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Trade with India too important for UK govt. to take up mass killing of Sikhs in 1984

July 12, 2015 | By

London: The issue of UK’s assistance to Indian government during the 1984 army attack on Darbar Sahib is a much heated issued in UK Sikh circles. A detailed press release by Sikh Federation, analysing the situation, reads as follows:

Lord Singh is rightly quick to issue a Press Release on his activities in the House of Lords. On 18 June 2015 he asked why the UK Government consider the mass killing of Sikhs in India to be a matter for the government of India alone, and not an issue for the international community.

The Earl of Courtown in his response on 2 July 2015 said: ‘The events of June 1984 at Sri Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar led to a tragic loss of life and remain a source of deep pain to Sikhs everywhere around the world. We recognise the deep scars that this event left and the incredibly strong feelings that exist to this day.’

But he ended his response by saying, however ‘relations between the Sikhs in India and the Indian government is an internal matter between those two parties.’

Tom Watson MP last month while addressing tens of thousands of Sikhs gathered in central London to mark the 31st anniversary of the Sikh Genocide in June 1984, said that when India approached the UK government and it decided to provide military assistance to the Indian authorities for the June 1984 attack it ceased to be an internal matter for India.

Subsequently there have been revelations that India successfully threatened the UK Government with dire consequences for multi-billion pound trade deals unless Sikhs in the UK were silenced. Last month documents revealed Margaret Thatcher admitted as much to the President of Pakistan at a meeting in Moscow in March 1985.

Lord Singh has chosen not to issue a Press Release probably because he has been pushing for an international inquiry and is livid that this is now the fourth time he has been officially told in the House of Lords by the UK Government that the mass killing of Sikhs in 1984 is an internal matter for India.

[File Photos] (used for representational purpose)

[File Photos] (used for representational purpose)

It first came in a debate organised by Lord Singh on 3 March 2014. He was told by Baroness Warsi at the end of the 90 minute debate that this was ‘a matter for the Indian authorities’. Lord Singh then raised the issue as a written question and Baroness Warsi provided a written response on 7 April 2014 and then the

Earl of Courtown responded orally on 16 June 2014 with the same answer. In between Lord Singh upset by the UK Government response unilaterally called for a boycott of the Vaisakhi event at 10 Downing Street in April 2014. His decision of a unilateral call for a boycott was flawed as he failed to consult and take others into his confidence and this was rejected by those who decided his was a lone voice and chose to attend.

This is now the fourth occasion that Lord Singh has been officially told since the revelations in January 2014 of UK government involvement in the attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib to forget an international inquiry. There may have been numerous times in the last 18 months he has been told unofficially the UK Government is not interested in taking up this matter on the international stage because of trade interests. Lord Singh needs to decide what he will be doing next to secure a UN-led inquiry and if he can continue to operate on his own.

Following the debate he organised on 3 March 2014 when more peers and the official Opposition spokesman, Lord Triesman called for an independent judge led inquiry into UK Government involvement he has repeatedly blamed (or paid a complement to) the Sikh Federation (UK) for making this the main focus of his debate despite having little notice. He should not be bitter about being unsuccessful in getting the support of fellow Lords, but accept after self reflection it is unwise not to build alliances and try and do everything alone.

As more papers and revelations emerge Lord Singh needs to reflect on his single track approach as he has been knocked off the rails. It is still not too late for Lord Singh to join hundreds of other politicians who are supporting an independent judge led inquiry into UK Government involvement as they see merits in the British public deserving the truth of why Britain chose to provide military assistance to attack the Sikhs’ holiest of holy shrines.

The Sikh Federation (UK) has said all along that we need an independent judge led inquiry into UK Government involvement and this is the most likely reason that will result in the UK Government eventually supporting an international inquiry.

At the Sikhs in politics event at PwC earlier this week the matter was raised by Richard Fuller the Conservative MP for Bedford and the Sikh Federation (UK) revealed it had commissioned a researcher to look at files in the UK National Archives and build on the issue highlighted in the Sikh Manifesto. Initial enquiries have shown that the National Archives appears to be missing over 100 potentially relevant files that Sir Jeremy Heywood claimed in February 2014 to have examined.

Freedom of Information requests had been made or are planned that will confirm many of these are Foreign Office files. Despite the 30 year rule, the most recent FCO files on South Asia are only from 1981. The FCO files from 1982 will be released to the public on 24 July 2015. The FCO has a large backlog of legacy files and is the department with the greatest difficulties meeting its obligations under the Public Records Act 1958 and the more recent Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The FCO is well behind in meeting the transitional timetable for the move from the 30 to the 20 year rule. According to the timetable, FCO should have already transferred all files up to 1984. FCO’s current estimate is that they will not complete transferring files until 2016.

Four files that are extremely relevant and should have been released in January 2015 have been ‘temporarily retained’ or kept closed. Following a Freedom of Information request for these four files the Cabinet Office has said some of the information was exempt from disclosure and the rest was being prepared for release. An appeal has been lodged with the Information Commissioner. The researcher has stated ‘British involvement with India’s security forces did not stop in 1984. Given the scale of trade interests at stake, I would imagine that British advisers continued to help the Indian military, police and intelligence agencies’. This initial research suggests the pressure on the Conservative government for an independent public inquiry will continue to increase and a change in the leadership of the Labour Party is expected to result in determined efforts for the truth.

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