Amritsar massacre: Foreign Office rejects calls to apologise for mass killing of Sikhs by colonial troops

The Government sidestepped Sadiq Khan’s call for an apology on the issue

Molly Fleming
Saturday 09 December 2017 17:11
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London Mayor Sadiq Khan at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Government has rejected his call for an apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
London Mayor Sadiq Khan at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Government has rejected his call for an apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre

The Government has rejected Sadiq Khan’s call for an apology for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in which at least 379 Sikhs were shot dead by British Indian army soldiers during a religious festival.

The Foreign Office stopped short of an apology, instead echoing the words of David Cameron when he visited the region four years ago, saying the government has “rightly condemned” the “deeply shameful act”.

“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,” a Foreign Office statement read. “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 statement was in response to the Mayor of London’s comments on Wednesday, where he condemned former British governments for “fall[ing] short of delivering a formal apology to the families of those who were killed”.

“I am 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,” he said.

Mr Khan made the comments while visiting the Golden Temple of Amritsar as part of a six-day mission to India and Pakistan to help strengthen ties with London.

On Sunday 13 April 1919, colonial soldiers opened fire at unarmed civilians who were taking part in the annual religious and cultural festival, Baisakhi. The civilians, the majority of whom were Sikhs, had also gathered as part of a peaceful protest to condemn the arrest and deportation of two national leaders.

The British government released figures saying 379 Sikhs were killed and 1,200 wounded but some sources say that it is more likely 1,000 people were murdered in what Mr Khan described as one of the most horrific events in Indian history.

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