NEW DELHI: Britain’s prime minister laid a mourningwreath Wednesday at the site of a notorious 1919 massacre of hundreds of Indians by British colonial forces, calling the killings “ashameful event in British history.”
David Cameron was the first British prime minister to make a gesture of condolence at Jallianwala Bagh in the northwest city of Amritsar, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology for his country’s actions 94 years earlier.
“This is a deeply shameful event in British history — one thatWinston Churchill rightly described at the time as ‘monstrous,'” Cameron wrote in the visitors’ book at the site. “We must never forget what happened here. And in remembering we must realize that the United Kingdom stands for the right of peaceful protest around the world.”
The park was the site of an attack by British colonial troops on unarmed Indians attending a rally calling for independence. More than 300 Indians were killed during the massacre, which galvanized the national independence movement and marked the beginning of the end of Britain’s rule over the Indian subcontinent.
Queen Elizabeth II visited the same site in 1997 and laid a wreath there. She called the killings “distressing.”
Cameron’s visit to Amritsar came at the end of his trip to India. The trip was aimed at boosting trade and investment between the two countries in the areas of energy, infrastructure, insurance, banking and retail.