The British government has reiterated its past stance on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, following the call from London Mayor Sadiq Khan for a formal apology from the government, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the atrocity in 2019.
“As the former British 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,” said a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
In 2013, then Prime Minister David Cameron, while on a visit to India, stopped short of a formal apology, and on returning to Britain, he insisted it would be wrong to “reach back into history”.
While many in Britain — not least within the sizeable Indian diaspora — are deeply angry and ashamed about the massacre, Britain’s colonial past remains a controversial issue, particularly around the Brexit referendum and hopes of reviving Britain as a “great trading nation”. One senior Cabinet member insisted in 2016 that “the U.K. is one of the few countries in the EU that does not need to bury its 20th century history”.
Labour MP Virendra Sharma launched a public petition on the parliamentary website earlier this year to call on the government to issue a formal apology, which has so far attracted 1,793 signatories. Twenty-nine MPs from across the political spectrum have also signed an Early Day Motion — a parliamentary mechanism for MPs to draw attention to an issue — calling for an apology ahead of the massacre’s 100th anniversary. It also calls for the government to ensure British children are taught about the “shameful period” and to inaugurate a memorial day to mark the event