LABOUR lawmaker Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi has called for an independent inquiry into the involvement of the Margaret Thatcher government in Operation Blue Star in Punjab in 1984.
The UK’s first turbaned Sikh member of Parliament raised the issue in the House of Commons on Thursday (4) to mark 36 years since the military operation at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and called for a debate on the issue.
In the fist week of June 1984, the Indian Army was ordered to flush out militant religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers who had set up base inside the Golden Temple complex.
“This week marks 36 years since the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, ordered her abhorrent attack on the most revered Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar,” Dhesi said.
The Slough MP added that the operation had led to “destruction of historic structures, genocide of Sikhs, and burning of the Sikh Reference Library”.
“Sikhs can never forget 1984,” he said.
“Despite recent revelations and given the huge demand from within the British Sikh community and the support of the Labour Party and other opposition parties, an independent inquiry to establish the extent of the Thatcher government’s involvement in the attack has still not been held.
“I am sure the leader of the House will agree that it’s atrocious and many still struggle for justice.”
Responding on behalf of the government, leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said the event was an “important anniversary”.
“The questions raised by Dhesi should be taken up during the adjournment debate,” he added.
“But I have full confidence that Margaret Thatcher, who was one of the greatest leaders the UK has ever had, would always have behaved properly.”
The demand for an inquiry arose a few years ago when it emerged that British military advice was given to Indian forces prior to the Operation Blue Star.
The then British prime minister, David Cameron, had ordered an internal review into this discovery, which led to a statement in Parliament declaring that Britain’s role had been purely “advisory” and the Special Air Service advice had “limited impact” on the Operation Blue Star in June 1984.