UK MEP’s Give Backing to Sikh Federation’s Demands
In ten days time the Sikh Federation (UK) will be releasing the names of all UK politicians who have confirmed support for an independent public inquiry into UK Government involvement in the massacre of innocent Sikhs by the Indian army in June 1984.
The attack by the Indian army on the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, the Sri Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar (often referred to as the Golden Temple Complex) left thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims dead and tens of thousands of Sikhs subsequently disappeared across Punjab in the weeks following the attack.
There is considerable support from UK MPs, Lords, MEPs, PPCs and European Parliament candidates for an independent public inquiry into UK involvement and assistance. These UK politicians represent millions of British citizens and can not be simply ignored.
One of the impacts of the letters first revealed in mid-January 2014 indicating UK Government complicity and the inadequate internal review deliberately produced in a hurry by the Cabinet Secretary on 4 February may be registered at the ballot box on Thursday 22 May when European Parliament elections take place in the UK alongside local elections.
In total 73 MEPs will be elected from the UK using proportional representation so every vote that is cast will count, especially as there is often a very low turnout. A number of existing MEPs and some of the leading European Parliamentary candidates have already indicated their support for an independent public inquiry.
The image does not show all MEPs or European Parliamentary candidates supporting an independent public inquiry as others have also recently confirmed or are in the process of doing so. Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green politicians fighting the European elections from across the UK have given their clear support while Conservatives, UKIP and other politicians are currently silent on their support. This issue has been widely covered by the mainstream media and during the election campaign the impact may well go beyond the British Sikh community.
There are strong grounds for having a public inquiry.
Under the Inquiry Act 2005 the common factor in every public inquiry is the pressing public concern that something has happened that must be investigated openly and fairly by a body that is independent of the problem. Characteristics identified in public inquiries that have taken place include widespread loss of life, failure by the state in its duty to protect and the shocking nature of the events.
There is little doubt about the public shock – Sikhs and non-Sikhs in the UK and across the globe were disturbed that the UK Government had an involvement 30 years ago in planning the attack on the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, the Sri Harmandir Sahib Complex (often referred to as the Golden Temple). Indeed the Cabinet Secretary explained to British Sikh representatives when he met them on 29 January that both David Cameron and William Hague first reaction was one of shock.
There is also no doubt the massacre of innocent Sikh pilgrims that eventually took place in June 1984 is on a larger scale than possibly all the public inquiries combined that have taken place in the UK over the last 50 years, other than the Chilcot inquiry, although this is about lessons learnt in the Iraq conflict.
One thing that has still not emerged is the extent of the failure by the UK Government to protect British subjects and foreign nationals resident in the UK and their families during 1984. Thousands of Sikhs from the UK travel each week to the Sikh homeland of Punjab. This would have been the case in May and June 1984 and almost certainly the vast majority would have taken part in a pilgrimage of Sri Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. This is a must for all Sikhs visiting Punjab. Some from the UK would also have been in Amritsar for one of the most important days in the Sikh calendar and would have been caught up in the Indian army attack at the start of June 1984 that appears to have been deliberately planned when there would be the maximum number of Sikh pilgrims present.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is understood to have provided no advice at that time to UK citizens or residents on the dangers of travelling to Punjab despite advising the Indian authorities about the attack and having first hand information and intelligence about the build up of Indian troops in Punjab.
The following extract from the Christian Science Monitor, dated 8th June 1984 sums up what UK citizens or residents who visited Punjab had to face, endure and if lucky survive “For five days the Punjab has been cut off from the rest of the world. There is a 24-hour curfew. All telephone and telex lines are cut. No foreigners are permitted entry and on Tuesday, all Indian journalists were expelled. There are no newspapers, no trains, no buses – not even a bullock cart can move. Orders to shoot on site were widely carried out. The whole of Punjab, with its 5,000 villages and 50 major cities, was turned into a concentration camp. The rules were what the Indian army and its political decision makers decided.”
Bhai Amrik Singh, Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) ‘Only an independent public inquiry will help the 700,000 strong British Sikh community establish the truth about not only UK Government involvement, but Indian government pressure to suppress and keep the truth from British Sikhs.’
‘We believe only through an independent judge-led inquiry will we get proper condemnation of the actions of the Indian authorities for their actions in June 1984, during Operation Woodrose and in November 1984 as they are all inter-twined and can not be separated.’
‘The UK Government has demonstrated for the last 30 years and in the most recent internal review and debates in the Commons and Lords in February and March it is under constant pressure from India and can not itself be seen to be critical of India and reveal the truth about what actually happened in 1984.’
‘We believe the independent public inquiry will also help get the events of 1984 individually and collectively recognised in the UK as genocide using the international legal definition of the crime of genocide. This in turn will allow pressure to be applied through the European Union and permanent members of the UN Security Council for an international UN-led inquiry into the Genocide of the Sikhs in 1984.’