UK envoy skirts apology question conventions, marches to pay tribute to martyrs
The British high commissioner to India, Dominic Asquith, on Saturday called the massacre of hundreds of people at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on April 13, 1919, “a shameful act”.
Asquith was in Amritsar to pay homage to the people killed in indiscriminate firing by the troops of the Colonel Reginald Dyer, on the centenary of the carnage. He laid a wreath at the memorial.
He, however, skirted the question on a formal apology by his country.
“I know this is a really important question. I will just ask you to respect for what I came here to do, which is to express the sorrow of the British government and of the British people. Also, commemoration is personally important to me. But it comes with the full support of my government and people,” he said.
He laid a wreath at the memorial to pay homage to those killed in the firing on the centenary of the carnage.
“The events of Jallianwala Bagh 100 years ago reflect a shameful act in British-Indian history. We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused. In am pleased today that the UK and India have remained committed to developing further a thriving 21 century partnership,” he wrote in the visitor’s book.
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May had expressed “regret” over the Jallianwala Bagh massacre but stopped short of tendering a formal apology, a long-pending demand from the civil rights activists.
Later, interacting with the media, Asquith said the issue is being debated in the British Parliament again.
He recalled that May’s predecessor David Cameron during his visit to India had also expressed regret over the massacre. He added that Queen Elizabeth II had spoken of the incident as a distressing incident during her visit to Amritsar in 1997.
“We might not rewrite the history but as Queen (Elizabeth II) said we can learn a lesson from it. My great grandfather HH Asquith, who was the prime minister of Britain from 1908 to 1916, had referred to the massacre as outrageous. The revulsion we felt at the time is still strong today. It tarnished our reputation,” he said.