By Aditi Khanna LONDON:
THE failure of the UK Government to tender a formal apology on the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was the overwhelming focus of a commemorative event held at the House of Lords complex in London on Sunday. The massacre took place at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar during the Baisakhi festival on April 13, 1919, when troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer opened fire at a crowd of people holding a pro-independence demonstration, leaving scores dead. Indian-origin peers Lord Raj Loomba and Lord Meghnad Desai were joined by fellow members of the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Commemoration Committee (JBCCC) to wrap up a series of events and exhibitions held in the UK to mark the 100th anniversary of the British colonial era massacre. “The Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 13, 1919, stands out as a very tragic event in history. Hundred years since then, India has come a long way and this why we have heard various mutterings of regret because ultimately India is now a power to reckon with,” said Lord Desai.
“I do not understand why the British Government has not to this day agreed to say sorry,” said Lord Loomba, who also called for an investigation into whether Colonel Dyer instigated the “huge atrocity” of his own accord or was following orders from higher authorities during the British Raj. The commemorative event included a screening of a short clip from Richard Attenborough’s 1982 epic ‘Gandhi’, re-enacting the fateful day. Unofficial estimates put the death toll into thousands, with the incident being described as a turning point in the Indian national movement.
“The pain remains etched in the memory of Punjabi people. An apology will not bring back the dead or give any real comfort to their family and friends. However, it will help to mitigate the pain and bring closure to us all,” said Manjit Singh GK, Patron-in-Chief of the JBCCC. “An apology cannot undo what has been done but it would be a befitting tribute to the martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. We on behalf of the JBCCC, strongly demand that the British government tender an official apology,” said Vikramjit Singh Sahney, Patron of JBCC.