LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron has been asked to follow the example of his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau — who said sorry for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident — and apologise for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar during British rule.
Described as one of the worst massacres during the British raj, Indian estimates put the Jallianwala Bagh death toll at nearly 1,000, while the colonial government believed the figure was less than 400.
Harsev Bains of the Indian Workers Association told HT that in the wake of Trudeau’s apology, the organisation will campaign further and press for a similar apology for Jallianwala Bagh, and recalled Trudeau’s words that some events in history were worth apologising for.
“We will continue to press this demand and it will be amplified across the UK as we approach the centenary of the massacre,” Bains, who also announced the campaign at an event in Southall over the weekend, said.
Jasdev Singh Rai, director of the Sikh Human Rights Group and lead interlocutor in talks between overseas Sikhs and the Modi government to resolve grievances, said the apology was “long overdue”.
Rai said: “It will go some way to restore perceptions about Britain having become more civilised since those days. If Britain is committed to peace and peaceful democratic politics, then an apology would go some way to show that commitment in reality and not simply in rhetorical statements.”
He added: “As a British citizen, I feel that part of history needs some redemption and as a Punjabi Sikh, I feel that the incidents of 1919 until 1925 in Sikh and Punjab’s history continue to be historical wounds. If Canada can give an apology over Komagata Maru, I cannot see why UK cannot offer an apology over this incident.”
Bains, who replied to Cameron’s mayoral campaign letter, asking him to repeat the same words in the House of Commons, received a response last week on Cameron’s behalf, reiterating his regret but again stopping short of an apology and stating that India and Britain had moved on since the massacre.