UK govt must apologise for Jallianwala Bagh massacre: Pakistan

PTI Lahore | Updated on April 11, 2019

Pakistan on Thursday endorsed the demand that the UK government must apologise for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the famine of Bengal ahead of the 100th anniversary of the mass killing.

While endorsing the demand for apology from the British government over the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on Twitter, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also said the UK must return the Koh-E-Noor diamond to Lahore museum.

“Fully endorse the demand that the British Empire must apologise to the nations of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Bengal famine...these tragedies are a scar on the face of Britain, also Koh-e-Noor, must be returned to Lahore museum, where it belongs,” he tweeted.

The Pakistani minister’s statement came a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May described the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar as a “shameful scar” on British Indian history, but stopped short of a formal apology sought by a cross-section of Parliament in previous debates.

In a statement, marking the 100th anniversary of the massacre at the start of her weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, she reiterated the “regret” already expressed by the British Government.

May’s statement came after British MPs at Westminster Hall of the Parliament complex debated the issue of a formal apology for the massacre, to mark its centenary this Saturday.

The massacre took place in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on Baisakhi in April 1919 when the British Indian Army troops, under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer, fired machine guns at a crowd of people holding a pro-independence demonstration.

Historical records claim that Dyer had fired on the Baisakhi gathering without warning and continued to fire for 10 minutes even as they were trying to escape, while he blocked the main exit with his soldiers and armoured vehicles.

The massacre saw more than 1,000 unarmed men, women and children killed by the British army riflemen.

The Bengal famine left about 3 million people dead in 1943-44. Then British Prime Minister Wintston Churchill had ordered the diversion of food from starving Indian civilians to well-supplied British soldiers and even to top up European stockpiles in Greece and elsewhere.

When reminded of the suffering of the Indian victims during the famine, his response was that the “famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits”.

Koh-e-Noor, which means Mountain of Light, is a large, colourless diamond that was found in Southern India in early 14th century.

The 108-carat Kohinoor gem, which fell into British hands during the colonial era, is the subject of a historic ownership dispute and claimed by at least four countries, including India.

The giant diamond was acquired by Britain in 1849 when the East India Company annexed the region of Punjab. Since then, India has laid claims to the diamond, urging the British government to return the gem, which currently stays on display in the Tower of London.

The jewel, once the largest known diamond in the world, is set in a crown last worn by the late Queen Mother during her coronation and was displayed on top of her crown when her coffin lay in state after her death in 2002.

A petition seeking return of the jewel from the British government has also been pending in the Lahore High Court for the last four years.

Published on April 11, 2019

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