May ‘regrets’ Jallianwala, calls it scar on UK history

Thursday, 11/04/2019

LONDON: Confronting growing demands for an apology over the April 13, 1919, Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday made do with a reiteration of the UK government’s “deep regret” for the carnage she called a “shameful scar” on British Indian history.

In a brief statement during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ) in the House of Commons, May said: “The tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh in 1919 is a shameful scar on British Indian history. As her majesty the Queen said before visiting Jallianwala Bagh in 1997, it is a distressing example of our past history with India.”

“We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused. I am pleased that today the UK-India relationship is one of collaboration, partnership, prosperity and security,” she added, stopping short of an apology.

An apology on behalf of the state is usually made by the PM. Mark Field, junior minister in the foreign office, told MPs seeking the apology on Tuesday that it was not for him to tender it, but said the issue is a “work in progress.” May went on to extol what she called the “enormous contribution” of the diaspora.

She, however, did not dwell on the issue further during the session, when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for the apology a hundred years after the incident.

On April 13, 1919, around 50 soldiers of the British Indian Army, under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer, fired rifles into a crowd of around 15,000 civilians gathered at Jallianwala Bagh, near the Golden Temple, to celebrate the harvest festival of Baisakhi and condemn the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satya Pal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew.

The Indian National Congress estimated that around 1,000 died and more than 1,500 were injured. Corbyn said: “I am very pleased that the PM mentioned what happened in Jallianwala Bagh and the issues of the massacre at Amritsar a hundred years ago. I think the people in memory of those that lost their lives and the brutality of what happened deserve a full, clear and unequivocal apology for what took place on that occasion”. CHANDIGARH: Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore, on Wednesday, declined to attend a reception

for the Queen’s birthday hosted by British deputy high commissioner Andrew Ayre in Chandigarh, citing Jallianwala Bagh massacre’s 100th anniversary.

In a letter to Ayre, Badnore, while wishing Queen Elizabeth II a long life and good health, expressed his inability to attend the dinner reception as it fell on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the brutal massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. “It may not be appropriate for me to be present on the occasion as Jallianwala Bagh has always been a very emotive issue in Punjab,” wrote the Punjab governor, who was invited as a special guest.

Badnore further said it was only yesterday that British minister Mark Field, responding to a debate at Westminster Hall in the House of Commons, expressed ‘deep regret’ and assured the House that the issue pertaining to an apology for the massacre was in progress. “Even the British PM Theresa May has termed the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy a shameful scar,” he added.

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