The Amritsar Massacre – It is Time for an Apology

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh Amritsar massacre. I learnt about this terrible episode of Indian history when at school (in Hyderabad, India). It was then made real, to me, in the shocking depiction in ‘Gandhi’ the film. In the U.K. I hear people speak of the ‘good old days when Britain was great’ and about how fantastic the Empire was. I disagree. As Indians, in India, we knew the the Empire was about robbing a country and it’s people of their wealth. The Kohinoor Diamond that sits in a place of pride amongst the Crown Jewels displayed in the Tower of London was looted from my city. It is time we in Britain were taught the truth about our colonial past and the racism and cruelty that was part of our history. We cannot change the past but we can apologise for it as a nation and make sure we do not glorify those actions. Jeremy Corbyn has rightly called for a full and unequivocal apology from the British Government

Dyer’s ‘crawling order’ (National Army Museum, London)

At the start of Prime Minister’s Questions this week, Mrs May mentioned the “shameful scar on British Indian history” of the killings at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. “We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused,” she said. In Jeremy Corbyn’s response, he went further, calling for a “full, clear and unequivocal apology for what took place”.

Here is an excerpt from The Guardian Editorial that mirrors this sentiment and suggests that the U.K. needs to see itself as others see it.

The Guardian view on the Amritsar massacre centenary: time to see ourselves as others see us

Britain is too cautious about facing its complex past. The result is that Britain fails to understand its future

Fri 12 Apr 2019 18.30 BST

These exchanges were a reminder of the long shadow cast by the Amritsar massacre, whose centenary falls on Saturday. It is rare for a Conservative prime minister to express regrets for any aspect of British imperial history. So the fact that Mrs May said anything at all was noteworthy.

Corbyn’s response was significant too. By using the word “apology” he went further than any British leader has yet been willing to go. The difference between Mrs May’s and Mr Corbyn’s words was important, for this is a long and an unquiet argument that is not yet resolved.

Liberal Britain was scandalised by Amritsar too. But there were widespread and lasting efforts to whitewash and ignore what happened. Many in the Raj and in Britain, not least within the most reactionary wing of the Conservative party, approved of it wholeheartedly. When General Reginald Dyer, who ordered the shootings, died in 1927 he was given a military funeral in Somerset, followed by a second, ceremonial funeral in which his coffin, draped in the union jack, was wheeled through central London on a gun carriage as if he was a national hero. Dyer still has his defenders today.

The reluctance to apologise include concerns about precedent, legal consequences and claims for reparations. But the reluctance to look back dispassionately is a national burden. It means Britain can fail to face historical facts, question ourselves as a modern nation and think about complexity. It can mean we fail to see ourselves as others see us. These are enduring issues, which cannot be brushed aside just because they are sometimes exploited opportunistically.

The treatment of history can be too politicised, nationalistic and manichean. The result is that we don’t think properly or even know about events like Amritsar. But the result is also Brexit.

Read full article here: The Guardian view on the Amritsar massacre centenary: time to see ourselves as others see us

Channel 4 programme: The Massacre That Shook the Empire 9pm 13th April

The day before May’s statement at PMQ, MPs debated the issue of a formal apology for the April 13, 1919 massacre to mark its centenary this Saturday. In wrapping up the outcomes of the debate, Bob Blackman (Conservative MP) concluded that children in British schools should be taught about the tragedy because people should know what happened in Britain’s name and that “saying sorry – apologising for this massacre – is the right thing to do”.

The pressure on the Cabinet minister mounted further on Wednesday as he received a letter signed by 80 MPs stressing that he must consider their call for an “apology anew”.

Read the full article from The India Tribune here: Jallianwala Bagh tragedy ‘shameful scar’ on British Indian history: Theresa May April 10, 2019

Linked articles:

Shashi Tharoor, Jan 21, 2019 8 min read

  • Times of India: After the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, came the torture, crawling, floggings

To punish Amritsar, the military ordered residents to compulsorily salute all British men .. Read more at here

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