Revealed: SAS advised 1984 Amritsar raid

Revealed: SAS advised 1984 Amritsar raid

Thatcher sent SAS to advise Indira Gandhi on Indian army plans “for the removal of dissident Sikhs from the Golden Temple” months before disastrous raid on Amritsar, top secret UK file reveals.

Phil Miller, 13/01/2014 00:30,

(updated at 18:30 with download of National Archives file available here … PREM 19-1273_Binder)

When Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the army to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984, it was a decision that would lead to her assassination. The assault on the Sikh holy site to evict separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, involving tanks and helicopters, incurred heavy civilian casualties. Outraged Sikhs in Britain responded with a huge demonstration in Hyde Park, and thousands more sought refuge in the UK as the violence in Delhi and the Punjab escalated, in what some call India’s Sikh genocide.

Top secret Whitehall correspondence now reveals that British special forces advised Indian leaders on retaking Amritsar, despite acknowledging privately that “an operation by the Indian authorities at the Golden Temple could, in the first instance, exacerbate the communal violence in the Punjab”. In a remarkable series of letters, buried among the New Year releases at the National Archives in Kew, south west London, I discovered the gamble that Thatcher’s administration took with the volatile situation in India and the diaspora.

Letter on Sikh Community dated 23 February 1984. Credit: Phil Miller

Letter on Sikh Community dated 23 February 1984. Credit: Phil Miller

A letter dated 23rd February 1984, titled ‘Sikh Community’, noted “The Home Secretary will have seen press reports of communal violence in the Punjab. The Foreign Secretary wishes him to be made aware of some background which could increase the possibility of repercussions among the Sikh communities in this country”.

The ‘background’ in question was the covert role of an elite British military adviser in India.

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”.

The file stops short of detailing this “plan”, so it is not clear how similar this was to Operation Blue Star, the code name for the eventual assault in June. However, three other letters in this chain (between Thatcher’s private secretary Robin Butler and his counterpart at the Foreign Office) have been weeded out of the file and remain classified. The file stops in March 1984, and the next part of the folio is still unavailable, obscuring more details about the months leading up to the raid.

However, in a crucial letter, the Foreign Secretary’s Principal Private Secretary, Brian Fall, explains to his opposite number at the Home Office, Hugh Taylor, how a raid on the Temple might:

“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”.

Only four copies of the letter (stamped ‘Top Secret and Personal’) were made, and circulated to principal private secretaries at Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence, to keep the operation under wraps. Despite these precautions, SAS involvement was rumoured in a Sunday Times article written by  Anne Mary Weaver shortly after the raid in June. This new evidence provides conclusive proof that British Special Forces were involved with planning a raid on the Temple. It also starkly reveals the risks involved with Thatcher’s covert foreign policy for events in India and Britain. The majority of letters in the file relate to Thatcher’s involvement in negotiating British arms sales to India.

This letter dated 6th February 1984 proves Margaret Thatcher was briefed on the advise given to Indian officials. Credit: Phil Miller

This letter dated 6th February 1984 proves Margaret Thatcher was briefed on the advice given to Indian officials. Credit: Phil Miller

Sikh activist Jagdeesh Singh, of the 1984 Genocide Coalition, argues “These documents now confirm the depth of this murderous collusion. June 1984 resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, disappearances and wider devastation. It was 9-11 many, many times over. It was India’s war on the Sikh nation. The above documents amount to explosive evidence of British government participation in this mammoth crime against humanity, and confirmation of what we suspected all along.”

Jagdeesh Singh said “2014 is the 30th anniversary of the horrific 1984 genocide, during which 100,000 Sikhs were killed by the Indian state, as part of a two-pronged and two-phased genocidal onslaught in Panjaab and Dheli on the Sikh population. The Indian government launched a direct, vicious war on Panjaab in June 1984. 250,000 troops invaded and occupied Panjaab. Over 1-6th June 1984, they bombarded the Sikh national shrine of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, with tanks and helicopter gunships. 8,000 Sikh men, women and children were viciously killed, their bodies stripped of clothing and belongings and then they were cremated en-mass. The entirety of Panjaab was closed off from the world and turned into a mammoth concentration camp, as Indian soldiers went through its entire 50,000 plus villages – arresting, torturing, killing and raping.”

