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JALLIANWALLAH BAGH: Empire and its associates must apologise

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Amritsar: Visitors at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, on April 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS) by .
Visitors at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, on April 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

Empire and its associates must apologise over the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre. Priests of the Golden Temple invited General Dyer to the sacred shrine and presented him with a siropa (turban and kirpan). At a time when India is demanding an unconditional apology from the British govt for the mayhem that changed the course of independence movement, it’s high time likes of Capt Amrinder Singh too apologise for the misdeeds of his grandfather…writes Dr Kailash Chand

Amritsar: Visitors at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, on April 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS) by .
Visitors at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, on April 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

Prime Minister Theresa May described the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919 as a “shameful scar” on British Indian history, but stopped short of a formal apology. The massacre took place at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar during the Vaisakhi festival in 1919 when the troops under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer opened fire at a crowd staging a pro-independence demonstration, leaving scores dead.

The Indian community in Britain is demanding an unconditional apology. The flag bearers of the Empire have been quick to take credit for the good things it may have given to India. What the British establishment needs to show now is not only its considerate attitude but also the fact that it can accept the wrongdoings during the Empire Era.

It shows Britain’s commitment to good relations, humanitarian values and maturity as a responsible state. Just a regret by the British prime minister is not enough for this crime. But, the common man, who is not a historian, finds it difficult to understand why Jallianwala Bagh happened and what was the immediate reaction to it.

Amritsar: Visitors at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, on April 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS) by .
Visitors at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, on April 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

Exactly 100 years ago, India had just emerged from the First World War having made enormous sacrifices, and a huge contribution in men and materiel, blood and treasure, to the British war effort, in the expectation that it would be rewarded with some measure of self-government. The reward was, massacre in Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh on April 13, 1919, when the British Army troops were ordered by Colonel Dyer to fire at a crowd holding a pro-independence demonstration. Officially General Dyer had killed 379 unarmed men at Jallianwala Bagh, unofficially number runs to over one thousand.

It is among the blackest episodes in the history of British Empire. It was cold-blooded murder by a callous, conceited, narrow-minded unimaginative man, who should have been court martialled and dismissed. Instead he was lionised and a fund was raised for him from England. In spite of the Martial Law, disturbances took place in various parts of Punjab. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, grandfather of the present chief minister of Punjab, Capt. Amrninder Singh gave full support to the Raj. Lt Governor O’Dwyer acknowledged this in his autobiography. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh was not alone. All other Punjab princes did the same. Servile loyalty of this kind did not do the princely order any good. Even Churchill condemned the Jallianwala Bagh killings.

Amritsar: School students participate in a procession taken out to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in Amritsar on April 12, 2019. (Photo: IANS) by .
School students participate in a procession taken out to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in Amritsar on April 12, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

“A History of the Sikhs: 1839-2004” by Khushwant Singh, read: “General Dyer tried to win over the Sikhs as best he could. He summoned the manager of the Golden Temple and Majithia and asked them to use their influence with the Sikhs in favour of the government. He sent out movable columns through Sikh villages to wean them away from the influence of mischief makers and to prove that “sircar” was still strong.

Priests of the Golden Temple invited the general to the sacred shrine and presented him with a siropa (turban and kirpan). At a time when India is demanding an unconditional apology from the British govt for the mayhem that changed the course of independence movement, it’s high time likes of Capt Amrinder Singh too apologise for the misdeeds of his grandfather.

Dr Kailash Chand with Jeremy Corbyn

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has sought for an unequivocal apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.  The House of Commons should follow the lead given by Mr Corbyn and adopt a unanimous resolution, condemning the massacre. Britain Owes Reparation to Her Former Colonies.

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