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Follow Trudeau, say sorry for Jallianwala Bagh, UK PM Cameron told

Prime Minister David Cameron has been asked to follow the example of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who apologised last week for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident – and apologise for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar during British rule.

world Updated: May 25, 2016 18:35 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
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.
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.(HT File )

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has been asked to follow the example of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who apologised last week for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident – and apologise for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar during British rule.

Harsev Bains of the Indian Workers Association told Hindustan Times that after Trudeau’s apology, the organisation will campaign further and press for the 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 the lead interlocutor in talks between overseas Sikhs and the Narendra 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”.

Read | Trudeau apologises: Making common cause of Komagata Maru

During the recent London mayoral elections, Cameron reminded Sikh voters of his 2013 visit to Punjab in letters addressed by name, seeking support for Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith. He had described the massacre as a “deeply shameful act” in British history during the visit, but stopped short of an apology.

Cameron had written in the visitor’s book at the memorial: “This was a deeply shameful act in British history, one that Winston Churchill rightly described at that time as ‘monstrous.’ We must never forget what happened here and we must ensure that the UK stands up for the right of peaceful protests.”

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.

The response said that Cameron believed that it was important that such “tragic events” are not forgotten, and suggested that India and Britain had moved on since.

“It is…very clear that the UK’s relationship with India and its people has moved on and is now characterised by close cooperation and partnership, building on the many positives from our shared history”, the response from 10 Downing Street to Bains said.

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.