PM Cameron says colonial massacre in India 'shameful'
By Rupam Jain Nair ,AFPAMRITSAR, India -- British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the site of a colonial-era massacre in India on Wednesday, describing the episode as “deeply shameful” while stopping short of a public apology.
February 21, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
On the last leg of a three-day trip aimed at forging deeper economic ties, Cameron took the bold decision to visit the city of Amritsar and tackle an enduring scar of British rule over the subcontinent, which ended in 1947.
Dressed in a dark suit and bowing his head, he laid a wreath at the memorial to the victims at Jallianwala Bagh where British troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed protesters in 1919.
In a message in the visitors' book, he wrote: “This was a deeply shameful event in British history and one that Winston Churchill rightly declared at the time as 'monstrous.'
“We must never forget what happened here. And in remembering we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right of peaceful protest around the world.”
He later defended his decision not to say sorry, explaining that it happened 40 years before he was born and “I don't think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologize for.”
“I think the right thing is to acknowledge what happened, to recall what happened, to show respect and understanding for what happened,” The Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying.
The number of casualties at the Jallianwala Bagh garden is unclear, with colonial-era records showing about 400 deaths while Indian figures put the number killed at closer to 1,000.
S.K. Mukherjee, the secretary of the Jallianwala Bagh memorial trust, spent half an hour guiding the British leader around the site, showing him a well into which 120 people jumped to their deaths as well as bullet holes in the walls.
British Prime Minister David Cameron visits the Golden Temple, Sikh's holiest shrine in Amritsar, India, Wednesday, Feb. 20. Cameron also laid a mourning wreath at Jallianwala ...