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India's Sikhs anguished over UK role in Golden Temple assault

The Sikh community in India has expressed anguish at the latest revelations about the involvement of Britain in the Indian army operation at the Golden Temple in Punjab in 1984. The operation resulted in the death of several civilians and damage to the holy site.

NEW DELHI: The Sikh community in India has expressed anguish at the latest revelations about the involvement of Britain in the Indian army operation at the Golden Temple in Punjab in 1984.

The operation resulted in the death of several civilians and damage to the holy site.

Foreign secretary William Hague told the British parliament on Tuesday that Britain had provided military advice to India to flush out Sikh separatists hiding in the Golden Temple in 1984.

According to official Indian estimates, 492 civilians were killed in the army action, codenamed Operation Blue Star, though some claim the number was almost double that.

Indian military experts still claim that the operation to dislodge Sikh separatists from the temple premises was planned and conducted by the Indian army alone - with no involvement from foreign forces.

But recent investigations conducted in Britain show that then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had exchanged information with Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

This has angered the Sikh community in India.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, leader of the Sikhism-centric Shiromani Akali Dal party, said: "The sad part is that it was not an attack on India's sovereignty but also an act of treason by the then-prime minister."

Tarlochan Singh, who was press secretary to then-President Zail Singh in 1984, also stated that the Indira Gandhi did not exhaust all political options available, before choosing the military option.

He said: "It shows that Indira Gandhi and the Congress were planning an attack on the Golden Temple for a long time. She did not try to find any political solution."

A few months after Operation Blue Star, two Sikh bodyguards assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Riots broke out a few months later in the Indian capital, where hundreds of Sikh civilians were killed by mobs.  

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