UK Sikh MP's Meeting With Cabinet Secy Sparks Row

Aditi Khanna/London
UK Sikh MP's Meeting With Cabinet Secy Sparks Row

A meeting between Britain's only Sikh MP and the Cabinet Secretary conducting a probe into the country's alleged involvement in planning Operation Bluestar in 1984 to flush out militants holed up in the Golden Temple has sparked a controversy with the Labour party asking why no other MP was invited for an interaction.

Prime Minister David Cameron directed his Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood to probe the facts behind claims of British collusion in the operation that emerged as part of recently declassified documents.

Britain's only Sikh MP, Paul Uppal, outed a meeting with Heywood on the issue, triggering questions over why only the Conservative Party politician was being allowed access.

"On Monday night I am actually going to go and see Sir Jeremy Heywood with some other Sikhs, just to impress on him the level of sentiment and how sensitive this is," the Wolverhampton MP told the Sikh Television Channel last week.

"It is important we take the politics out of this...But I have wanted to go and see the people right at the centre of this to impress upon them how important it is that we move urgently and we get to the truth," Uppal said.

It prompted coalition partners Liberal Democrats and Opposition Labour MPs to demand a meeting with Heywood.

Tom Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East who raised the issue in the House of Commons earlier this month, challenged Uppal to explain why no other MP had been invited to meet Heywood.

Uppal, who eventually met the Cabinet Secretary with former Labour business minister Pat McFadden, told the 'Guardian': "As the only Sikh MP it was only reasonable and sensible that I should go and see the Cabinet Secretary. I got an invite. I had been pushing for it. I made it clear I wanted to see the Cabinet Secretary."

McFadden said, "No one should underestimate the degree of pain which still exists in the Sikh community about these events (in 1984) partly because of the belief that the full truth has never been told.

"I stressed to the Cabinet Secretary the importance of telling the full truth about any UK involvement and that anything less would simply feed a sense of suspicion and mistrust. We have to see what is published," he said.

A set of letters released by the National Archives earlier this year had indicated that Britain's Special Air Services (SAS) commandos may have been involved in training the Indian Army for the operation to flush out militants holed up in the Golden Temple.

Cameron was forced to issue a statement in Parliament, stressing that "the inquiry will be thorough, transparent and will get to the truth".

Hundreds were killed in the operation in June 1984, which also led to the assassination of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards four months later in a revenge attack.

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