I was 17 when I first saw on TV the events and outcome of Operation Blue Star. As a British Sikh living in the UK, it was a harrowing experience that will live with me for the rest of my life. I felt the same feeling when shortly after the New Year, documents were released under the 30 year rule which suggested that Britain was involved in the events that unfolded. SInce then we have had an investigation and a statement to the House of Commons but are Sikhs any closer to understanding and piecing together the events of 1984? Many of the questions that remain unanswered have their answers in India as well as here in the UK. With the scale and breath of Narendra Modi’s election win, I believe we finally have an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past.
Narendra Modi and his BJP party have by themselves a majority in parliament and will be able to govern without coalition partners, this is the biggest election victory in India for three decades. It was telling that after his win and speaking to supporters he pledged that “the age of divisive politics has ended – from today onwards the politics of uniting people will begin”. I trust that he will be true to his word and wishes to unite India. We all need to correct the wrongs of the past, but specifically the task is requiring of a statesman that is willing to delve into India’s past and not dismiss it like leaders gone before. It is a sign that India is maturing as a democracy if it is willing to accept the mistakes of the past and seek justice for those many thousands and their families who were affected.
With the arrival of a new Indian administration coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, Narendra Modhi has an opportunity to start uniting Indians not only in India but around the world. Now is the time for the Indian Government to draw a line under this distressing and hurtful saga and provide Sikhs with the answers they have been so desperately seeking. This new Indian government has a once in generation opportunity to answer the questions that have lay unanswered for so long.
Britain needs to accept and acknowledge its part in this operation too, albeit as the foreign secretary stated that Britain’s involvement was purely advisory and limited. The British government should collaborate with the Indian authorities to complete the process that was started in January by aiding them in their investigations and releasing further appropriate documentation. Only by working together can we achieve the answers the Sikh community have been seeking. The fact of the matter is the events of 1984 form a mosaic; by only focusing on one narrow aspect we run the risk of missing the wider picture.
I therefore call on the new Indian Prime Minister and Administration to formally investigate India’s role in Operation Blue Star. To consider reports of human rights violations by the Indian Army including the level of planning that went into Operation Blue Star and who undertook key decisions in the run up to and during the operation. Moving past the operation there is a need to bring to justice those responsible for instigating and carrying out anti-Sikh violence in the wake of Indra Ghandi’s assassination in October 1984.
There are numerous estimates of the final number of casualties and those wounded. For many years there has been suspicion surrounding the final figure which is why there should be an accurate report into how many civilians were killed or wounded. With reports of a substantial civil death toll the report should also focus on why the operation took place on the anniversary of martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji; a time when there were numerous pilgrims inside the temple complex.
During this week I will be writing to MPs and my Ministers in my own party to support this view as well as the international SIkh community. We will show that if India is prepared to make the difficult first steps then we as friends are prepared to help them. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity seek out the truth to what has been a defining moment in Sikh and Indian history.
Paul Uppal MP Wolverhampton South-West