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  1. It was always expected that the Brits would attempt to preserve their creation of the Indian state made in 1947. The fact that the events of 1984 in Punjab produced no action by western governments to reflect the gravity of the situation, not even sanctions against India for its deplorable and disgusting behaviour, had pointed in this direction. The were no loud cries by western lobbyists of human rights being violated, no UN resolution to protect the civilians as was the case in Libya. No travel sanctions on Indian heads of State as meted out to Myanmar. All this despite the fact that one of the holiest shrines of the Sikhs was desecrated. Double standards indeed, hereafter the Brits should just shut the f*** up about human rights.This letter dated 23 February 1984 just goes to show how deep the rot is; how the Brits continue to probably have a hand in supporting India’s shameless so called leaders. Its called aiding and abetting a crime! Thou we can take solace in the fact that what goes around comes around!!

  2. These files just confirm the long held views that Britain were fully aware of the Sikh genocide but did not want to jeopardize their economic interests with India.

    Mary Anne Weaver, a British correspondent of the ‘Sunday Times’ noted back in 1984:

    “Last weeks assault on the Golden Temple took place after months of preparations of the Indian army, which included advice from British experts in counter-insurgency. Sources in Delhi say that two officers of the Indian secret service, Gary Saxena and R.N. Kao, of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) made several trips to London to seek expertise. The Indian Government then selected 600 men from different units and sent them to rehearse the assault on a life size replica of the Golden Temple, built at a secret training camp in the Chakata Hills, about 150 miles north of Delhi. The assault troops were alerted to invade the temple no fewer than five times during the past five months, but each time Mrs Gandhi vetoed the invasion. A case of nerves’, according to a Senior aide”.
    -Sunday Times, London, June 10th, 1984

    Gary Saxena was later elevated to the rank of Governor in Jammu and Kashmir.

    1. Would she have attacked the golden temple without British support, a women whoes body guards them selves we’re Sikhs. Divide and conquer

  3. Disgraceful to see England’s Government advising India’s Government on Operation Blue Star! which killed over 100,000 sikhs!! The Prime Minister (David Cameron) must make a statement on this As soon as possible!!! The Labour party has a lot of questions to answer!!

    1. Presumably you mean the Conservative party, not the Labour party. The Conservatives (Cameron’s party) were in power in 1984.

  4. Dear UK,

    Thank you for confirming, You have the audacity to lecture the world on terrorism and human rights while your own house is so corrupt and criminal,

    As one respondant put it – you need to stop lecturing the world on any moral issues as you yourselves have none.

    As one respondant also put it – what comes around goe around. Look at your pitiful country. The justice is a joke, you are in such financial debt to amounts that can barely be believed and your education system is slipping in the world rankings day by day. The Scots have finally got their senses and decided to leave and I hope they do.

    I hope it doesn’t stop there though. I hope by WaheGuru you get back by a factor of 10 all the crimes you have committed to all around the world. Great Britain? Don’t make me laugh.

  5. I, like many sikhs, am absolutely shocked and disgusted that the British government, that Sikhs fought and died for in their hundreds of thousands, had ANY involvement in these cowardly atrocious attacks in 1984. A full and unreserved apology should be given immediately.

    It also shows that David Cameron’s recent appearance at the Golden Temple was nothing but a sham publicity stunt to distant himself and his party from these shocking revelations.

    I hope the two demonic witches burn in hell together.

  6. If you were to look at the news reports from 1984, you would realize one thing, that there was no separation movement. Jarnail Singh the so called separatist leader of Sikhs said (and there are tapes of his speeches) that he was not interested in an independent Sikh state though he would not say no to it if india offered it. What the Sikhs of the Punjab were doing were demanding water rights and economical rights. I remember American news channels of the time saying Mrs. Gandhi had to attack for the farmers of Punjab were poised to strike and that would have caused a lot of hardship as the Punjab was the breadbasket of India. What Jarnail Singh said was that if the Indian government attacked the Golden Temple then the foundation of a separate Sikh nation would be laid.

