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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 June, 2004, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
UK Sikhs remember Amritsar attack
The Golden Temple
Every practising Sikh aspires to visit the temple at least once
Sikhs from across the UK have gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of the storming of their holiest shrine.

Communities and temples congregations met in central London to remember the Indian Army's storming of the Golden Temple of Amritsar.

The temple, which lies at the centre of the faith, was the scene of fierce fighting in 1984 as India's government sought to destroy Sikh militants.

British Sikhs say they still want the government to pressure India and the United Nations for a full investigation into the events.

Operation Bluestar

In June 1984, India's late former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave personal approval to Operation Bluestar.

The Akal Takhat building after Operation Bluestar (Photo: Indian Express)
All we say is let the truth come out - let people in the community judge what happened
Jagtar Singh, Sikh Federation

The objective was to flush out militant Sikhs who were fighting for an independent homeland in Punjab.

Bluestar achieved its military objectives - but its costs were enormous. Although there has never been any agreement on the numbers killed, Sikhs say thousands were massacred by Indian troops, many of them innocent bystanders.

The military action led to Mrs Gandhi's assassination later that year by her Sikh bodyguards. That in turn triggered a wave of anti-Sikh rioting which left nearly 3,000 dead.

Jagtar Singh of the UK Sikh Federation, said the arrival of a new Indian government, now led by a Sikh prime minister, had given hope to the Diaspora that the truth could eventually come out.

Sunday's march and rally in central London, which was expected to be attended by a number of MPs and London mayoral candidates, included demands on the British government to pressure Delhi to open up the episode to full international scrutiny.

"This temple is the holiest of holies," Mr Singh told the BBC. "And while trying to flush out a small number of militants, the Indian army killed enormous numbers of innocent pilgrims.

"During the operation there was a complete media blackout in Punjab. But 20 years later and the blood still cannot be washed from the marble floors."

Mr Singh said that while the attack had shocked Sikh communities around the world, it had also led to a reawakening of identity.

"People [in the UK] who had drifted away from their faith start practising it again," he said. "India actually laid the foundation stones for an independence movement and a more aware Sikh community."

Hopes on new PM

He said British Sikhs were hoping that the new Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh would open up the past to "put the record straight".

He was already recognised as a "straight politician" - but the community wanted to see him act as an "honest man".

This could be done by allowing Amnesty International, the United Nations and other organisations fully investigate the events of 1984.

Sikhs campaigning over the Golden Temple attack have long enjoyed the support of many MPs and they want more pressure put on the Foreign Secretary to speak out over what happened.

Mr Singh said: "All we say is let the truth come out. Let people in the international community judge what happened."

Mark Tully reports
The BBC's Delhi veteran correspondent reports on the event


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