| Indira Gandhi, (right) Margaret Thatcher
London, Jan. 13: Margaret Thatcher authorised Britain’s elite anti-terrorist unit, the Special Air Services (SAS), to help the Indian government with the planning of Operation Bluestar in 1984, a Labour MP alleged today.
The inflammatory claim was made by Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, in an interview with the BBC’s Asian Network radio station.
It is not clear whether Watson has seen any documents himself or what made him approach the BBC but his comments could have the effect of whipping up anger in Britain — and possibly beyond.
“It appears that documents have been released by the government under the 30-year rule and it shows top-secret papers from Mrs Thatcher authorising the SAS to collude with the Indian government on the planning, on the raid on the Golden Temple,” he began.
“This obviously raises huge questions about the role of the British government at the time,” he said.
Asked whether he was surprised by what he had found, Watson replied: “Well, I was genuinely surprised. On behalf of my constituents, I was also upset and deeply offended (that) we would be involved in what turned out to be a raid that caused huge loss of life and political tensions ever since. From what I understand — and I am trying to get to the facts of this — there have been documents that have been held back and I don’t think that is going to wash.
“British Sikhs and all those people concerned about human rights will want to know exactly the extent of Britain’s collusion with this period and this episode and will expect some answers from the foreign secretary.”
Asked about the ramifications if the allegations proved to be true, Watson responded: “Well, look it’s not just the 30-year documents that have been released, it’s obviously the 30th anniversary of the raidÖ. It still causes great offenceÖ. Let’s also remember the poignancy of the commemoration of World War I where Sikhs around the world will be commemorating their role in standing side by side with Britain in World War I.”
Both Thatcher and Indira Gandhi were concerned about militancy. Thatcher was nearly assassinated when, on October 12, 1984, the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where she and members of her cabinet were staying.
Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards on October 31, 1984, as reprisal for Bluestar. Thatcher attended the Indian Prime Minister’s funeral.