London, UK: Nearly half a million British Sikhs are poised for political retaliation against UK Conservatives following confirmation that London offered military advice to India before the Operation Bluestar.
A British government investigation has confirmed how “a UK military adviser recommended using helicopters and other tactics to keep deaths to a minimum during the 1984 operation.
According to a report by Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, the decision to send a military adviser – thought to be a Special Forces (SAS) expert – to help New Delhi was deemed to be good for bilateral relations.
According to British Foreign Secretary William Hague the adviser’s recommendations were not followed and therefore had limited impact on the subsequent military operation against militants holed up in the Golden temple.
But that is not how British Sikhs view the confirmation of London’s intervention. Their mounting outrage could be of strategic political significance in marginal seats during the next election.
“What this event illustrates is the deep engagement of the British state – not the establishment – in the events which unfolded in June 1984 and afterwards,” says Prof Gurharpal Singh of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at London University.
Dr Singh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at SOAS, told the Tribune: “The British Sikh community is going to interpret it as a betrayal of trust. And it will leave permanent scars on the Sikh-British relations.
“In a number of key seats, especially in the West Midlands and in West London, the Sikh voters have a significant say in determining the outcome. If the Sikh political leadership in these localities does decide to mobilise on this issue, it will have a negative impact on the fortunes of the conservative candidates.
“For example Piyara Singh Uppal in Wolverhampton West, the Conservative MP, will find it difficult to justify his party’s position to his Sikh constituents in a constituency which is a stronghold of the Sikh federation.
“It’s a wound which would take a long time to heal. There are clearly difficult months ahead as we approach the 30th anniversary of the storming of the Golden Temple.”
Other leaders of the British Sikh community have expressed their disappointment over the report made public last Tuesday.
Network of Sikh Organisations director Lord Indarjit Singh described Hague’s statement as “smug and condescending”. “It is like saying that I had only a minimal involvement in a massacre or a holocaust.”
City Sikhs Network director Jasvir Singh said the information emerging from the review “harks back to colonial times,” adding, “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.”
UK Sikh Federation’s Dabinderjit Singh said: “We are actually very disappointed with the announcement.”
Scotland’s Glasgow Gurdwara president Surinder Singh said: “Due to the limited scope of internal inquiry, the Sikh community calls for a public inquiry into the events of 1984, covering information of the post June 1984 period. “We ask the British Government to lay out its proposals on how to recognise the events of 1984 as a genocide.”
Clamour for public inquiry
The British Sikh community is going to interpret it as a betrayal of trust. And it will leave permanent scars on the Sikh-British relations.
Prof Gurharpal Singh, London University
Due to the limited scope of the internal inquiry, the Sikh community rightly calls for a public inquiry into the events of 1984, covering information of the post-June 1984 period.
Surinder Singh, president, Glasgow Gurdwara
Source: The Tribune