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British Sikhs demand wider UK inquiry into Operation Bluestar

Friday, 21 February 2014 - 7:41pm IST | Agency: PTI

British Sikh groups staged a protest outside Downing Street here demanding a public inquiry into the country's role in Operation Bluestar, days after a probe concluded the UK acted in a "purely advisory" capacity that had little impact in the 1984 assault on the Golden Temple.

An open letter presented to Prime Minister David Cameron by the Sikh Federation UK and the British Sikh Council yesterday claimed there were "many serious questions that remain unanswered" regarding alleged British assistance to the Indian Army in executing the operation to flush out terrorists holed up in the shrine in Amritsar. Sikh Federation UK's Dabinderjit Singh claimed UK Foreign Secretary William Hague misled parliament about the details of the incident following an inquiry after declassified documents indicated British special forces had offered advice on a request from the government of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

He was referring to Hague's statement in the House of Commons earlier this month that Britain played only a limited advisory role in the early stages of planning the operation.

The statement also stressed that the Indian government's campaign "differed from the approach recommended" by the UK because there was no "helicopter-borne element". "So not only was the Foreign Secretary and the report that has been produced misleading, it was not truthful," claimed Singh, whose group is demanding that Cameron order a fresh inquiry into the role played by Britain in Operation Bluestar.

The Sikh groups' open letter to the government said the recent probe was a "damage limitation exercise" and the report expressed no empathy for the Sikhs killed in the operation.

A government spokesperson earlier said, "The (Cabinet Secretary's) report found that the nature of the UK's assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage". The actual operation by the Indian Army differed significantly from the approach suggested by the UK, he said.

Sikh Federation UK has said thousands of Sikh voters could boycott Conservative Party candidates in next year's general election unless the Tory-led government orders a fresh probe. Britain's estimated 700,000 Sikhs live in large communities in urban areas, including marginal constituencies in London, Birmingham and the wider West Midlands and their vote can prove decisive in an election.

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