Jallianwala centenary: Commemoration to be low-key
Amritsar: As this Sikh holy city gets down to commemorate 100 years of the worst incident in the history of pre-independent India, the shadow of the Lok Sabha elections has definitely forced the commemoration of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre to be a low-key affair.
Just hours before the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the poll schedule for the 2019 General Election on March 10, big advertisements in newspapers were released over a month in advance by the state governments, Chief Ministers, political leaders and departments of the Central government regarding the Jallianwala Bagh incident centenary.
This was because the EC’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force on March 10 itself and the political leaders knew that they will not be able to issue advertisements with their names at the cost of the public exchequer later.
Voting for the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab will take place on May 19 in the seventh and last phase of the 2019 General Elections.
Last week, given the importance of the 100 year commemoration, the EC conveyed its approval to allow the Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, MPs, MLAs and any other political personalities to participate in the commemoration function.
“Under no circumstances, it should become a platform for political campaign/political mileage,” the EC said in its order regarding this event.
“They should confine themselves to extolling the achievements of the martyrs, glory of the Indian state and so on,” Punjab Chief Electoral Officer S. Karuna Raju made it clear.
Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden in Amritsar and houses the martyrs’ memorial which was established in 1951 to commemorate the massacre of hundreds of unarmed and peaceful protestors, including women and children, by British forces led by Brigadier General Reginald Dyer on April 13, 1919.
The memorial is managed by the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust. The Prime Minister is the chairman of the Trust.
In February this year, the Punjab Assembly unanimously passed a resolution to mount pressure on the centre for seeking a formal apology from the British government “for one of the worst ever bloodbaths in the world”.
The Assembly resolution stated that “an apology for the massacre would be a befitting tribute to the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh during its centenary year”.
“It was a dastardly act perpetrated upon the innocent people who had converged at the Jallianwala Bagh on the fateful day of Baisakhi on April 13, 1919, to protest against Rowlatt Act of the Imperial rulers,” the resolution said.
A recently-released researched book “Jallianwala Bagh, 1919 – The Real Story” by author and columnist Kishwar Desai indicated that the British rulers of that time were unnerved by the unrest in Punjab in general, and Amritsar in particular, which led them to do something which could “teach a lesson” to the citizens.
“Prior to the killings at Jallianwala Bagh, there had been signs of increasing unrest in Punjab. These signs were being interpreted as sedition, even though causes of the unrest were varied. Indeed, it is impossible to understand what happened on April 13, 1919 without an examination of the barbarism unleashed in Punjab under the regime of the then Lieutenant Governor Sir Michael O’Dwyer to suppress the so-called rebellion,” Desai, who is the chair of The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust that set up the world’s first ‘Partition Museum’ at Amritsar’s Town Hall, pointed out in her book.
Residents here will be organizing events on Saturday (April 13) to commemorate the massacre and pay tribute to hundreds of innocent people killed at the Bagh, which is located close to the holiest of Sikh shrines – ‘Harmandir Sahib’ (popularly known as Golden Temple).