New information has emerged indicating the UK government’s involvement in the planning of a military raid turned massacre on a Sikh temple in Amritsar almost three decades ago.
The fact that the UK had a hand in one of the most tragic events in Sikh history has opened old wounds for the community all over the world.
In 1984, Operation Blue Star took place in the most sacred of Sikh shrines - the Golden Temple - to flush out Sikh separatists who had taken refuge there. The raid turned violent and thousands of pilgrims lost their lives.
The Indian government counts the loss in hundreds but the Sikh community holds it to be in thousands.
Reactions to the incident plunged the entire country into violence – the worst in the country’s recent history.
According to Tom Watson, a member of the British Parliament, secret documents from National Archives reveal how Margaret Thatcher’s government advised their Indian counterparts on the Sikh separatists at the temple.
This development is also likely to refresh painful memories of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, which occurred on the occasion of Baisakhi, a major Sikh festival. On that fateful occasion, British troops ruthlessly cut down hundreds of men, women and children that had gathered for a peaceful protest in Amritsar.
Radical Sikh organization Dal Khalsa has written to British Prime Minister David Cameron expressing its "pain, concern and anguish over the startling revelations as to how the then British government under Margaret Thatcher helped Indian government to attack the Golden Temple in June 1984".
Spokesperson for the organization, Kanwar Pal Singh, said, "the news report about the secret document from British National Archives revealing the UK government collaborating with the Indian government to plan the attack has shattered the Sikhs from within. The Sikh diaspora is deeply hurt and the news has left them numbed."
Several Sikh organizations have called for a rally outside the British High Commissioner's office in New Delhi on January 17th.
One of India’s largest political parties, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), asked its government for an explanation.
"It is about time that the Government of India decided to tell us the truth as to what the real facts were. This would enable the people of India to conclude whether 'Operation Blue Star' was a strategic miscalculation,” said BJP leader Arun Jaitley.
Cameron has ordered an investigation into the matter.
However, Lt Gen Kuldeep Singh Brar, the Indian general in charge of the raid on the Golden Temple, has dismissed claims that the UK conspired in the operation.
"I am dumbfounded and totally amazed," he said. "I do not believe that these documents could be authentic.
As far as I am concerned the operation was planned and executed entirely by military commanders of the Indian army.
There was no question of our getting help or advice from any foreign country - and certainly not from Britain - so as far as I am concerned [these allegations] appear to be like fiction," he added.