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Jallianwala Bagh massacre: British PM defends decision for not saying sorry

Source : AGENCIES
Last Updated: Wed, Feb 20, 2013 15:05 hrs
David Cameron visits Jallianwala Bagh

Britain's prime minister laid a mourning wreath Wednesday at the site of a notorious 1919 massacre of hundreds of Indians by British colonial forces, calling the killings "a shameful event in British history."

David Cameron was the first British prime minister to make a gesture of condolence at Jallianwala Bagh in the northwest city of Amritsar, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology for his country's actions 94 years earlier.

"This is a deeply shameful event in British history — one that Winston Churchill rightly described at the time as 'monstrous,'" Cameron wrote in the visitors' book at the site. "We must never forget what happened here. And in remembering we must realize that the United Kingdom stands for the right of peaceful protest around the world."



He later defended his decision not to say sorry, explaining that it had happened 40 years before he was born and it thought it was not "the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologize for".

"I think the right thing is to acknowledge what happened, to recall what happened, to show respect and understanding for what happened," Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying.

Queen Elizabeth II visited the same site in 1997 and laid a wreath there. She called the killings "distressing."

Cameron's visit to Amritsar came at the end of his trip to India. The trip was aimed at boosting trade and investment between the two countries in the areas of energy, infrastructure, insurance, banking and retail.

Earlier, some organisations had pressed for an apology from the British Premier during his visit to the site.

Cameron paid floral tributes to the martyrs of Jallianwalla Bagh. He also stood for a few seconds before the Amar Joyti (burning flame) at Jallianwalla Bagh where he bowed his head to show respect to the martyrs. He spent nearly 25 minutes in the park.

Indian media was kept at a distance during the visit of Cameron. Only photojournalists were allowed to click from a distance distance.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre had taken place in Amritsar on 13 April, 1919. On hearing that a meeting of 15,000 to 20,000 people was taking place at Jallianwala Bagh, Brigadier General Reginald E H Dyer had ordered 50 riflemen to shoot at the crowd.

Dyer kept the firing for about ten minutes, till the ammunition supply was almost exhausted with approximately 1,650 rounds fired that resulted in the killing of more than 1000 innocent Indians besides leaving more than 1100 injured.

Earlier, Cameron paid obeisance at the Golden Temple where he was presented a robe of honour.

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