SIKHS CALL FOR INDEPENDENT JUDGE LED INQUIRY INTO HOW TRADE WITH INDIA HAS RESULTED IN ANTI-SIKH MEASURES
London – 9 February 2016
The Campaign for Justice event took place in Parliament earlier today and was hosted by Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP, the Shadow Home Secretary, Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Baroness Doreen Lawrence (the mother of Stephen Lawrence).
Many other prominent MPs and Peers also took part, including Tom Watson MP, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, John McDonnel MP, the Shadow Chancellor and the Rt Hon Lord Falconer, the Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice.
Dabinderjit Singh OBE, the principal adviser to the Sikh Federation (UK) and an advisor to the Sikh Network was the first to give evidence. His opening statement is reproduced below and had a clear impact on the politicians listening and national media representatives that were present in large numbers.
He was followed by Eileen Turnbull representing the Shrewsbury 24 campaign and Barbara Jackson from the Orgreave campaign. Later politicians heard from Alastair Morgan, from the Justice for Daniel campaign and Jacqui Hames, from Hacked Off. All campaigns carried a similar message of the challenges in obtaining justice
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)
Speaking notes for Dabinderjit Singh OBE CPFA BSc (Econ)
Principal Adviser to the Sikh Federation (UK)
I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today.
By far the biggest single event in my lifetime was the June 1984 Indian army assault on the Sikhs’ holiest of holy places, Sri Harmandir Sahib, which many refer to as the Golden Temple Complex.
The attack with tanks and artillery was unprecedented and will go down in history as one the biggest blunders ever made by an Indian Prime Minister.
Up to 150,000 Indian army troops were sent to Punjab, the Sikh homeland, all communications were cut; and the media and journalists expelled.
The scene was set to unleash a level of terror aimed at the minority Sikh community that has never been seen in post-independence India.
India made sure that no one will ever know the scale of the Genocide across the Punjab, or even at Sri Harmandir Sahib, where over 11,000 pilgrims never claimed their shoes.
Successive British Governments whilst acknowledging the tragic loss of life and the pain and suffering caused to the worldwide Sikh community have argued this was an internal matter for India.
The January 2014 revelations under the 30 year rule completely changed that.
The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, met and told a group of Sikh representatives at the end of January 2014 that both David Cameron and William Hague the then Foreign Secretary were ‘shocked’ to learn of the UK role in the ‘massacre’.
The words ‘shocked’ and ‘massacre’ were used by Sir Jeremy Heywood, but were whitewashed from his report published less than a week later no doubt conscious of the reaction from India.
What David Cameron did when the revelations emerged was immediately announce an internal review.
His objective was damage limitation. He therefore asked Sir Jeremy Heywood to complete the internal review quickly. The scope was also deliberately kept narrow to give the outcome required.
David Cameron also ordered a review by Sir Alex Allan (former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee). His report released when Parliament was in recess in 2014 said: “the release that led to the setting up of this review was a mistake.”
His opinion echoed that of Sir Jeremy Heywood, who had described the original disclosures as “inadvertent”.
In other words, the Sikh community and the public at large was never meant to have known that a British special forces officer carried out a military mission in Amritsar, months before a major massacre of pilgrims.
The implication of these revelations and reports is government departments have become far more careful about what they release.
This year the number of Downing Street papers from the mid-1980s has fallen by 90% preventing proper scrutiny of a “divisive period” in British politics.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has a vast backlog of files (over half a million) and will fail to meet its declassification deadlines.
FCO files on India from 1983, 1984 and 1985 are still unavailable to the public, over thirty years later, and at a time when the government’s transparency agenda had introduced legislation that promised a streamlined “20 year rule”.
Far from reassuring the community and the public at large, these reviews have deepened our sense of betrayal.
Despite these obstacles, we decided to conduct our own investigation of the available declassified material at the National Archives.
Our findings produced by Phil Millar, the original researcher who came across the papers, contradict the conclusions reached by Sir Jeremy Heywood and demonstrate the need for a full independent investigation to uncover the truth.
Our report not only demonstrates how India successfully used promises of arms deals to pressure the UK Government to assist in the Genocide of Sikhs in 1984, but also took actions to try and discredit and silence the minority Sikh community in Britain from raising its voice of opposition.
The disturbing story that has still to be told is the Indian establishment made lucrative trade and arms deals contingent on the UK implementing anti-Sikh measures that we believe still continue to this day.
The minority Sikh community therefore faces state discrimination on the one hand and racism from right wing groups on the other.
When our report is released in the coming months it will include some explosive disclosures.