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for Jallianwala massacre in 1919, Punjab seeks British govt apology

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Chandigarh, February 26: On the eve of Centenary of the ill-fated Jallianwala Bagh massacre which took place on 13 April 1919, the state of Punjab (in India) has unanimously passed a resolution to seek an apology from the British government for the worst ever massacre of innocent Indians on the day.

The resolution received support from the Opposition ranks too as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), SAD-BJP combine and the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) supported it, and it was passed unanimously through voice vote.

The state will now urge the Government of India to mount pressure on the British government for an official apology.

The British army, under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer, had fired on civilians who had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh for a peaceful protest on April 13, 1919 leaving scores of people dead.

Moving the resolution, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra said that in the centenary year of the massacre, it was important that the nation demand an apology from the British. The resolution received support from the Opposition ranks too as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), SAD-BJP combine and the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) supported it, and it was passed unanimously through voice vote.

“It was a dastardly act perpetrated upon the innocent people who had converged at the Jallianwala Bagh on the fateful day of Baisakhi on April 13, 1919, to protest against the Rowlatt Act of the Imperial rulers,” Mohindra said.

Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore had returned the title of Knighthood in protest.

According to Mohindra, it was high time for the British government to tender an apology to assuage the bruised psyche of Indian people affected by the massacre.

“The tragic massacre of innocent protesters in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on April 13, 1919 remains one of the most horrific memories of British colonial rule in India. This shameful military action against locals peacefully protesting against the oppressive Rowlatt Act has since received worldwide condemnation. However, its proper acknowledgement could only be by way of a formal apology by the British government to the people of India as we observe the centenary of this great tragedy,” the resolution read.

“This House thus unanimously recommends to the state government to take up this matter with the government of India to impress upon the British government to officially apologise for the massacre of innocent people at Jallianwala Bagh, “ it read.

Here’s what happened at Jallianwala Bagh:

  • On Sunday, April 13, 1919, the day of Baisakhi — one of the largest festivals of the people of Punjab — a peaceful crowd of more than 20,000 unarmed people had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh
  • Colonel Reginald Dyer of the British army, without giving any warnings or ordering the crowd to disperse,  ordered as many as 90 British Indian Army soldiers, to open fire at the 20,000 plus unarmed men, women and children
  • Dyer marched ordered them to kneel and ordered his army men to shoot and kill by firing at the entire Jallianwala Bagh
  • They continued shooting until all ammunition was exhausted
  • The ground was closed on all sides and there were no escape routes for the crowd to save their lives. There being just one main entrance which was guarded by troops ready with machine guns
  • Apart from direct shooting by the British army, a number of people died from stampedes or by jumping into a well on the Jallianwala ground to escape bullets. It was filled with dead bodies when the whole thing ended.
  • To make things worse for the families of the dead, a curfew was imposed leaving the dead bodies lying unattended
  • Many more were killed during the night
  • Colonel Dyer’s report to his superiors falsely claimed that he had been “confronted by a revolutionary army”.
  • As a result, British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O’ Dwyer approved General Dyer’s action saying: Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves.

The very basis for apology, (perhaps also amply sufficient for compensating the kith and kin of those killed) is the fact that in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre enquiry, it came out that Colonel Dyer accepted the firing was “not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience”.

He thought  it was a necessary measure as Punjab and Bengal were the hub of anti-British rebels and anti-empire movements.

  • -R.VenuGopal with Agencies

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