Bill to remove Congress chief as Jallianwala trustee passed
Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill that seeks to remove the Congress president as a permanent member in a trust that runs the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial even as some opposition parties warned the government against what they called “attempts at rewriting history”.
The Rajya Sabha cleared the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill 2019 by a voice vote, making it the first bill passed in the ongoing winter session.
On August 2, the Lok Sabha had passed the bill, which also paves the way for the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lower House to be a member of the trust. The new law also empowers the government to terminate and replace a trustee to participate in the functioning of the Trust.
Replying to the debate, Prahlad Singh Patel, the minister of state for culture and tourism, said this bill would end the political colour which the trust earlier had. He said the Opposition had no problem with other provisions of the bill, but only with the one in which the Congress president was being removed as a trustee.
He also rejected allegations that the government was attempting to rewrite history. “No one wants to change history,” said Patel, adding “people are being misguided”.
Pratap Singh Bajwa of the Congress pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the historic 250th session of the Upper House on Monday, urged the Opposition to show large-heartedness.
It was time that the government showed “magnanimity” and recognised the Congress party’s contribution to the freedom struggle, he said. “There is no need to rewrite history,” Bajwa said, adding that the relationship between Jallianwala Bagh and Congress party cannot be separated.
Prasanna Acharya of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) agreed. He said “one cannot segregate the Congress party from this trust. One cannot change the history of the freedom movement.”
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre occurred on April 13, 1919 when about 1,500 people peacefully gathered at the garden to oppose the Rowlatt Act were indiscriminately fired upon at the orders of military officer General EH Dyer.
KK Rajesh of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) too criticised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “You are always afraid of history and monuments as you did not play any role in the freedom struggle,” he said, addressing the treasury benches.
The BJP’s Sudhanshu Trivedi put up a spirited defence. He said the Congress cannot claim to be the sole inheritor of the history associated with Jallianwala Bagh. He also questioned whether the present-day Congress can claim to be the same party as the one that led the freedom struggle.
Participating in the debate, K Ravindra Kumar of the Telugu Desam Party said the museum at Jallianwala Bagh was not properly maintained. He also suggested that statues of martyrs such as Udham Singh and Bhagat Singh should be installed and the family members of the martyrs should also be included in the trust.
(with agency inputs)