The Jallianwala Bagh has been renovated with “utmost respect”, the Union Ministry of Culture said on Wednesday amid criticism that the redevelopment of the site has distorted its historical importance, PTI reported.
Ministry Secretary Raghvendra Singh said that the complex in Punjab’s Amritsar city was in dire need of conservation.
“It has been restored by the Archaeological Survey of India, which is the agency that restores world heritage sites in the country,” Singh told PTI. “Instead of letting a derelict structure to fall, we have restored it to conserve it for posterity.”
Jallianwala Bagh is a revered site in India’s freedom movement.
A crowd of thousands had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh on April 13, 1919, to peacefully protest against the arrest of two nationalist leaders. General Reginald Dyer blocked all exits to the complex and ordered British soldiers to fire at the protesters. Dyer had ordered the soldiers not to stop firing until all their ammunition was exhausted.
According to the report of the Hunter Commission, set up by the British in 1920 to inquire into the killing, 1,650 rounds were fired by soldiers and at least 379 people had died. However, other accounts suggest that the toll could be much higher.
Singh said that the galleries and the use of technology at the site aimed “to bring out the poignancy of the killings of innocents and how the incident influenced other bravehearts”.
He added that the light and sound show used to be held earlier as well, but had become defunct. “The soundtrack [of the show] is so poignant,” he said. “It has been very sensitively done and is informative as well. Anyone coming to this place will leave better informed.”
Historians, academics and Opposition politicians have criticised the renovation as an attempt by the Narendra Modi-led government to distort India’s history and corporatise historical monuments. Several social media users have also expressed their displeasure.