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British government claim ‘no grounds’ for further inquiry on 1984 events in India

October 25, 2014 | By

London, United Kingdom: The British minister of state responsible for relations with India, Hugo Swire MP, has written to the NUJ’s general secretary to reject calls for further investigations of possible UK involvement in the Indian operation at Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar 1984.

The letter from Hugo Swire MP states:

“It is the British government’s view that both the report and the documents clearly show the limited nature of UK advice on Operation Blue Star. Given this, the government believes that there are no grounds for a further inquiry.

“On allegations that the UK military advice was linked to defence sales, there is no information to suggest that the UK, at any level, attempted to use the fact that military advice had been given on request to advance any commercial objective.”

In response, leading campaigner and NUJ member, Parvinder Singh, said:

“The letter states the issues raised surrounding November 1984 were not within the cabinet secretaries’ brief. We, therefore, ask that a new independent, judge-led inquiry look into these events in order to reassure the British Sikh community the government is transparent as it promised it would be.

“We still have no answers on the Conservative government’s approach to the British Sikh community after the November 1984 genocide, no information from official papers about the march that was banned or the threat of sanctions by India. We are still not allowed to have all the UK documents from 1984.

“It is also disturbing that the minister has chosen to use the language of the perpetrators, framing events as anti-Sikh ‘riots’ when he is actually referring to genocidal pogroms. To describe these historic moments as ‘riots’ distorts the planned and highly organised nature of the violence.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, added:

“We had hoped the government would be able to alleviate the serious concerns existing in regards to the painful events 30 years ago.”

The 2005 Nanavati commission described the violence in 1984 as ‘highly organised’ and the vice-president of the Congress (I) Party, Rahul Gandhi, recently admitted ‘some congressmen were probably involved’ in the carnage.

David Cameron ordered the first review after letters from the National Archives were published revealing that Margaret Thatcher had sent an SAS military officer to advise India. In a letter to David Cameron about the review, the NUJ expressed specific concerns including the narrow terms of the review and timescale from December 1983 to June 1984. It also casts doubt on conclusions based on only 19 days studying 23,000 documents.

The union also urged the government to release more information including the UK military advisors report and all documents relating to British relations with India in 1984 from the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence.

In June 2014, a delegation led by Andy Smith, NUJ president and John McDonnell MP went to Downing Street to deliver the letter. At the NUJ’s delegates’ conference in Eastbourne in April 2014, delegates voted unanimously for the establishment for a full, independent and public, judge-led enquiry into all the documents and events.

“Only she whose body is hurt, knows” – remembering the pogroms exhibition, starts on Wednesday 29 October in London.

The genocidal pogroms against the Sikh people in India in November 1984 left thousands dead. In many of the outer areas of the capital, New Delhi, whole neighbourhoods were wiped out. Women were raped in large numbers. Senior politicians of the Congress (I) party led mobs, assisted by the police and administration. Thirty years on, no memorials exist to the dead and the perpetrators continue to enjoy complete impunity.

But the silence is slowly breaking. Not just about the damage caused to the justice system, memory and language in India, but also about the individual and collective trauma that exists within Sikh communities across the world.

Marking the 30th anniversary of the November 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms, the Wiener Library is proud to feature the work 1984: Jis tann lãgé soee jãné by photographer Gauri Gill. The images and texts from the artist’s 1984 notebooks reflect upon the pogroms and their ongoing impact in India. The images are from the resettlement colonies of Trilokpuri, Tilak Vihar and Garhi – various sites across Delhi – as well as protest rallies in the city. The accompanying texts by leading artists, poets, filmmakers and writers from Delhi remark upon the event, via the images, in thoughtful ways.

The exhibition also contains photographs of the pogrom as it occurred in November 1984 itself, and are drawn from the work of Indian photographers, Ashok Vahie, Ram Rahman and Sondeep Shankar.

Contributors to this project include contemporary Indian artist Arpana Caur; senior advocate and Human Rights activist, Harvinder Singh Phoolka, academic Dr Navsharan Singh; eminent historian Dr Uma Chakravarti; prizewinning Canadian author Jaspreet Singh and Parvinder Singh of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

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