New York, USA:  Britain’s latest declassified government documents reveal correspondence between former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in planning the attack on Golden Temple (Darbar Sahib Complex), India in June 1984.  According to the document, UK Prime Minister authorized Britain’s Special Air Services (SAS) to assist Indian army “for the removal of Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar” in February 1984.
The letter dated February 23, 1984, nearly four months before the incident in Amritsar, titled ‘Sikh Community’, reads; “ The Foreign Secretary decided to respond favourably to the Indian request and, with the Prime Minister’s agreement, an SAD 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.”

The involvement of Britain comes as a shocking news to Sikhs around the world.  Voices For Freedom (VFF) is appalled to know UK’s involvement in this gross human and religious rights violation. Sikhs worldwide condemn this action and want a full inquiry into this participation of the UK government in this war crime.

The declassified document also states,  “An operation by the Indian authorities at the Golden Temple could, in the first instance, exacerbate the communal violence in Punjab. It might also, therefore, increase tension in the Indian community here, particular if knowledge of the SAS involvement were to become public. We have impressed upon the Indians the need for security; and the knowledge of the SAS officer’s visit and of his plan has been tightly held both in India and in London.”

The year of 1984 was the bloodiest episode in modern Sikh history when the Indian Army attacked and killed thousands of Sikhs in the Golden Temple over a period of six days. The attack took place between the 1st and 6th of June, chosen with the martyrdom day of the fifth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev. The Indian Government specifically chose these days as they expected maximum number of Sikh pilgrims to be present in the shrine at that time. The Army attack killed thousands of innocent pilgrims, including women and  children who were brutally done to death. Akal Takhat, the temporal seat of the Sikhs was fully destroyed. Thousands of Sikh artifacts containing several rare Sikh manuscripts and historical documents were also destroyed.  Later, dead bodies of those killed inside were carried away in municipal dump trucks and burnt in piles using kerosene oil.  After this attack, the government failed to provide any post mortem reports, compensation to the relatives of the innocent people, or list of people killed. Thousands of bodies were disposed of silently as till today there is no account available of the people present in the temple during the attack.
In the months following June 1984, thousands of Sikhs were massacred across dozens of cities throughout India confirming it to be a planned genocide.  From past 30 years, Sikhs have been struggling to get justice and to make the perpetrators of this heinous crime accountable.

David Cameron, Prime Minister, UK, has asked his cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to conduct an urgent investigation as to Britains involvement in 1984 attack. Victims of this crime have a right to obtain justice, and governments from both the countries should maintain transparency and reveal all information for the pursuit of justice.

Voices For Freedom seeks an impartial and  transparent war crime inquiry based on the declassified government documents showing British involvement in preparation of the June 1984 attack.

Jaspreet Kaur
Legal Fellow
Voices For Freedom