Updated: 02/04/2014 10:29 | By Agence France-Presse

Statement due on UK's role in India's Golden Temple assault

Foreign Secretary William Hague was on Tuesday to make a statement to parliament following a review of Britain's involvement in India's 1984 Amritsar Golden Temple assault that left 500 dead. 


Statement due on UK's role in India's Golden Temple assault

Sikh militants throw a tear-gas canister back at Indian police during an assault on the Golden Temple, June 7, 1984

The review was ordered after previously top secret documents showed British elite forces played an advisory role following a request from New Delhi over a plan to flush out militants who had occupied the temple in northwest India -- considered Sikhdom's holiest shrine.

With the approval of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, an officer from the elite Special Air Service (SAS) travelled to India and drew up a plan which was approved by India's prime minister Indira Gandhi.

It is not known how close the February 1984 plan was to the eventual deadly Operation Blue Star raid, which triggered a cycle of bloody revenge attacks.

Retired lieutenant-general K. S. Brar, who led the eventual June 1984 assault, said it was the first he had heard of it.

The raid on militants demanding an independent Sikh homeland left at least 500 people dead.

In retaliation, Gandhi was assassinated four months later by two Sikh bodyguards.

That triggered anti-Sikh riots in which thousands of people were killed, mostly in New Delhi.

Sikh leaders on Monday criticised the terms of the government's review.

"We are dismayed the terms of the review were only formally made available almost three weeks after the review was announced and only days before an announcement of the results of the review are expected in parliament," chair of the Sikh Federation, Bhai Amrik Singh, wrote in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron.

"It appears the review has looked at a narrow period and not covered the period in the latter half of 1984.

"From the outset you have emphasised the need for transparency, but the significant delay in sharing the terms and that they appear to have been changed for political reasons does not bode well with such assertions and your emphasis on the speed of the review," he added.

Two letters released from the archives, both marked "top secret and personal", reveal details about the SAS advice.

One of the documents, a letter from foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe's private secretary to his counterpart in the Home Office interior ministry, warned that the operation could trigger tensions in Britain's Indian community, "particularly if knowledge of the SAS involvement were to become public".

Cameron asked Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, Britain's most senior civil servant, to investigate the new information.

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