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PM: Thatcher didn’t aid India massacre

Cameron dismisses suggestions that government colluded in India's 1984 Amritsar massacre

DAVID CAMERON attempted yesterday to play down suggestions that the Thatcher government colluded in a massacre by Indian security forces of over 400 people in 1984.

Previously secret documents published under the 30-year rule indicate that an SAS officer was sent to assist Indian authorities in drawing up plans to remove dissident Sikhs from the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984.

Hundreds died in the Indian army raid and in October that year the country’s prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in retaliation.

The request for British advice is disclosed in a letter dated February 23 1984 from Brian Fall, private secretary to then foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe, to Hugh Taylor, his counterpart under home secretary Leon Brittan.

It states: “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 officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs Gandhi.”

“SAD” is a misspelling  of SAS.

The letter warns that the operation could “exacerbate the communal violence in the Punjab” and also heighten tensions in Britain.

Mr Cameron said yesterday that he had asked Cabinet Office secretary Jeremy Heywood to investigate the matter.

But during a debate in the Commons he said: “I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome, but I would note that so far it has not found any evidence to contradict the insistence by senior Indian army commanders responsible at the time that it was planned and carried out solely by the Indian army.”

Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East Pat McFadden said: “This is an open wound that will heal only when the full truth is told.”

He called on the Prime Minister to ensure the full disclosure of all government papers and information of the time.

Labour leader Ed Miliband welcomed the announcement of the investigation but said it must be carried out “transparently” and “with a clear timetable.”

The Sikh Council UK also welcomed the investigation and urged all gurdwaras and Sikh organisations to “continue to lobby their MPs to ensure the matter is not forgotten or put on the back burner.”

paddym@peoples-press.com

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