discussions on the need to curb the UK media against allowing any reporting or interviews about or with Sikhs that might offend the Indian government.
· Unhelpful use of pejorative language in Cabinet papers to tarnish the image of UK Sikhs.
· Reading through the documents gives the impression that anyone who expressed concern over the plight of Sikhs in India was immediately labelled an extremist by the UK government.
· The papers show several examples of government pressure on the media to deny Sikhs a voice.
· This use of pejorative language to smear a religious minority (referred to earlier) is underlined by Lord Singh’s personal experience. In November 84, two Scotland Yard officers visited him early on a Sunday morning. They said they were concerned about tensions in the Sikh community and asked Lord Singh if he was ‘an extremist or a moderate’? To emphasise the absurdity of such terms he replied he was ‘extremely moderate’. They then asked if he supported Sikh fundamentalism, to which he replied that the fundamentals of Sikh teachings were about the equality of all human beings, respect for other ways of life and a commitment to work for the betterment of society, ‘Yes I do try to be a Sikh fundamentalist’.
The present government cannot be blamed for what happened 30 years ago. But the Cabinet in 1984 must have been aware that the day chosen for the attack on the Golden Temple was the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan, (the founder of the Golden Temple) when the huge Temple complex was full to overflowing with innocent pilgrims. The reason given was to remove supposed extremists. The unanswered question is why then were 40 other gurdwaras in Punjab attacked at the same time? Today the UK government should reflect on the continuing hurt of the Sikh community, including the then government giving unthinking support to the cruel and vindictive Mrs Gandhi. To many outside the Sikh community, the events of 1984 are, in the words of the poet, ’dying embers’; to Sikhs they remain ‘red hot coals’ now fanned afresh by the revelation of British government involvement.
The events of 1984 damaged the previous close relationship and mutual respect between the Hindu and Sikh communities. 30 years after the event it is time for an open, independent inquiry that that punishes the guilty and leads to healing and closure.
Two of the three main political parties in India have openly declared their support for such an inquiry, and even Raul Gandhi speaking for the Congress has agreed that there was Congress involvement in the genocide.
Sikhs in the UK call on the government and UK political parties to give their strong backing for a long due open inquiry. In response to a question from Paul Uppal MP, in the Commons, the Foreign Secretary obliquely supported the need for such an inquiry; it should now be given support at the highest government level.
Sikhs are duty bound to stand up for the human rights of all people (Sarbat Da Bhalla), and in this spirit we call on the UK government to show that the subordination of human rights to arms sales to any part of the world is no longer present policy. If the UK government does not do this it forfeits any moral right to lecture other countries on the abuse of human rights.
All Sikh Organisations that attended the Foreign Office briefing showed heartening unanimity in their statements. If we can maintain this unity, we have a real chance in meeting our common objective of an open independent inquiry into the holocaust of Sikhs in 1984.
Please see this link which includes a BBC Television interview with Lord Singh
Golden Temple attack: UK advised India but impact ‘limited’
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.”
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.”
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”.
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?”
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
By Griselda Murray Brown and Kiran Stacey
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The Network of Sikh Organisations