David Cameron pays tributes to Jallianwalan Bagh martyrs

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday made a valiant attempt to placate the families of the Jallianwalan Bagh massacre victims by describing the incident as “deeply shameful”.

Even though he did not apologise for the dastardly act in which over 1000 innocent people were killed and an equal number injured, Cameron acknowledged that the shooting of the peaceful protestors was a blot on the British history. His visit as well as the act of paying homage to the martyrs is significant as it indicates that the present government was aware that the firing was a black spot on the British administration during its occupation of India. General Reginald Dyer had ordered his troops to fire as many as 1650 rounds on peaceful protestors on April 13, 1919 in Amritsar. The incident had caused an uprising of an unprecedented nature and revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh vowed to take revenge and ended up killing another British officer by name of Saunders in a case of mistaken identity several years later. Bhagat Singh and his two associates Sukhdev and Raj Guru were hanged on March 23, 1931 after a trial, which has been described as a case of miscarriage of justice by the judiciary. But the sacrifice by these martyrs inspired many young people who joined movements to overthrow the British regime.

Cameron also quoted former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who had described the act as “monstrous” while penning his comments in the Visitors book at Jallianwalan Bagh. It is a documented fact that Dyer was also subsequently shot down by Udham Singh, another Sikh martyr in England many years after the massacre had taken place. Cameron also made an important point while stating that the United Kingdom “stands for the right of peaceful protests around the world”.

This is a point which should be also respected by the Centre and state administrations in our country and they should allow peaceful protests to take place without coming down heavily on them as what was witnessed when students gathered to express their indignation against the gangrape incident in Delhi in December last year. Protests are a method by which people can give vent to their anger and if that is not permitted the consequences can be very far reaching. There is an element of tolerance that is needed and those who govern should not get carried away but allow voices of dissent to be heard. After all democracy is also about different opinions and different people often react differently.

By and large David Cameron’s attempt to reach out to the families of the Jallianwalan Bagh victim should be commended. He knows that the Clock cannot turn back but one has to move on in life. And India should at the same time never forget the sacrifices made by Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Udham Singh and others to contribute in their own way to our freedom movement.

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