Rajiv Gandhi Twisted Arm of UK PM To Stop Sikh Protests


CHANDIGARH: The Rajiv Gandhi government had in 1984 threatened the British government headed by Margaret Thatcher with trade sanctions if Sikh protests and other activities were not curbed in the UK immediately after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And Thatcher even obliged, if declassified documents of the British government are anything to go by.


The declassified records of the UK cabinet meetings in 1984, uploaded on www.discoversikhism.com, show that the UK government was only too willing to bend as “export contracts worth £5 billion could be at stake”.


Moreover, the UK cabinet closely scrutinized the movement of Dr Jagjit Singh Chauhan, who had established the Khalistan National Council and actively sought ways to prosecute him for giving inflammatory interviews. Thatcher told her cabinet, “The implication (of such statements) for the Northern Ireland should also be borne in mind. The Government’s view on such broadcast should be brought to the attention of the chairman of the BBC, Stuart Young.”

The declassified papers also show that banning a Sikh march in central London at that time was also a proactive decision of the UK government. While this was widely reported, the direct involvement of the top brass of the country in these decisions was not known so far.

This is the second time that a storm has been generated by the release of Operation Bluestar related papers. The January 2014 cache had included files that suggested that the Indira Gandhi government had sought, and the Thatcher government had extended, British advice on removing Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in 1984.

The present UK PM David Cameron had at that time promised to release papers and information relating to 1984. However, four files on India have been withheld: three from the prime minister’s office (PMO) are listed as ‘temporarily retained’, and one from the cabinet office described as ‘retained under section 3(4) of the Public Records Act, 1958’.

Meanwhile, the Sikh Council UK has expressed concern over media reports of comments made by Margaret Thatcher. Secretary general of the Sikh Council UK, Gurmel Singh said, “From these comments and documents previously disclosed we begin to understand the prevailing mood of the time. It appears this was one in which trade and bilateral relations took priority and this in turn probably led to a situation in which Sikhs in the UK were viewed with suspicion and even as some sort of threat to the UK by the Government of the time.”

He added, “This would go a long way to explain how the Cabinet came to discuss withdrawing official support for a Sikh procession and could be the real reason why India was provided assistance prior to the attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib. We have been told that the Thatcher Government of 1984 was neutral in the whole process but this clearly calls that into question.”

Source Times of India

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