UK & World News

  • 14 January 2014, 16:17

Amritsar Massacre: SAS Role To Be Investigated

David Cameron has ordered an urgent inquiry into apparent SAS involvement in a deadly raid on a Sikh temple in India that left more than 1,000 dead.

According to secret documents from 1984 an SAS officer helped the country's Government to come up with a plan to remove Sikh insurgents from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The papers, which were recently released under the 30-year rule, also indicate that then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher knew the SAS was advising the Indian government.

The Indian army Blue Star operation ended in bloodshed in June 1984 with hundreds killed.

A Government spokesman said the papers raised "legitimate concerns". Mr Cameron has asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to look at the events of 1984 and whether the documents should have been declassified.

British involvement in the Golden Temple operation is detailed in a letter, dated February 23, 1984, from Brian Fall, private secretary to then-foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe, to Hugh Taylor, his counterpart under home secretary Leon Brittan.

The letter said: "The Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Foreign Secretary decided to respond favourably to the Indian request and, with the Prime Minister's agreement, an SAD (sic) officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs Gandhi. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Indian Government may put the plan into operation shortly."

It continued: "An operation by the Indian authorities at the Golden Temple could, in the first instance, exacerbate the communal violence in the Punjab.

"It might also, therefore, increase tension in the Indian community here, particularly if knowledge of the SAS involvement were to become public. We have impressed upon the Indians the need for security; and knowledge of the SAS officer's visit and of his plan has been tightly held both in India and in London. The Foreign Secretary would be grateful if the contents of this letter could be strictly limited to those who need to consider the possible domestic implications."

There is nothing to suggest whether the SAS officer's plans were used by the Indian army.

The massacre at Amritsar led to the revenge assassination of Indira Gandhi in October of the same year.

Sikh extremist groups continue to seek retribution for the massacre and last month four people were jailed for slashing the throat of a 78-year-old Lieutenant General during a visit to London.

Lt Gen Kuldeep Singh Brar, who was involved in the Golden Temple operation, survived the attack, as he has a number of assassination attempts.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Cabinet Secretary has been asked by the Prime Minister to look into what may have happened in 1984 with regard to papers that have been recently released.

"I think the important thing is to establish all the facts as quickly as possible, that work is under way, but in terms of timetable it is important it's done as quickly as possible.

"The reason behind it is that issues have been raised about decisions to release papers and also to consider whether there are... about the facts that are contained within the papers, so there are two aspects to it."