New report about British role in Operation Blue Star brings scars of 1984 to light

Thirty-three years after the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which triggered the anti-Sikh riots that killed over 3,000, a report published by the Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) claims that the UK government’s involvement in Operation Blue Star went much deeper than admitted.

The Golden Temple, one of the holiest Sikh gurdwaras. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia
The Golden Temple, one of the holiest Sikh gurdwaras. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

'Sacrificing Sikhs - the need for an investigation,' a report authored by UK- based researcher Phil Miller and published by the Sikh Federation (UK) claims that the British involvement in the events around Operation Blue Star in June 1984 went much further than the UK government has ever officially acknowledged, the Times of India reported.

The SFUK has said that the report is set to expose "the massive UK government cover-up". The report finds that more than half of Foreign Office files on India from 1984 have been censored in whole or in part, with civil servants centrally involved in the events of 1984 now blocking disclosures under the thirty-year rule.

"Whilst the UK government claims there is no need to investigate Britain's role in India's repression of Sikhs, this report sets out extensive evidence that raises serious concerns about the veracity of the UK's official narrative," said a statement issued by the SFUK.

In January 2014, top secret UK government files were released to the National Archives and Miller had found documents which revealed that then British PM Margaret Thatcher had sent an SAS officer to India months before Operation Blue Star, to advise local forces on how to plan the operation.

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (centre)
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (centre). Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said, “This report casts serious doubts on the adequacy and integrity of the inhouse 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.”

"Despite extensive censorship, this report is a real eye-opener into some of the painful facts that both the UK and the Indian governments wanted to remain hidden," he added.

According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the UK government has been accused of covering up the full extent of the UK’s support for the operation in Amritsar, the Sikhs’ holy city, and says the Margaret Thatcher-led government was fully aware of the details of the operation.

In 2014, then-PM David Cameron ordered a review after the 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 the Golden Temple at Amritsar, Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

The report described Cameron’s review, conducted by Sir Jeremy Heywood, as a “whitewash”. 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.

The other findings of the report include that India requested British training and equipment for its police paramilitary units immediately after the SAS officer had advised on coordinating paramilitary units for an attack on Amritsar. The Foreign Office wanted to supply India with internal security equipment that it knew could be used to raid the city.


The Akal Takht in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star.
The Akal Takht in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

Storming of the Golden Temple Timeline

1982: Armed Sikh militants, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, take up residence in the Golden Temple complex.

June 3-8, 1984: The Indian army attacks the Golden Temple, killing Bhindranwale, his supporters and a number of civilians.

October 31, 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.

Tushaar Kuthiala
Tushaar Kuthiala – Associate Editor

Tushaar has extensive experience as a journalist and in founding two start-up newspapers. He has developed editorial models for both copy and content, and has written several articles, news reports on a wide range of topics. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and earned a post-graduate diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai. He has worked as a special correspondent based in New Delhi with Daily World, an international media organisation. 


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