Citing the teachings of Sikh gurus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India had not only brought back Indians from Afghanistan but also the sacred book Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Speaking via video-conferencing at the ceremony to dedicate the renovated Jallianwala Bagh memorial, Mr. Modi said whether it was the COVID-19 crisis or the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, India stood ready to help Indians in trouble anywhere in the world. He said there were challenges and the situation was tough, but the “ gurukripa (grace of gurus) is with us”.
He said the country had given its all in fulfilling this responsibility in the past few years.
“Keeping the gurus’ teachings of humanity at the forefront, the country has passed new laws for its own people who were troubled by such circumstances,” Mr Modi said. Though he did not elaborate, “new laws” could be seen as a reference to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which seeks to fast-track citizenship for Hindu, Parsi, Buddhist, Christian and Sikh immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Recalling the April 13, 1919 massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Mr. Modi said it was those “10 minutes” when the British troops opened fire that became the immortal tale for the freedom movement, which became the reason that India is celebrating 75 years of Independence next year.
He spoke of the sacrifices of the people of Punjab, saying there was hardly a village or street in the State that would not have its own tale of bravery. The sons and daughters of Punjab always stood without fear against any danger facing the country, he said. He added that Punjab had always been an inspiration and now it was important for it to progress in every way.
Mr. Modi said it was the responsibility of any nation to remember its history and not forget the horrors, like the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and Partition. He said the contribution of tribal communities in the freedom movement had not been highlighted so the government was setting up nine museums for the same.
Earlier during the event, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amrinder Singh said though the whole world was aware of the incident, 102 years later the exact number of fatalities were still unknown. He said a research team had been deputed to work on the issue.
He urged the Prime Minister to have the pistol and diary of freedom fighter Udham Singh brought back from the United Kingdom. Udham Singh had assassinated Michael O’Dwyer, who had been the lieutenant-governor of Punjab in 1919, in the U.K. in 1940 in retaliation to the massacre.
The Jallianwala Bagh memorial, which had been closed to the public for about a year-and-a-half due to the renovation, would re-open to visitors from Sunday, with four new galleries, a light and sound show and new amenities. Due to COVID protocols, Culture Ministry officials said only the descendants of the victims were present at the ceremony in person, with the rest of the dignitaries joining virtually.