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Jallianwala Bagh: Labour would apologise if in power

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has piled more pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to tender an apology on behalf of the state for the April 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, for which she and her ministers have so far confined themselves to expressing ‘deep regret’.

Corbyn wrote in a letter to May on Thursday that “it is not enough to condemn the massacre and express shame”. He called upon her to tender a ‘full, clear and unequivocal apology’ in the House of Commons earlier this week.

Corbyn wrote: “In government, Labour would apologise for this shameful moment in our history. And as Sikhs across the globe celebrate the creation of the Khalsa and organise events for the first ever UK Sikh Heritage Month, it is time for the UK government to address this formative moment in our shared histories and make a full apology for the massacre”.

The centenary of the event that many historians consider a turning point in India’s freedom struggle is being marked by several events in India, the UK and across the globe, including one in the House of Lords on Saturday, for which leading individuals have travelled from India.

Corbyn wrote to May: “The apology should be tp the victims of the massacre, their families and descendants, the people of Punjab and the worldwide Sikh community”, recalling that two years ago campaign group Sikh Federation UK had demanded such an apology.

“The UK government has had plenty of time to reflect on an appropriate response”, he wrote, also referring to foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt’s observation in October 2018 to a parliamentary committee that he would “reflect” on the issue of tendering the apology.

On Wednesday, May made a brief statement in the House of Commons, reiterating the government’s long-standing expression of ‘deep regret’.

She said: “The tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh in 1919 is a shameful scar on British Indian history. As her majesty the Queen said before visiting Jallianwala Bagh in 1997, it is a distressing example of our past history with India”.

“We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused. I am pleased that today the UK-India relationship is one of collaboration, partnership, prosperity and security”.

Raj Loomba, member of the House of Lords, and the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Commemoration Committee, have organised an event on Saturday in the parliament complex, for which individuals such as Vikramjit Singh Sahney, president of the World Punjabi Organisation and Manjit Singh GK, former president of the Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, have travelled from India.