Cameron defends not saying sorry for Jallianwala Bagh

British Prime Minister David Cameron pays obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Wednesday. Photo: PTI

British Prime Minister David Cameron pays obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Wednesday. Photo: PTI  

The first British Prime Minister to visit the memorial

For many who had hoped for a full and formal apology for the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s floral tributes at the martyrs’ memorial and his comments in the visitors’ book did not go far enough. Staying close to the position that Winston Churchill took, Mr. Cameron said that Jallianwala Bagh was a “deeply shameful event in British history”. Mr. Churchill, the then Secretary for War, had called the incident an “outrage”.

Mr. Cameron later said that the incident had happened 40 years before he was born and it will not be “the right thing to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologise for”.

In April 1919, several hundreds were killed and more than 1,200 injured at Jallianwala Bagh when British troops led by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer fired on a peaceful gathering.

Many, including in the British media, recalled that Mr. Cameron had said sorry for the official handling of a football disaster at Hillsborough stadium in 1989 and the 1972 killings in Northern Ireland known as “Bloody Sunday,” in which 26 unarmed protesters were killed by British soldiers.

The chairman of a trust formed by descendants of those killed in the massacre, Bhushan Behal, expressed his disappointment that Mr. Cameron did not apologise. However, the secretary of the body managing the memorial, S. Mukherjee, was of the opinion that Mr. Cameron’s visit and the gesture of paying tributes to the victims could be equated to an apology. On the last leg of a three-day trip aimed at forging deeper economic ties, Cameron took the decision to visit the city of Amritsar and tackle an enduring scar of British rule over the subcontinent, which ended in 1947. Mr. Cameron is the first British Prime Minister to visit the site.

Daljit Kaur, a 29-year-old British citizen of Indian origin, praised Mr. Cameron and said: “I am proud that a British prime minister has admitted the blunders committed by former leaders and has invested his energy to understand Indian culture.”

Mr. Cameron said on Monday in Mumbai that he wanted Britain to be India's “partner of choice”, stressing their shared history, democratic values and the 1.5 million UK citizens of Indian origin as the foundation for a deeper alliance.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 9:50:51 AM |

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