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Amritsar centenary: Should Britain apologise for its colonial atrocities?

The massacre at Jallianwala Bagh saw more than 500 unarmed Indian men, women and children killed by British army riflemen. One hundred years on, families say the wounds still have not healed. Adam Withnall reports from Amritsar

Saturday 13 April 2019 10:43 BST
A painting of the Amritsar massacre, an event that became a landmark on India’s road to independence
A painting of the Amritsar massacre, an event that became a landmark on India’s road to independence (Jallianwala Bagh)

The walled garden at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar is unrecognisable today from the spring of 1919, when it became the scene of the single bloodiest act of violent oppression in Britain’s colonial occupation. On 13 April India will mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of unarmed men, women and children by British soldiers who had been sent to quash what was believed to be a mounting rebellion.

Many myths and misconceptions now surround the events that unfolded in April 1919, but the sheer scale of the brutality involved has seen the Jallianwala Bagh massacre become infamous in India as an essential landmark on the country’s path to independence.

Pressure has mounted in recent months on the current British government to take the centenary as an opportunity to issue an historic apology. For the families of those killed, who say they have been suffering the consequences of the massacre for 100 years, it could finally offer some closure. It is impossible to say precisely how many people were killed in the garden on 13 April 1919. The official British toll from the time was 379, but a new, definitive count by Amritsar’s Partition Museum has come up with 501 named victims, plus an indeterminate number whose names may never be known.

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