NEW DELHI/AMRITSAR (IANS) — As the nation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of innocent Indians by British forces at the Jallianwala Bagh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, and Congress president Rahul Gandhi April 13 paid tributes to the martyrs.
"A 100 years ago today, our beloved freedom fighters were martyred at Jallianwala Bagh. A horrific massacre, a stain on civilization, that day of sacrifice can never be forgotten by India," Kovind tweeted.
"India pays tributes to all those martyred on that fateful day. Their valor and sacrifice will never be forgotten. Their memory inspires us to work even harder to build an India they would be proud of," Modi said.
Gandhi along with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu were joined by people in large numbers who gathered at the national memorial in Amritsar to pay homage to hundreds of men and woman who were gunned down by British troops on April 13, 1919.
On April 12, hundreds of people, including students, residents and visitors, held a candlelight vigil in Amritsar.
April 13 marked the 100th anniversary of the bloodbath, when British forces led by Brigadier General Reginald Dyer opened fire on unarmed, innocent Indians, including children, who were present at a gathering protesting peacefully against the oppressive Rowlatt Act of the British government.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre is one of the darkest chapters of India's freedom struggle against the British occupation. The official death toll by the British government was put at 379.
The British government, even after 100 years, has only regretted the massacre but stopped short of apologizing for the killing of so many innocent people.
Rejecting the regret expressed by British Prime Minister Theresa May as "inadequate,” Chief Minister Amarinder Singh April 12 demanded "an unequivocal official apology from Britain.”
Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu arrived here later for the main function commemorating the massacre. He stood in silence a the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial as contingents of the Punjab Police and Border Security Force reversed their arms to pay homage to those killed on April 13, 1919. He also released a coin and a postal stamp to commemorate the event.
Gandhi arrived here late April 12 and visited the Golden Temple and offered prayers at the Akal Takht.
Members of the film industry including Amitabh Bachchan, Sunny Deol, Bhumi Pednekar and others also paid tributes to the martyrs. Remembering the horrific incident, Bachchan tweeted: “Jallianwala Bagh centenary. In remembrance of the merciless killings by the British and the resolve to rid India of British Colonial rule.”
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner Sir Dominic Asquith April 13 expressed deep regret and sorrow but remained non-committal on any apology coming from the British government on the brutal killings.
"We deeply regret what happened," the British High Commissioner said in his remarks in the Visitor's Book at the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial here. Asquith paid floral tributes at the memorial.
On the issue of an apology by his government, Asquith evaded a direct response to the media: "I know this is a really important question. I would just ask you to respect what I came here to do which was to commemorate those who died here a 100 years ago – to express the sorrow of the British government and the British people."
"What happened 100 years ago was a tragedy. Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Parliament this week referred to it as a 'shameful scar' in our history.
"Her predecessor, Prime Minister David Cameroon, when he visited India, referred to it as a deeply shameful scar. My own great grandfather, who was prime minister for almost a decade, in 1960 referred to this as one of the worst outrages in our whole history," he said, adding that both governments (Britain and India) are committed to the flourishing relationship (between both countries)," he said.
"Today we remember with deep sorrow those who were killed on April 13, 1919 and regret the suffering caused," Asquith also tweeted.