British PM falls short of apology for India massacre

Cameron became the first serving prime minister to express "deep shame" about a British massacre of unarmed civilians in the Indian city of Amritsar in 1919.

British PM falls short of apology for India massacre

World Bulletin / News Desk

David Cameron on Wednesday became the first serving prime minister to express "deep shame" about a British massacre of unarmed civilians in the Indian city of Amritsar in 1919.

But Cameron's visit and expression of regret for Britian killings stopped short of an apology.

The killings, known in India as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, were described by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian independence movement, as having shaken the foundations of the British Empire. A group of soldiers opened fire on an unarmed crowd without warning in the northern Indian city after a period of unrest, killing hundreds in cold blood.

Dressed in a dark suit, Cameron laid a wreath at a memorial to the massacre, a terracotta-coloured stone obelisk. He then stood in front of the monument in silence for a few moments.

"This is a deeply shameful event in British history, one that Winston Churchill rightly described at the time as 'monstrous'," Cameron wrote in a visitor book, referring to the former British leader.

The gesture, coming on the third and final day of a visit to India aimed at drumming up trade and investment, is seen as an attempt to improve relations with Britain's former colonial possession and to court around 1.5 million British voters of Indian origin ahead of a 2015 election.

The British report into the Amritsar massacre at the time said 379 people had been killed and 1,200 wounded. But a separate inquiry commissioned by the Indian pro-independence movement said around 1,000 people had been killed in the city in Punjab.

Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, the man who gave the order to fire, explained his decision by saying he felt it was necessary to "teach a moral lesson to the Punjab".

Some in Britain hailed him "as the man who saved India", but others condemned him. India became independent in 1947.

Many historians consider the massacre a turning point that undermined British rule of India. It was, they say, one of the moments that caused Gandhi and the pro-independence Indian National Congress movement to lose trust in the British, inspiring them to embark on a path of civil disobedience.

India's colonial history remains a sensitive subject for many Indians who want Britain to recognise and apologise for its killings.

Sunil Kapoor, 36, whose great-grandfather was killed in the massacre, said he was pleased Cameron had come but said he would have liked a formal apology - feelings echoed by some Indians on Twitter.

"We have been waiting for justice from the British and Indian government for 94 years," said Kapoor. "If they think it's shameful, why shouldn't they apologise?." He said he was disappointed that Cameron had not met some of the descendants of those killed who had come to talk to him.

Last Mod: 20 Şubat 2013, 12:01
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