Cameron feels ashamed for Jallianwala Bagh massacre but doesn’t say sorry
Amritsar: Nearly 94 years after over 1,000 Indian protesters were killed in Jallianwalla Bagh during the British Raj, Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday described the incident as "deeply shameful" but stopped short of a public apology.
46-year-old Cameron, who is the first democratically elected British Prime Minister to visit the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre site, kneeled down while paying tribute to martyrs and observed one-minute silence with folded hands as a mark of respect.
Writing in the visitor's book of Jallianwalla Bagh, Cameron said, "This was a deeply shameful act in British history, one that Winston Churchill rightly described at that time as monstrous. We must never forget what happened here and we must ensure that the UK stands up for the right of peaceful protests around the world".
Some organisations had pressed for an apology from the British Premier during his visit to the site.
Cameron's trip comes 16 years after Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip visited Amritisar in 1997.
He paid floral tributes to the martyrs of Jallianwalla Bagh. He also stood for a few seconds before the Amar Joyti (burning flame) at Jallianwalla Bagh where he bowed his head to show respect to the martyrs. He spent nearly 25 minutes in the park.
Indian media was kept at a distance during the visit of Cameron. Only photojournalists were allowed to click from a distance distance.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre had taken place in Amritsar on 13 April, 1919. On hearing that a meeting of 15,000 to 20,000 people was taking place at Jallianwala Bagh, Brigadier General Reginald E H Dyer had ordered 50 riflemen to shoot at the crowd.
Dyer kept the firing for about ten minutes, till the ammunition supply was almost exhausted with approximately 1,650 rounds fired that resulted in the killing of more than 1000 innocent Indians besides leaving more than 1100 injured.
Earlier, Cameron paid obeisance at the Golden Temple where he was presented a robe of honour.
Clad in a dark suit and a tie with head covered with a blue-coloured cloth, Cameron was presented a robe of honour inside the sanctum sanctorum of Harmandir Sahib.
The British Prime Minister also mingled with a couple of devotees and chatted with them for a brief period as Gurbani played in the backdrop.
Inside the Temple, he was accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who earlier received the British dignitary at the Sri Guru Ram Dasji International Airport, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) President Avtar Singh Makkar, among others.
The British Prime Minister reached the Golden Temple at about 9:50 am and spent nearly an hour inside.
Cameron had his hands folded for a brief period as he paid obeisance inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple, which attracts a large number of devotees cutting across faiths from different parts of the world.
Before paying obeisance, he was taken around the Temple by officials of the SGPC, apex religious body of the Sikhs, and was also shown Shri Guru Ram Dass Langar Hall.
Around 3,000 police personnel from six districts were deployed along with other forces, as part of the tight security arrangements for his visit.