Commemorating the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which took place in Amritsar 100 years ago (13 April 1919)

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place on 13 April 1919 and is a stain on the British government as it was carried out by the British army during the British empire’s occupation of India. The Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Commemoration Committee (JBCCC), which I am member of, was set up to commemorate and drive awareness of this tragic event. We want to commemorate this tragic event but we’d also like to see the British government issue an apology.

Brief summary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre also known as the Amritsar massacre took place in a public garden in Amritsar in the state of Punjab. On 13 April 1919 a crowd of local unarmed people were protesting in Jallianwala Bagh and this occurred during a period of martial law. General Reginald Dyer from the British army saw these protests as defiant so ordered his troops to close all the exits of the park. With no warning to disperse he led a group of 50 soldiers into the park who then proceeded to open fire at the crowd. The soldiers kept firing until they ran out of ammunition and the crowd included women as well as children. It was a slaughter!

I come from Punjab so I fully understand the feeling not just in this state but all over india. I have visited Jallianwala Bagh and have seen the bullet holes for myself. I have heard countless stories about this incident including from my own grandmother. This article from the BBC from 2013 has interviews from family members who were affected by the shooting and they make their feelings very clear.

Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Commemoration Committee (JBCCC)

The JBCCC was set up to commemorate the 100th anniversary, hold a debate, host an event at the House of Lords and to organise exhibitions in London, Birmingham and Manchester. The goal is to raise awareness of this unfortunate event and to request an apology from the British government. The members of this committee comprise Mr Balbir Singh Kakar (Chair), Mr Virendra Sharma (MP), Ambassador Navtej Sarna as well as me (Lord Loomba). The patrons are Dr Rajinder Singh Chada (Patron in Chief), Mr Manjit Singh GK, Padma Shri Vikramgit Singh Sahney & Mr Surinder Singh Manak.

Jallianwala Bagh Debate at the House of Lords

I initiated a debate at the House of Lords (HoL) on Tuesday 19th February 2019. In the opening speech I talked about my relationship with Jallianwala Bagh. I have visited this park many times and I have seen the bullet holes in the walls. I have also seen the well from where all the bodies were extracted. I ended my speech with an appeal for an apology from the UK government.

To put this tragedy into context these are the words of Sir Winston Churchill describing the actions that took place that day:
“That is an episode which appears to me to be without precedent or parallel in the modern history of the British Empire. It is an event of an entirely different order from any of those tragical occurrences which take place when troops are brought into collision with the civil population. It is an extraordinary event, a monstrous event, an event which stands in singular and sinister isolation” (Official Report, Commons, 8/7/1920; col. 1707.)

For more information regarding the debate you can read our press releases by clicking here and/or the HoL debate in full using this link

Will the British Government Apologise?

During the debate at the Hour of Lords I asked the UK government to issue an apology. I have written a letter to Theresa May asking for an apology and the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is currently reflecting on this situation. I sincerely hope they do issue an apology so we can have closure on this awful episode.

Commemorative Dinner at House of Lords

The JBCCC is organising a commemorative dinner at the House of Lords on 13 April 2019. The members of the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Commemoration Committee will be in attendance and there will be 100 guests in total.

Exhibitions to Raise Awareness in the UK

The JBCCC have organised a number of exhibitions in order to raise awareness. The events will be in London, Manchester and Birmingham:
The Jallianwala Bagh Centenary (1919 – 2019)
London Nehru Centre
Dates - 12 Apr 2019 - 26, Apr 2019
For more information: https://www.nehrucentre.org.uk/events/exhibition-6/

Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab under Siege
Manchester Museum
Dates - 11 April – 2 October 2019
For more information:
https://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/upcomingexhibitions/jallianwalabagh/

Birmingham Library
For more information:
https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/libraries

I look forward to commemorating the anniversary of this massacre and I hope the UK government takes the appropriate action in issuing an apology.