Nation pays homage to martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh massacre on its centenary

Mahatma Gandhi

The News Services Division of All India Radio will bring you a special bilingual programme today on "100 years of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre".

The massacre took place on 13 April 1919 when troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer fired machine guns into a crowd of unarmed protesters and pilgrims who had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh in Punjab's Amritsar on the occasion of Baisakhi.

"Toilet: Ek Prem Katha" star Bhumi urged people to "always remember the courage and sacrifice of our freedom fighters" and to get inspired by their "valour and contribution into making our country stronger".

British High Commissioner Dominic Asquith on Saturday expressed deep regret and sorrow over the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, but remained non-committal on any apology coming from the British government on the brutal killings.

"There are events in the histories of nations which are hard to forget and they hold a very emotionally charged space in a nation's memory", Navtej Sarna, a Sikh who has served as India's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, told Reuters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today weighed in on the debate over the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre by the British, which has been raging between the Congress and the BJP in Punjab.

Punjab state's Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Governor V P Badnore took part in the march while Rahul Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress party, was expected to visit the city later in the evening.

He later defended his decision not to say sorry, explaining that the massacre happened 40 years before he was born and saying: "I don't think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologise for".

The number of casualties is unclear, with colonial-era records showing about 400 deaths, while Indian figures put the number at closer to 1,000.

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May had said, "The tragedy of Jallianwalla Bagh in 1919 is a shameful scar on the British-Indian history". "We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused", Mrs May said.

He said "an unequivocal official apology" is needed for the "monumental barbarity".

On Saturday afternoon, M Venkaiah Naidu visited Jallianwala Bagh and paid tributes to those killed in the massacre on April 13, 1919. Many local people tried to escape by scaling the high walls surrounding the garden. Some jumped into a well at the site.

Several political leaders paid tributes on Twitter. A number of them were poor innocent children.

Dyer, dubbed "the butcher of Amritsar", reportedly said later it was a necessary measure, and that the firing was "not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience".

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