Wednesday, February 20, 2013
DAVID CAMERON'S APOLOGY FOR JALLIANWALLAH BAGH INCIDENT:HISTORY AND MEMORY
A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Rt. Hon'ble David Cameron was extremely gracious and this is not said in a condescending manner. He visited the site of the April 19th, 1919 Jallianwallah Bagh Incident and performed the parikrama and knelt down before the memorial in an apparent gesture of contrition and homage. I think this gesture was both sincere and a genuine expression of the fact that the Anglo-Saxons have finally come to the realization that the Empire over which the 'sun never set" is done and over with. Winston Churchill, then a liberal MP had condemned the Incident and within India the incident of 1919 sparked off fumes of outrage which the Congress party successfully used for its own political ends. There is a larger question: Why should the present Prime Minister of Britain, a man who was not even born at that time and who is not in any way connected to the event apologize for the Incident that happened nearly 100 years ago. Are we now seeing the Great Powers of the past making amends for the real and imagined crimes of the "imperial" rulers. Can we now expect the Commander in Chief of the British Army to come and apologize for the barbarism of General James Smith Neill in 1857. While such gestures are useful in terms of diplomatic and political relations, the historian must necessarily see things differently. The Congress Party gave a call for a public meeting at Jallianwallah Bagh to protest against the Rowlatt Act and the Governor of Punjab had declared Martial Law. The day chosen by the Congress was the day of Baishaki, a very important public holiday in Punhab when people go out and gather in open areas to greet people and generally exchange pleasantries. The cynical use of a public holiday by the Congress has not drawn the attention of scholars who do not seem to understand that for its own political purpose the Congress sought to hijack an innocent and a political gathering for its diabolical scheme of provoking a reaction from the Administration which would add fuel to the fire that had already started in parts of India. The Congress which was leading the movement was aware of the fact that the martial law in place would result in bloodshed and with cynical disregard for the lives of innocent people gave the call for a meeting in Jallianwallah Bagh. What does this decision represent? It means that the Congress wanted bloodshed so that its political purpose would be served. While the British Prime Minister has now been gracious to apologize for the Incident, it is time for the Congress to own up for its role in the Incident. The history of the freedom struggle everywhere is full of violence and it is time to lay to rest the ghosts of the past. 319 people were killed according to the official Inquiry Report and the real number will never be known.