Demands for apology continue 100 years after Amritsar massacre

Sergio Conner
April 14, 2019

However, British Prime Minister Theresa May had recently said that the United Kingdom "deeply regrets" the 1919 massacre and called it a "shameful scar" on the British-Indian history.

On Baisakhi festival on April 13, 1919, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer had opened fire on unarmed people at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.

'You might want to re-write history, as the Queen said, but you can't, ' said Dominic Asquith, Britain's high commissioner to India.

Taking to Twitter, Modi said, "Today, when we observe 100 years of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre, India pays tributes to all those martyred on that fateful day". We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused. Congress President Rahul Gandhi visited the memorial and wrote in the visitors' book: "The cost of freedom must never ever be forgotten".

British High Commission in India also expressed "deep sorrow" at the loss of lives in the 100-year-old massacre. They also observed a two-minute silence to remember the people who were massacred in the tragic incident on April 13, 1919.

Gandhi visited the memorial with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and a few other Congress leaders.

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The number of casualties from the event, which hardened opposition to colonial rule, is unclear, with colonial-era records showing about 400 deaths, while Indian figures put the number of fatalities in at closer to 1,000.

He said "an unequivocal official apology" is needed for the "monumental barbarity".

On April 13, 1999, around 15,000 to 20,000 people had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh in the northern part of Amritsar city on the occasion of Baishakhi. The demonstration was held to demand the release of two popular leaders of the Indian Independence Movement, Satya Paul and Saifuddin Kitchlew, who had been earlier arrested on account of their protests.

The crowd included men, women, children and pilgrims who were visiting the nearby Golden Temple, one of the holiest sites in Sikhism. Many tried to escape by scaling the walls but failed.

"Heaps of dead bodies lay there, some on their backs and some with their faces upturned. A number of them were poor innocent children", one witness later recalled.

The event marked a nadir in Britain's occupation of India, and served to boost Indian nationalism and harden support for independence. May's statement was "perhaps qualitatively a notch stronger ... but is far from enough".

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