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Sunday 12 July 2020

Jallianwala genocide: Pressure mounts on Britain for categorical apology

Indian-origin MPs Raj Loomba and Meghnad Desai and the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Committee have raised this demand again

London: In a programme organised on London’s House of Lords campus on the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on Saturday, the British government was asked to tender an official apology for the genocide ordered by one of the officers of the Empire on 13 April 1919 at a public park in Amritsar at a gathering of peaceful demonstrators.

This genocide had taken place on the day of Baishakhi. The soldiers of the British Indian Army had opened fire on unarmed crowds under the command of General Reginald Dyer. Hundreds to more than a thousand were estimated to have been killed in the firing.

Lord Raja Loomba, a member of the British Parliament, and well-known economist Lord Meghnad Desai joined the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Commemoration Committee (JBCCCC) along with fellow members of the United Kingdom, which organized the centenary year observation.

Lord Desai said that the Jallianwala massacre of 13 April 1919 was a very sad event in modern history. Since then, India has come a long way in a hundred years.

Earlier, Desai had reacted to Prime Minister Theresa May’s expression of regret by saying, “I give her 60 out of 100, which is a good upper second — 65 is a First.”

Lord Loomba said it needed to be investigated whether the order to fire at an unarmed gathering on the fateful day was given from the top of the administration or was one decided by General R Dyer himself.

Vikramjit Singh Sahney of World Punjabi Organisation said, “If Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can formally apologise for Komagata Maru, why can’t the British apologise for the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre. These were the same Punjabis who fought for them in World War I”.

Manjit Singh GK, the head of the committee, said, “The pain is still in the minds of the Punjabis.” He said that no person killed will return after the apology, but it will definitely reduce the pain.” He added, “We demand that the British Government apologize officially”.

In the beginning of this week, British Prime Minister Teresa May had expressed regret for this incident in a statement in the House of Commons. She had described it as a shameful blot on British Indian history. Two days later, High Commissioner of Britain to India Sir Dominic Asquith penned down a message in the visitor’s book for the commemoration of the colonial genocide. “We deeply regret what happened,” he wrote.

Nonetheless, the government has also been criticized for not seeking formal apology in this regard. The opposition Labor Party demanded full and clear apology.

British Indian journalist Satnam Sanghera has demanded apology for the massacre even through a documentary.

This issue was also prominently highlighted in the British Parliament’s agenda in recent months as the House of Lords and Commons discussed the centenary year of this incident.

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