A day after London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for an official apology from the UK government on the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the UK Foreign Office stopped short of apologising but instead ‘rightly condemned’ the ‘deeply shameful act’. The statement comes after Khan’s visit to Amritsar on Thursday where he said the British government should apologise for the mass killing.
“I’m clear that the Government should now apologise, especially as we reach the centenary of the massacre. This is about properly acknowledging what happened here and giving the people of Amritsar and India the closure they need through a formal apology,” Pakistani-origin Khan had said during his ongoing trade mission to India and Pakistan. Khan described the massacre as one of the most horrific events in India’s history. The Foreign Office invoked former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s views on the issue after Khan sought an apology. Also Read: London Mayor Sadiq Khan in Amritsar says UK govt should apologise for Jallianwala Bagh massacre
“As the former Prime Minister said when he visited the Jallianwala Bagh in 2013, the massacre was a deeply shameful act in British history and one that we should never forget. It is right that we pay respect to those who lost their lives and remember what happened. The British Government rightly condemned the events at the time,” the UK Foreign Office said in a statement. Cameron’s Conservative-party led government had fallen short of a formal apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre during a visit to Amritsar by Cameron in 2013. During his visit, Cameron had said it would be wrong to “reach back into history” and apologise for the wrongs of British colonialism.
In the meantime, veteran UK-Indian MP Virendra Sharma, who is a fellow Opposition Labour Party member like the London Mayor, has revived his petition calling for an apology by Britain for the massacre. He had launched the petition on the UK Parliament’s website earlier this year but it has attracted just over 1,778 signatures. As per law, the UK government would have to respond to the petition at 10,000 signatures, and at 100,000 it has to be considered for a House of Commons debate. According to the petition, “In 1919 Colonel Dyer ordered his men to fire, and maybe 1,000 peaceful protesters were left dead. At the time Winston Churchill proclaimed the massacre ‘monstrous’ and the British Government condemned Dyer for his actions, but no apology has since been forthcoming. It is now time to apologise.”