The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre– 100 Years Without Apology

On the 13th of April, 1919, the day was celebrated as the day of Baisakhi. It is one of the major festivals for the Sikh community and many of them had gathered at the Bagh in Jallianwala (Amritsar) for a peaceful protest in the response to the deportation and arrest of two national leaders – Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satya Paul. The Bagh was a garden meant for public use which was of 2.8 hectares and had walls on all sides with a total of five entrances. When the British Indian Army got to know about the assembly, Colonel Reginald General Dyer, along with Sikh, Gurkha, Rajput, Baluchi troops with the 2-9th Sikhs, 59th Sind Rifles and 54th Sikhs entered the Bagh.

The troops blocked the major entrance and placed themselves on the elevated banks. The General Dyer commanded the troops to openly fire at the crowd for ten minutes. The bullets were directed towards the entrances from which the people were trying to escape. The heinous firings continued until the troops had run out of their ammunition reserves. According to statements released by General Dyer, about 1600 rounds of bullets had been fired at the innocent people. According to the British statements, about 379 people lost their lives and 1100 others were severely wounded. On the contrary, the reports released by the Indian National Congress showed that about 1000 people had lost their lives and 1500 people were wounded. In the initial days, this was looked at like an achievement of the troop and this act by General Dyer was applauded in the UK.

However, after a few days, his act was condemned in the House of Commons and in India, and protests ultimately led to the Non-Cooperation movement from 1920-1922. When General Dyer expired, he received a complete military funeral upon his death as he was regarded as one of the greatest army-mnn of all times. An influential author like Rudyard Kipling had been recorded saying, “He did his duty as he saw it”. Actions by the government do not indicate their remorsefulness for the gruesome killing. Even after the British parliament at that time was completely informed about the repercussions of the massacre, the punishment that Dyer faced was mild censorship due to misconduct for a temporary period of time.

An interesting takeaway from the entire incident is the attitude of the British government towards the entire massacre. 100 years have passed since a disastrous incident took place and yet, the Britain government has failed to issue a public apology to the Indians. It was said that the British lost their empire the day a General shot 1500 innocent people in cold blood. Be that as it may, they did continue ruling for years after that. The British Prime Minister Theresa May has recently been recorded stating that the massacre is a “scar” in the British history. In the year 2013, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron had paid a visit to Amritsar and he described the massacre as a “deeply shameful event in British history” but still did not issue an apology. Even in history, Winston Churchill considered it to be a “monstrous” act and yet failed to apologise. The reason put forward by the British government was, and is, that since the incident took place long ago, it is irrelevant to issue an apology for the same, now.

As India reaches a centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, this is the perfect time for the British to issue an apology for the wrong-doings. Virendra Sharma, a member of parliament of the Labour Party, moved the motion in the British parliament along with the support of 5 other law-makers of the country. The motion stated that the Theresa May government of U.K. should apologise to India for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April, 1919. While the British has been using words like they are “sorry” for such an incident, they have not used the term “apologize” in a public sphere. When the legal aspect of bilateral relations is taken into account, perfect coining of words do make a difference. In addition to that, the motion moved in the British Parliament also stated that the incident of April, 1919 was a turning point in the history of relationships between India and U.K. which holds true till date. It marked the beginning of the end of the British rule in India.

Picture Courtesy- Dailyhunt

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