Britain to probe role of SAS adviser in Golden Temple raid

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 1:57am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 1:57am


The British government ordered an urgent investigation yesterday into the possibility that a British officer played a key role in the deadly 1984 raid on India's Golden Temple after declassified documents suggested a special forces officer advised the Indians on how to carry out the attack.

The storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar was one of the most violent episodes in the Indian government's battle against Sikh separatists, whose campaign for an independent homeland in the Punjab smouldered into the 1970s and 1980s.

Papers recently made public detailed a secret advisory mission to India by an unnamed officer from the elite Special Air Service.

It is not clear whether the Indians followed the officer's plan, but the allegation that Britain played a role in the raid is explosive because the attack was spectacularly bloody.

In a statement, the government acknowledged that the raid "led to a tragic loss of life and we understand the very legitimate concerns that these papers will raise". It said Prime Minister David Cameron had ordered an urgent investigation.

The Indian army's attack on hundreds of heavily armed Sikh separatists barricaded inside the Golden Temple in June 1984 led to hundreds of deaths and a breakdown in communal relations across India.

Later that year, prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards, and the country was swept by a wave of anti-Sikh rioting.

The British officer's secret mission, disclosed in a February 1984 letter between two high-ranking officials in the government of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, talked of an Indian request for advice on how to remove the Sikhs, saying that a plan was drawn up and "approved by Mrs Gandhi".