Dominic Asquith, the United Kingdom’s High Commissioner to India, visited the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial in Amritsar on Saturday, and expressed regret for the massacre at the site by British officials 100 years ago. Saturday marks the centenary of the tragedy.
“The events of Jallianwala Bagh 100 years ago today reflect a shameful act in British Indian history,” Asquith wrote, according to PTI. “We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused.”
Asquith also wrote that he was pleased that the UK and India “have and remain committed to developing further a thriving 21st century partnership”.
On Baisakhi festival on April 13, 1919, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer had opened fire on unarmed people at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. While General Dyer said 379 people were killed, the Indian National Congress had pegged the toll at over 1,000.
Police imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code – which prohibits the assembly of five or more people without permission – in the city ahead of the centenary.
Several political leaders paid tributes on Twitter. Congress President Rahul Gandhi visited the memorial and wrote in the visitors’ book: “The cost of freedom must never ever be forgotten. We salute the people of India who gave everything they had for it.”
Gandhi was accompanied by some Congress leaders, including Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. They observed a two-minute silence at the site, PTI reported.
On Twitter, Gandhi wrote that the centenary marked a “day of infamy that stunned the entire world and changed the course of the Indian freedom struggle”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Today, when we observe 100 years of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre, India pays tributes to all those martyred on that fateful day. Their valour and sacrifice will never be forgotten. Their memory inspires us to work even harder to build an India they would be proud of.”
On Wednesday, United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May had expressed regret for the massacre, but stopped short of a full apology. “We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused,” May told the British parliament. May called it a “shameful scar on British history”.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, had called for “a full, clear and unequivocal apology”.