Thirty years on from Amritsar: If the SAS were involved, it will embarrass the UK

There would be justifiable anger within the Sikh community

Share
Related Topics

There are good reasons why it would be embarrassing for the UK if it is proved that the SAS under the Thatcher government  helped Indian security forces storm the Golden Temple at Amritsar 30 years ago. There would be anger in the Sikh community left scarred by the deaths inflicted and the desecration of their holiest shrine. The fact that alleged British complicity happened in the same city where soldiers of the Raj had shot down hundreds of unarmed protestor in the independence struggle decades before would give it added poignancy.

There would also be embarrassment, at another level, for the SAS. The 1984 assault on the barricaded Sikh separatists and their leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was one of the most inept performed by a major military power in recent times and had been severely criticised in India and abroad. Indeed it is held-up as an example of precisely how not to carry out an urban counter-insurgency operation.

The list of mistakes made at the time is long. The Indian forces suffered from a chronic lack of intelligence about the strength, disposition and weaponry of the Sikh fighters inside the temple; there was a failure to foresee the tactics of their military leader, a highly experienced renegade general; Some of the gunmen escaping when the Temple was supposedly surrounded to fight another day. And, in a move which led to massive destruction, mainline battle tanks and artillery were used with impunity in confined space.

The losses from Operation Blue Star were disputed from the outset. The Army placed the numbers of fatalities at 492 civilians and 136 service personnel. Civil rights campaigners claimed the civilian deaths ran into thousands and government officials later admitted that more than 700 soldiers had been killed in action.

In this file photo from 6 June, 1984, Indian troops take up position on rooftops around the Golden Temple in Amritsar In this file photo from 6 June, 1984, Indian troops take up position on rooftops around the Golden Temple in Amritsar The attack caused major damage to the temple complex; historic manuscripts were burned. The resentment at what had happened led to a mutiny by Sikh soldiers elsewhere, and the assassination of the prime minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguards. The deep schism has yet to fully heal; the commander who led the assault, General Kuldip Singh Brar, was the victim of a knife attack during a visit to London last year. Another General, Chief of Army Staff at the time of the mission, was murdered in India by two Sikhs.

General Brar insisted yesterday that there was no foreign involvement in the operation. “It was a last-minute operation because the prime minister was negotiating with the Sikh leaders to arrive at an amicable solution. As a last resort, she ordered the operation.” Yet another senior officer, General SK Sinha, who was sacked as General Officer Commanding, of the Army, because he opposed the assault, had stated that his troops had been rehearsing for such a mission for some time.

The Golden Temple of Amritsar is the holiest Sikh shrine The Golden Temple of Amritsar is the holiest Sikh shrine  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could the SAS been associated with a botched venture? Yes. Special Forces in the UK have become adept at leaking news of their successes, but hiding failures under the carapace of ‘national security’. But were they involved in the Golden Temple operation? Mark Tully, the renowned  former BBC India correspondent at the time has his doubts. He recalls speaking to the British military attache in Delhi at the time. “ He said that in all of his time in India, he had spent a lot of time trying to persuade the Indian government to make use of the experience that the British had with a similar movement in Northern Ireland, but he got nowhere with it.”

It is indeed the case the UK had been hawking the ‘Northern Ireland experience’ for a long time, certainly to the Americans ad nauseum in Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember a US Marine colonel in Helmand saying: “I’ll shoot the next Brit who goes on about the Northern fucking Ireland fucking experience.” so was there an attempt to introduce a strange version of the lessons of the Falls Road and Crossmaglen to the Punjab with disastrous consequences ? We have yet to see hard evidence: the guys in Hereford will hope it remains that way, otherwise it will be terrible dent to the mystique they work so hard to keep in place.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales

£30 - 40k (£65k Y1 OTE Uncapped): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Deve...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd give tax cuts to the rich, keep Trident, and get my football team wrong

Frankie Boyle
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before