Gravesham Sikhs lead way in marking 30th anniversary of Operation Blue Star massacre

Gravesham Sikhs lead way in marking 30th anniversary of massacre

Thousands of Sikhs pack Trafalgar Square after the march (picture by Manmeet Singh).

Coun Narinder Singh Thandi lead Gravesham's group.

First published in News
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News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , reporter

Gravesham Sikhs led the way as tens of thousands descended on London to mark the 30th anniversary of an infamous massacre.

More than 400 people from the borough took part in the march, with three packed coaches setting off from the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Saddington Street while around 100 others took the train to Hyde Park.

The event on Sunday marked three decades since 500 Sikhs were killed in an armed assault on the faith’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.

This year’s gathering of 40,000 Sikhs from all over the country was given an extra edge as it was revealed in February the British government sent an SAS officer to Delhi to advise their Indian counterparts on how to expel Sikh militants from the temple.

Gravesham councillor and secretary of the Sikh Federation UK, Narinder Singh Thandi, lead the borough’s delegation from Europe’s largest gurdwara on the march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.

He told News Shopper: "It is the biggest crowd we have ever had since 1984.

"Unless you have truth you cannot get justice and unless you have justice you cannot get freedom.

"After it happened my own in-laws living in Delhi were imprisoned because they couldn’t leave their house as mobs were targeting Sikhs.

"We don’t feel the British government played their part in safeguarding Sikhs in this country either."

News Shopper: The Golden Temple with the dome of the Akal Takhat shrine to the left (image by Jasleen Kaur).

The Golden Temple in Amristar. 

As well as the initial deaths in Operation Blue Star, thousands more Sikhs were killed in subsequent riots.

Like Coun Thandi, Coun Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi is one of many among Gravesham's 7,700-strong Sikh community calling for a public inquiry into the extent of the British government’s involvement in the incident.

The Labour candidate for Gravesham said: "The events around 1984 have left a deep scar on the Sikh psyche.

"Sikhs in Gravesham have been at the forefront of campaigning on this issue.

"The feeling among Gravesham Sikhs is very high, as it is amongst the diaspora around the world."

Coun Brian Sangha’s parents, father Sucha Singh and mother Nimber Kaur, were praying in the Golden Temple the day before the attack and were told to leave.

He said: "As someone who is close to what happened I felt very moved by the whole occasion and I hope the show of strength will persuade the authorities to agree to some sort of an inquiry."

Storming of the Golden Temple

• 1982: Armed Sikh militants first took up residence in the Golden Temple complex calling for an independent Sikh homeland.

• June 3-8, 1984: The Indian army mounted a full assault on the holy site, killing those barricaded there and a number of civilians.

• October 31, 1984: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards for ordering Operation Blue Star.

• November 1984: More than 3,000 Sikhs are killed in riots across India.

• February 2014: An investigation by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood found British military advice given to India ahead of the attack had only "limited impact". Calls for a full public inquiry have since been resisted.

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