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NEW DELHI: Even as British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered an investigation into the revelations that the UK under the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher had assisted India in the 1984 Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple, Lt Gen KS Brar who led the operation has denied any British role in the army action.
Brar, 79, who was attacked by Sikh hardliners in the UK in 2012, told a TV channel, “I am quite dumbfounded because the operation was planned and executed by military commanders in India. There is no question, we never saw anyone from UK coming in here and telling us how to plan the operation.
“I conducted the operation and no aid came in. This is the first time I am hearing all this. It is obviously some mischief at some stage or the other. There was no aid given to us, no advice given to us, there was no representative from the UK government who came and met us to help us plan the operation.’’
The controversy erupted on Monday when Tom Watson, MP of the Labour Party in Britain, said that he had seen declassified documents revealing that the then Prime Margaret Thatcher sent Special Air Service (SAS) personnel to assist India in Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple to flush out militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale.
The documents, which have been declassified from the National Archives in London under the 30-year rule, pertain to an official communication called ‘Sikh Community’ between the then British foreign secretary and the private secretary to the home secretary on February 23, 1984.
In the communication, the foreign secretary tells the home secretary, “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, a SAD (misspelling for SAS) officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs Gandhi. The foreign secretary believes that the Indian government may put the plan into operation shortly.’’
Because of this background, the events “could increase the possibility of repercussions among the Sikh communities in this country.”
Various Sikh organizations demanded a thorough investigation into the British government’s role in Operation Blue Star.
Punjab’s ruling Akali Dal pounced upon the new revelations, calling them the “nefarious designs against the Sikh community’’ by the Congress.
“The media reports published today have unearthed a major conspiracy of the Congress party which even went to the extent of compromising the national sovereignty for its political gains,’’ said Akali Dal spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema in a statement.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Avtar Singh said, “If they (Britain) have helped our government in attacking our people, then they have committed the biggest crime.’’
Rajya Sabha MP Tarlochan Singh, who was press secretary to the then President Zail Singh, said, “Now this time British intervening in attack at Golden Temple, this is a slur on our autonomy and I request that there should be a thorough probe by India and everybody should know that what happened at what time, and how the Golden Temple attack, was it a vote bank policy, was it something, other sinister move? So, I demand full enquiry at all levels.’’
The All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) said it will hold a rally at the British high commission in Delhi on January 17, demanding that the British parliament pass a resolution to condemn the action by Margaret Thatcher.
Calling upon the government to “tell us the truth as to what the real facts were,’’ BJP leader Arun Jailey said in his facebook posting, “This would enable the people of India to conclude whether ‘Operation Blue Star’ was a strategic miscalculation.’’
According to Tom Watson, who is the British Labour Party MP from West Bromwich East which has a big Sikh population, the motive for Margaret Thatcher to help Indira Gandhi plan the military action at the Golden Temple could be her desire to seal a military equipment deal with India.
“It appears to me that the Thatcher government wanted to sell military equipment to the Gandhi administration,’’ according to him.
“The authorisation for SAS support was made in February 1984. Two months before this, a file note from 10 Downing Street to the Ministry of Defence reports on a top level discussion about the provision of military equipment to India. Mr Venkataraman, the then Indian Defence Minister held a “friendly and relaxed” meeting with Mrs Thatcher in Downing Street. Mrs Thatcher was to meet Indira Gandhi later that month in Delhi at the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting,’’ says Watson.