apologising for jallianwala bagh massacre

Jallianwala Bagh at present. I took this picture in December 2013.

Today is the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Exactly a hundred years ago, on this day, Col. Reginald Dyer and his army shot down thousands of Sikhs gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi. At the time the House of Lords in England lauded his action; however, a year later, the House of Commons – probably more decent folks ­­– condemned it, and he was dismissed from the Army.

Now Jeremy Corbyn has asked Teresa May to apologise to the Sikh community. The Sikh Federation UK has asked for an apology too. Among Indians, Shashi Tharoor and an MP from Kerala, M.B.Rajesh, have brought up the issue in the Lok Sabha. That’s it, two people out of one billion plus people! There could be another five thousand people I haven’t heard about, but even that would be a small number!

What purpose does this apology serve? Churchill already called it “a monstrous event”, the Queen called it a “deeply shameful event in British history” when she visited Amritsar in 1997, and Cameron expressed “deep regret” in 2013. All of them have dutifully mouthed the words they were required to. Maybe they even felt a twinge of sadness because, after all, they are human beings. But it might be too much to expect them to relate to the sufferings of ‘natives’ whom they never understood in the first place.

What value can an apology have if it is grudgingly given, when a fine distinction is made between “deep regret” and an “apology” just to make it clear to the receiver that it is only a formality, not a heartfelt expression of empathy? Doesn’t it humiliate the receiver even more? I believe an apology can only be from actual perpetrator to actual victim, in the spirit of what Jews call teshuva, so an apology by present-day Brits, even if it were offered, would be redundant. You can’t ask for an apology; it has to well up in a truly contrite heart, and has to be expressed without needing a nudge from someone else.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was just one event, like the Bengal famine, India’s partition, the Boer War, the uprising in Kenya, the partition of Iraq and Syria, the decimation of the aborigines of Australia. . . etc. Truly, how many misdeeds can one country apologise for, especially when there is a very long list of them? They need to be getting on with their Brexit, not tendering apologies around the world for their sins! From their point of view, this is no time for a debate on the feelings of a small community belonging to a developing country. Teresa May has to keep her eyes on the Brexit ball if she doesn’t want Nicola Sturgeon to start the process of balkanisation of her country.

Sikhs are among the bravest people in the world. Our Indian Army is full of them. So was the British Army, by the way! It’s possible they were sent out as cannon fodder into WW1 & WW2 on the more dangerous expeditions. I mean I wouldn’t put that past the Brits of those times. The remains of Sardars are still being unearthed in Europe and are sometimes sent back to India to be laid to rest in a more befitting and respectful manner.

This is a Sikh prayer written by Guru Gobind Singhji himself, shared by a Sikh friend. All it asks for is courage. Not for food, not for wealth, not for forgiveness, not even for God’s protection! Just more courage to add to their stockpile of it. Tell me, who else says a prayer like this?


I wonder how far back in history we can go with this Apology Drama. Should France apologise to the British for the Norman Conquest of the 11th century? Should Italy apologise to them for the Roman atrocities of the 1st century CE? Should Scandinavians apologise to the Scots for the Vikings of the 9th century? The Portuguese have not apologised to me for torturing my forefathers through Francis Xavier’s Goa Inquisition in the 16th century, but it doesn’t matter. Honestly. If the Bible is right about the sins of the forefathers being visited upon their descendants, we can leave retribution in His hands and move on.











4 thoughts on “apologising for jallianwala bagh massacre

  1. Happy vaisakhi to all reading this.
    I am a Sikh myself and glad and surprised that a non Sikh has written about this.
    Recently newspapers have been reporting about an apology being asked for this massacre.
    So I have similar questions in my mind. The next of kin being apologised to is understandable and helpful. But a century later an apology asked for will be irrelevant. The British I’m sure are unhappy about what happened. And the House of Commons got Dyer out after a year.
    Let’s look closer to home. What about apologies for the Sikh Genocide in 1984 where relatives are still alive and suffering? Justice has not been provided yet.
    How about Godhra riots where both communities burnt?
    Let’s all unite to take mankind forward. Forgive and move ahead.


  2. I suppose jallianwala is long long ago, they should apologize for 1984.
    Survivors and eye witnesses are still alive and can re collect the trauma of those days


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