    The Indian government didn’t just attack the Golden Temple that day. They attacked 37 historical Sikhtemples packed with pilgrims on a day equivalent to the Christian Easter or something big. It was the death anniversary of the Sikh prophet who had built the Golden temple. He was tortured to death by a fundamentalist Muslim Emperor. He was the first Sikh martyr and his day is marked as much Christians would mark Jesus being hung on the crossl. Some of these Sikhtemples attacked were not even in the Punjab but Haryana. I went to one of these Sikhtemples that was attacked some months later. An eyewitness who was hiding said he saw a garbage truck take the bodies of all these people who got killed for simply being there. Some were not even dead yet but they took them anyway and nobody knows what happened. It was an attack against the Sikh people to stop them from demanding their rights.


    To Sardar Jaspreet (Singh/Kaur), please see above. Not 37 Gurdwaras were attacked as propagated by the Brahmins-Hindus’ New Delhi administration (NDA) headed by Indira Ganthi; rather, more than 125 Gurdwaras were attacked by the armed forces of the NDA (see India News, of the High Commission of India, OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA in the late 1980s).
    OBJECTIVE: Genocide of Sikhs, citizens of PUNJAB, Destroy The Darbar Sahib Complex, including the Supreme Seat of Sikh Polity, The Akal Takhts Sahib,
    TIME SPAN: Advisors (Military, foreign and others of India) advised, the Sikhs and their PUNJAB will be destroyed and annihilated no more than 2.5-hour post the armed attack in the form of a brutal military “Operation Bluestar” of June, 1984. The fact remains that those 2.5-h have yet to come. The Sikhs of the “Robbed” PUNJAB of 15th August, 1947, The Sikh Diaspora, and the Sikhs in other states of India are still alive and “Struggling To Regain Their Sovereignty, Independece and Political Power, under the guidance of Guru Granth Sahib and The Sikh Traditions, the struggling going on since 14th March, 1849.” This was the day when the British Empire captured the “First Sovereign and Secular” nation of South Asia, ruled by a Sikh monarch, Ranjit Singh (1799 to 14th March, 1849). On 29th March, 1849, the British Empire “annexed” the “First Soverereign and Secular” nation of South Asia. The Brahmins-Hindus’ had been “subservient” to the Afghans, Mughals, Sikhs, British, Portuguese, etc., for more than 3500 years.
    OUTCOME: The NDA of Brahmins-Hindus’ and their armed forces came empty handed, humiliated as nearly 169 Sikhs under the leadership of Shaheed-Bilas Saint-soldier Jarnail Singh Khalsa inflicted more than 30,000 Brahmins-Hindus’ armed forces, before the Guru-de-Sikh attained Martyrdom. Sikhs fought and have been struggling for their Sovereignty and Independence to this day of writing under the leadership of Guru Granth Sahib and The Sikh Traditions.
    It be noted not only the British administration gave their intelligence advice to the NDA, the KGB advisors of the USSR (a defunct state now) had been present in the “Robbed” PUNJAB during an “undeclared” war on the Sikhs of the “Robbed” PUNJAB of 15th August, 1947.
    Thank you.
    ADDENDUM: Since 1st June, 1984, more than 270,000 Sikhs have been killed in the “Robbed” PUNJAB of 1st June, 1984, which include Shaheed-Bilas Saint-soldier Jarnail Singh Khalsa, Bhai Shubeg Singh, Bibi Upkar Kaur, Bhai Amrik Singh, Sikh youth killed at point blank who replied to the “Brahmins-Hindus’ soldiers : Khalistan Zindabad means Long Live Khalistan, Bhai Sukhdev Singh Bubbar’s followers and other Sikh martyrs (infants, children, youthm females, males, elderlys, etc.). -Awatar Singh Sekhon (Machaki)



  10. surprise and shame on UK govt to be a party to an attack on a religeous place on a very important special day to do maximum harm. You consider yourself honest?

  11. “as happens in savage India run by rapists and war criminals including the mass murderers of Sikhs.”

    What on earth are you going on about? Are you talking about the Punjab/Delhi of 1984 or the India of 2014?

