Virendra Sharma, the Indian-origin Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, tabled an Early Day Motion asking the British government to apologize for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. He garnered eight signatures for the motion, including one from the Conservative Party.
The motion, tabled on Oct. 17, read, “That this House recognizes the importance of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 for its importance as a turning point in the history of the Raj and British Empire in India; notes that the centenary of this event is approaching and that it is appropriate to commemorate it; further recognizes that former Prime Minister, David Cameron, referred to the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre as a deeply shameful act; further notes that this event does not represent modern British values; urges the Government to ensure that British children are taught about this shameful period and that modern British values welcome the right to peaceful protest; and further urges the Government formally to apologize in the House and inaugurate a memorial day to commemorate this event.”
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre took place in a park at Amritsar in Punjab. Hundreds of people had gathered at the location for a pro-Independence protest. Colonel Reginald Dyer had opened fire on the group during the Baisakhi meeting in April 1919, killing several people. While the British put the number of deaths at 379, Indians say that thousands of people were killed at the venue. Baisakhi is a spring-time festival celebrating the reaping of the agricultural produce.
“This was an important moment in the history of Britain in India. Many suggest it was the beginning of the end, a moment that finally emboldened the Independence Movement. It must be commemorated, and the British government should make clear its repudiation of such a barbaric act,” said Sharma, who is the Labour Party MP for Ealing Southall, according to the Press Trust of India.
The motion, and the call for apology, comes to the House as the centenary of the event approaches.
The massacre was called a “deeply shameful act” by former British Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to India in 2013.
Sharma was born in India in 1947, where he lived until 1968. He came to Hanwell, UK, in 1968 and started working as a bus conductor. He also studied at the London School of Economics. Sharma is the Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils.