London, Dec 29 (IANS) Sikh campaigners have urged the British government to release the secret files said to hold details of its involvement in Operation Blue Star conducted by the Indian Army in 1984 to evict heavily-armed militants holed up in Amritsar’s Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, a media report said.
A report in the Guardian on Thursday quoted members of the Sikh Federation as saying that the documents will point to greater cooperation between the British and Indian governments than previously acknowledged in the June 1-7 operation to establish control over the shrine and and remove militant religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the buildings in the complex.
Nearly 500 people, including civilians, were killed in the operation, official estimates say.
The Federation sought greater transparency over Britain’s involvement in the operation against the Sikh militants, who were seeking a separate homeland.
“The public has a right to know the truth about what happened 30 years ago. We believe these files are being held back – not for security reasons but for political reasons that would prove embarrassing to the Conservative Party, since it was Margaret Thatcher and her discussions with the Indian regime (that led to Britain’s cooperation),” the Guardian quoted Davinder Singh of the Sikh Federation as saying.
Whitehall correspondence released in 2014 said that a British SAS officer had been asked to plan the operation, which then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi approved, one letter said.
But an inquiry ordered by former British David Cameron found no evidence of British involvement in the operation.
The campaigners, however, believe the closed files will shed more light on the extent of Britain’s involvement.
One of the four files relates to “Britain/India relations, situation in Punjab, activities of Sikh extremists”, as well as a visit to Britain by Rajiv Gandhi, who took office after his mother, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards in October 1984 in retaliation for the Amritsar attack.
Another file covers meetings between Margaret Thatcher and an aide to Indira Gandhi, as well as the latter’s assassination and Thatcher’s visit to India to attend her funeral. The final document is entitled simply: “India: Political”.
Some of the information has already been released to the National Archives, while other portions have been withheld from the public.
“The first-tier tribunal will consider this case in the new year and it would be inappropriate to comment any further,” the Guardian quoted a Cabinet Office spokesperson as saying.