Mayor calls for formal apology for Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, today (Wednesday 6 December) called on the UK Government to make a full and formal apology to the people of Amritsar and India for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
During a visit to the Jallianwala Bagh memorial and garden, the Mayor paid his respects to those who were killed there in 1919, and made it clear that, almost 100 years on from the dreadful event, the British Government should formally apologise on behalf of the British politicians of the time.
The British Government has never extended a formal apology for the massacre, which killed hundreds of people and injured many more.
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre is considered to be one of the most tragic events in Indian history. On Sunday 13 April 1919, during the celebration of Vaisakhi, 50 British Indian Army soldiers, commanded by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, began shooting at an unarmed gathering of civilians, who were taking part in a peaceful protest. It is thought that 379 people were killed, but the figure is still disputed.
Sadiq Khan extended his apologies during today’s visit but made it clear that a formal Government apology should have been given decades ago and that, ahead of the centenary of the massacre, it is more important now than ever that the Government properly acknowledges what happened at Jallianwala Bagh to ensure something like this can never happen again.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The Jallianwala Bagh massacre is one of the most horrific events in Indian history. It is wrong that successive British governments have fallen short of delivering a formal apology to the families of those who were killed.
“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.
“During my visit to this amazing country and the Jallianwala Bagh memorial and gardens, I’ve heard how the scars of the massacre are still felt in Amritsar. Although our two great countries now have a close relationship in business, culture, education and more, an apology from the British Government will go a long way in healing the wounds left by this awful event.”
At the Jallianwala Bagh memorial and garden, the Mayor met with ancestors of those who escaped the massacre and laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial to pay his respects. The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust was founded in 1920 to build the memorial at the site. The memorial was inaugurated in 1961 and serves as a way to remember those who died and were injured in the massacre.
Earlier this morning in Amritsar Sadiq Khan also visited Sri Harmandir Sahib, often known as the Golden Temple, which is the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism.
Today’s visit forms part of the Mayor’s six-day mission to India and Pakistan to strengthen their cultural and economic ties with London. Sadiq is the first major British politician to embark on a trade mission to both countries in recent times.
Notes to editors
Previous British governments have apologised for atrocities. In the last seven years alone:
- In 2010, Gordon Brown apologised for the Child Migrant Programme which saw children in care sent to British colonies and announced £6m fund aimed at restoring families that were torn apart by the scheme.
- Also in 2010, David Cameron gave a formal state apology in the Commons on the day of the Bloody Sunday report. He acknowledged that all those who died were unarmed when they were killed by British soldiers and that a British soldier had fired the first shot at civilians. He also said that this was not a premeditated action, though "there was no point in trying to soften or equivocate" as "what happened should never, ever have happened". Cameron then apologised on behalf of the British Government by saying he was "deeply sorry".