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Queen's apology sought for Jallianwala massacre

Wednesday May 25, 2011 07:58:51 PM, IANS

London: An Indian-origin Labour Party MP has asked the British monarch to formally apologize for the massacre of Indians at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar and other killings during the Raj.

Virendra Sharma, MP from Ealing Southall in London, told online newspaper Asian Lite: "I do feel strongly that as we are now in 21st century, a century of reconciliation, the Queen should apologize for the atrocities committed during the British Raj, especially (at) Jallianwala Bagh."

The statement follows Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Ireland's Garden of Remembrance where she bowed her head at the memorial to Irish patriots killed in the struggle for freedom from British rule.

On April 13, 1919, British officer Reginald Dyre ordered troops to fire on a peaceful crowd celebrating the Sikh harvest festival at the Jallianwala Bagh ground in Amritsar city.

Over 1,600 rounds were fired inside a walled enclosure with only one exit. Officials put the death toll at 379 but unofficially it is believed that more than 1,000 men and women were killed.

Many jumped into wells to escape firing and died.

"Building on the Queen's visit to Jallianwala Bagh in 1997, I would argue that an official apology from the British monarch for the atrocity is now appropriate and timely," Sharma said.

So far there has been no formal apology from the British monarchy or the government for the Jallianwala Bagh killings, which caused outrage across then British-ruled India.

But the report pointed out that foreign secretary Jack Straw, under the Labour government in 2005, tendered an open and unqualified apology during his visit to the Jallianwala Bagh.

Lord Navnit Dholakia, a parliamentarian from Liberal Democrats, said he was against an apology.

"I do not believe in a formal apology... Lots of excesses were committed during the British Raj... Ultimately non-violence triumphed against the might of British forces," the report quoted him as saying.

Peter Bance, a prominent historian and author of several books on Sikhs, said: "I do not think the Queen should apologies for the Jallianwala massacre as it was not her fault nor under her reign."





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