UK admits role in India Golden Temple massacre
The British government has admitted complicity in a deadly attack on Sikhism’s holiest shrine in India, the Golden Temple, almost three decades age.
Appearing in the House of Commons on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague disclosed the findings of a government investigation into the level of British involvement in the June 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India’s northwestern city of Amritsar.
Hague acknowledged that a British officer from the Special Air Service (SAS) travelled to India in February that year and advised Indian authorities on planning one of the most notorious atrocities in Britain’s imperial history in the South Asian country.
The UK’s top diplomat, however, sought to play down the SAS role in the assault, as he insisted that the advice to the Indian Intelligence Services on their Operation Blue Star raid on the temple had “little impact” on the outcome.
“The nature of the UK’s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage,” he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron launched the probe in January after newly-released documents showed that the government of former British premier Margaret Thatcher was involved in the Amritsar raid.
Cameron said in a video message that he hopes the report would give “reassurance to the Sikh community here in Britain and elsewhere.”
But Sikh groups criticized the scope of the Whitehall review, saying it failed to cover the British complicity during the time of the massacre.
In a letter to Cameron, Bhai Amrik Singh, the chairman of the Sikh Federation, said he was “hugely disappointed” with the probe’s “narrow terms.”
“It appears the review has looked at a narrow period and not covered the period in the latter half of 1984 and may not have addressed some of the concerns raised by UK politicians in the last three weeks,” Singh wrote.
The death toll from the temple raid still remains disputed, with Indian authorities putting it in the hundreds and Sikh groups in the thousands.
In February last year, Cameron visited the scene of the massacre in the state of Punjab at the end of his three-day trade trip to India but he stopped short of making a formal apology.