Pat McFadden MP coordinates cross party letter calling for an apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Pat McFadden MP

 As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, Pat McFadden has coordinated a cross party letter to the Government, calling for an official apology.

This letter has support from more than 80 MPs from different parties, including Labour, Conservative, SNP and DUP members.

When speaking in the recent Westminster Hall debate, Pat stated ‘it shouldn’t take 100 years to say sorry for such a terrible crime, but saying sorry 100 years on is better than not saying sorry at all.

Please find the text of the letter below:

The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street

100th Anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Amritsar

Dear Jeremy,

We are writing to you on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in April 1919.  You will be familiar with the facts of this terrible day, when General Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on an unarmed crowd of thousands of people in the Jallianwalla garden.  They were in an enclosed space, surrounded almost entirely by walls. The official estimate is that 379 innocent people were killed, with three or four times that number wounded, though other estimates say the numbers of dead and injured were much higher.

A few months after the massacre, speaking in the House of Commons on 8th July 1919 Churchill, who was Secretary of State for War at the time referred to the massacre as “the slaughter of nearly 400 persons and the wounding of probably three to four times as many, at the Jallian Wallah Bagh on 13th April. 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.”

Churchill went on to describe in graphic, horrific detail what had happened, “The crowd was unarmed, except with bludgeons. It was not attacking anybody or anything. It was holding a seditious meeting. When fire had been opened upon it to disperse it, it tried to run away. Pinned up in a narrow place considerably smaller than Trafalgar Square, with hardly any exits, and packed together so that one bullet would drive through three or four bodies, the people ran madly this way and the other. When the fire was directed upon the centre, they ran to the sides. The fire was then directed to the sides. Many threw themselves down on the ground, the fire was then directed down on the ground. This was continued for 8 to 10 minutes, and it stopped only when the ammunition had reached the point of exhaustion.”

When Prime Minister David Cameron visited the site in 2013 he described the events as “deeply shameful” but stopped short of an official apology.  We believe that the approach of the 100th anniversary of this event provides an opportunity to go further and to issue an official apology. A debate in Westminster Hall on 9th April also saw cross party support for an apology.

Some might ask, why just this atrocity?  Why not others?  Yet it is never a good argument to say that because you cannot do everything, you should do nothing.  “What aboutery” is not a good reason to avoid doing the right thing.  This was an event which stands out in history and which has caused real and lasting pain both in India and among UK citizens with family roots in India.

Relations between the UK and India today are friendly and constructive.  Yet that does not mean an apology would not do good.  It would be a recognition, 100 years on, of the terrible nature of what happened at Jallianwala Bagh.

We hope that on the 100th anniversary of the massacre the Government will consider this call for an apology anew.  We cannot turn back time or erase the past, but we can take steps to recognise what happened and to respond in a way that befits a modern relationship between two countries which today enjoy normal and positive diplomatic relations.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP
Wolverhampton South East

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