Apologise for Jallianwala Bagh massacre: Indian-origin MP to British govt

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 08, 2018

Virendra Sharma

Labour MP Virendra Sharma is urging British parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to come together to support his parliamentary motion pushing for a formal apology from the British government for the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.

Sharma, the Labour MP for Ealing Southall, tabled the Early Day Motion — a formal parliamentary means for MPs to draw attention to an issue — earlier this week, and has so far attracted eight signatories from across the political spectrum, including Labour, the Conservatives, the Scottish National Party, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

The motion called for the government to “formally apologise” in the House of Commons and inaugurate a memorial day to mark the event, ahead of the 100th anniversary in 2019. It notes David Cameron’s description of the massacre as a “deeply shameful event” while on a visit to India in 2013 and urges the government to ensure more was taught about this “shameful period” in British history. “This event does not represent modern British values,” it said.

Sharma said he expected to garner further political support. “Its not a question for any political party — it’s a historical fact that the people of Britain should know about. It hurt deeply then and it hurts deeply now.” While Sharma does not anticipate an immediate debate in the House of Commons on the issue, he said he planned to launch a number of other initiatives to raise awareness of the issue and the need for an apology and greater education through community events, as well as in the House of Commons. “There are parts of the history that are unacceptable but which people must know about…its missing in large part from history books in this country,” he said.

The debate over the impact of the British Empire more widely has gained increasing prominence in the past year, with the focus on Brexit and Britain’s desire to expand beyond the European Union, with some harking back to the days of it being a great trading nation, and the Empire.

Colonial history

“The UK is one of the few countries in the EU that does not need to bury its 20th century history,” declared Liam Fox, a prominent campaigner for Brexit, several months before he became Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade last year. A 2016 poll found that just 21 per cent of people in Britain regretted it’s colonial history. However, others have endorsed the views of critics such as Shashi Tharoor, who caught much media and public attention earlier this year during his book tour for Inglorious Empire (published in India as An Era of Darkness), which is deeply critical of the impact of British rule on India. He accused Britain of historical amnesia. With the 100th anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh in 2019, and the latest parliamentary campaign, the debate is likely to intensify further.

Published on October 20, 2017

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