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Leaders hit a new low on a somber day!

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on April 19, 2019 with No Comments

British High Commissioner to India Dominic Asquith on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre last week termed the massacre “a shameful act in British Indian history.” He was in Amritsar to pay tribute at the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial to mark the centenary of the tragedy.  The 13 April 1919 massacre occurred in Amritsar, Punjab. Many Punjabis that included Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims  celebrating Baisakhi, a spring harvest festival, had worshipped at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and were about to begin their journey home. Others were in the area to attend a fair or to peacefully protest oppressive colonial laws. The area was humming with people going about their day. British Indian troops, led by Colonel Reginald Dyer, were sent in to disperse the crowds. But no attempt was made to do this peacefully or to prevent the crowds from growing. Without warning, the troops blocked exits, opening fire on the group of up to 20,000 people. The exact figure of how many were killed or injured is disputed. It is estimated that up to 1,000 unarmed civilians were shot and killed, though the exact death toll is unknown, but it is undeniable that the numbers are substantial, and that the massacre was a heinous, unlawful and deplorable act. In 1920 War Secretary Winston Churchill described the massacre as “monstrous”. In the same year, former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith called it “one of the worst outrages in the whole of our history”.  In 1997 when queen visited  the site, laying a wreath at the site of the atrocity and stating that we must “learn from the sadness”. In 2013 the then Prime Minister David Cameron also visited and paid his respects, writing in the memorial book,” We must never forget what happened.” Even last week, at PMQs , Prime Minister Theresa May said,  “We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused.”  Yet there has been no apology from the British Government.  Many leaders in India have expressed that deep regret is not good enough and an unequivocal apology that is mandated. We will no doubt also be advised to forgive and move on. The fact remains that there are many ways to heal a festering wound between nations, as Canada’s apology for the Komagata Maru shows; clever drafting is not one of them. While the leaders in Britain that include the Prime Minister and even the British High Commissioner to India have done their bit, the conduct of certain leaders on the same issue has been below par. The 100th anniversary of the massacre saw the representatives of two prominent Punjab dynasties fight it out over the alleged bonhomie of their forefathers with the perpetrators of the bloodbath. The war of tweets started when the Congress Chief paid a tribute at the Jallianwala Bagh and Shri Akal Takht in Golden Temple.  In a tweet  Central Minister Harsimrat Kaur the daughter in law of S.Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister of Punjab posted a photo of Amarinder’s grandfather Maharaja Bhupender Singh greeting Michael O’ Dwyer, who served as the lieutenant governor of Punjab from 1912 to 1919, when the massacre took place. “And you, Captain Amarinder proudly display these pics in your lobby, or are you too ashamed of your grandfather? Unlike your wild allegations, when we level an allegation, we always back it with facts.” While General Reginald Dyer is identified as the main culprit of the massacre in popular imagination, as he was the one who led soldiers to Jallianwala Bagh on Baisakhi 1919, his name is often confused with that of O’Dwyer. However, the latter, who was assassinated by Udham Singh in 1940, is believed to have condoned the massacre with some historians suggesting that he was the one who ordered it.  Reacting to Harsimrat’s tweet, Amarinder cited the common mix-up between the two names:  “Amazed at how dumb someone can be! Harsimrat Badal can’t you see the difference between General Dyer and Michael O’Dwyer, Punjab LG who was assassinated by Udham Singh? Are you so desperate that you’ll spread any disinformation to win? You all need history lessons.”

Harsimrat Kaur while starting a degrading debate forgot that none from her family made it a point to attend the two functions being organized at the Jallianwala Bagh to pay a tribute to those massacred 100 years back. Certain historians note that Harsimrat’s great grandfather, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia organized a  lavish dinner to Gen Dyer on the day of Jallianwala Bagh massacre? He was later knighted in 1926 for his loyalty and his deeds. By not paying a homage do the Badals and Majithia clans approve of the act of Sunder is Majithia? Before asking the British Parliament to offer an apology can be expect the clan to do the same?


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