    Us British Sikhs are living in the past, deluding ourselves with the long dead dream of Khalistan and ‘independence’ from India. Have you been to Punjab or India in the near past? Have you seen Punjabi Sikhs fully participating in the (admittedly flawed) democratic process, cheering the Indian cricket team in Mohali, the Sikh opposition leader in the Delhi parliament, the Sikh prime minister, etc.

    Indira Gandhi is dead and the other politicians involved in the riots are long dead/dying. What is it that you want now to happen? And what do you think the likelihood is of it happening?

    1. @HSGill
      I doubt there’s been any change in India in the last 30 years from a corruption/gang-rape point of view, even if the infrastructure has improved.

      I have been to Punjab several times in the last 30 years and it’s a shameful to witness the drug problem there. Why doesn’t any other state have the same problem in this scale? The two remaining rivers are almost dry because the water has been diverted, there is a lack of industry and job prospects for young punjabis. Female infanticide and farmer suicides are also rife, to name a few issues. Over 30 years ago, Bhindranwale predicted these problems would occur unless Punjab was giving more autonomy (he never once demanded Khalistan).

      Indra Ghandi might be dead but other culprits are very much alive. Are you suggesting that just because it’s been 30 years, politians and other criminals involved should be immune from justice? It’s been almost 70 years since WW2 ended yet Nazi war criminals are still being tried today. How many old white paedophiles are being tried today for their crimes decades ago?

      What about the thousands of Singhs currently languishing jails without charge or trail? Should we forget about them too? If you think the genocide has ended, you’re the deluded one!


      1. “I doubt there’s been any change in India in the last 30 years from a corruption/gang-rape point of view, even if the infrastructure has improved.”

        If you’re talking about India as a whole, agreed. Compared to the UK, India is pretty lawless in most parts, less so in the south/west.

        “I have been to Punjab several times in the last 30 years and it’s a shameful to witness the drug problem there. Why doesn’t any other state have the same problem in this scale?”

        Punjab has a drug problem, Kerala has an alcohol problem, Uttar Pradesh has a guthka problem (leading to throat/mouth cancer) and other Indian states have a myriad range of issues confronting them. To somehow insinuate that Punjab is a special case because it has youngsters addicted to drugs is fanciful.

        “Female infanticide and farmer suicides are also rife”

        For female infanticide try Haryana, Bihar and interior Tamil Nadu (all have a worse sex ratio than Punjab) and blame the ‘beta chahiye’ culture for that.

        For farmer suicides look at Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, they have far higher suicides among framers rates than Punjab.

        “Are you suggesting that just because it’s been 30 years, politians and other criminals involved should be immune from justice?”

        I’m not saying anyone should be immune from justice, just that as long sa the wronged try their best, the culprits will get their just desserts in the end. There just isn’t much that you or me sitting in Wolverhampton can do to bring them to justice. Riots happen in India ever so often and thousands of people die. Other than the people affected by the riots, others forget and move on, there is little we can do about that. Life in India is cheap, we tend to forget that.

        “What about the thousands of Singhs currently languishing jails without charge or trail?”

        I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of Indians languishing in jails without charge or trial and no doubt there are many Singhs among them too along with Kashmiris, Nagas, Tribals, people with no money/influence etc etc. India is a vast and corrupt third world country with all the ills that go with it. I hope the Akali Dal in Punjab are looking out for them or trying to get them out of prison.

        Like you, I fervently believe that a great injustice was done against Sikhs by Indira Gandhi through operation BlueStar and during the riots following her assassination. And I sincerely hope that the remaining culprits will be brought to justice.

        To me when on regular travels through India I see very little difference between the ills I see in Punjab and the various other ills I see across that vast country. The Punjabis in India cheer the Indian team at Mohali, vote in the state and general elections, serve in great numbers in the Indian army, represent India in cricket and hockey and even the Prime Minister of India is a Sikh. As a Sikh, I’ve always been treated with the greatest respect in all parts of the country, be it up north in Jammu or down south in Kerala when traveling alone or with my wife and kids.

        You may want to believe otherwise and teach your children the same, but I cannot. The India of 2014 has a lot of problems, but persecution of Punjabis specifically by the Indian government is not one of them.

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