Nearly 94 years after over 1,000 Indian protesters were killed in Jallianwalla Bagh during the British Raj, Prime Minister David Cameron described the incident as "deeply shameful" but stopped short of a public apology.
46-year-old Cameron, who is the first democratically elected British Prime Minister to visit the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre site, kneeled down while paying tribute to martyrs and observed one-minute silence with folded hands as a mark of respect.
Writing in the visitor's book of Jallianwalla Bagh,Cameron said, "This was a deeply shameful act in British history, one that Winston Churchill rightly described at that time as monstrous. We must never forget what happened here and we must ensure that the UK stands up for the right of peaceful protests around the world".
Some organisations had pressed for an apology from the British Premier during his visit to the site. Cameron's trip comes 16 years after Queen Elizabeth IIand her husband Prince Philip visited Amritisar in 1997.
He paid floral tributes to the martyrs of Jallianwalla Bagh. He also stood for a few seconds before the Amar Joyti (burning flame) at Jallianwalla Bagh where he bowed his head to show respect to the martyrs. He spent nearly 25 minutes in the park.
Indian media was kept at a distance during the visit of Cameron. Only photojournalists were allowed to click from a distance distance.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre had taken place in Amritsar on 13 April, 1919. On hearing that a meeting of 15,000 to 20,000 people was taking place at Jallianwala Bagh, Brigadier General Reginald E H Dyer had ordered 50 riflemen to shoot at the crowd.
Dyer kept the firing for about ten minutes, till the ammunition supply was almost exhausted with approximately 1,650 rounds fired that resulted in the killing of more than 1000 innocent Indians besides leaving more than 1100 injured.
"This was a deeply shameful act in British history. One that Winston Churchill rightly described at that time as monstrous. We must never forget what happened here and we must ensure that the UK stands up for the right of peaceful protests," Cameron wrote in the visitors' book of the memorial.
However, Cameron, who is the first British prime minister to visit the Jallianwala Bagh, did not offer any apology for the massacre.
The British prime minister earlier paid homage at the Jallianwala Bagh memorial, the site of the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children by British troops April 13, 1919,
Jallianwala Bagh massacre is one of the worst single atrocity of the British Empire .
Cameron laid wreath at the Jallianwala Bagh and wrote in the visitors’ book that the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh was a deeply shameful act in the British history.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre was described by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian independence movement, as having shaken the foundations of the British Empire.
Cameron also stood in silence for a minute before leaving. David Cameron today paid obeisance at the holiest shrine of
Sikh religion Golden Temple where he was presented a robe of honour.
Amid tight security arrangements, Cameron paid obeisance inside the sanctum sanctorum at 10:25 AM. Clad in a dark suit and a tie with head covered with a blue-coloured cloth, Cameron was presented a robe of honour inside the sanctum sanctorum of Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple.
The British Prime Minister also mingled with a couple of devotees and chatted with them for a brief period as Gurbani played in the backdrop.
This is the first visit by a high-profile British dignitary to Amritsar after 1997, when Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, had visited the holy City.
Inside the Temple, he was accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who earlier received the British dignitary at the Sri Guru Ram Dasji International Airport,Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) President Avtar
Singh Makkar, among others.
The British Prime Minister reached the Golden Temple at about 9:50 AM and spend nearly an hour inside.Before paying obeisance by bowing his head inside the sanctum sanctorum, the British leader was taken around the Temple by officials of the SGPC, apex religious body of the Sikhs, and was also shown Shri Guru Ram Dass Langar Hall.
Radical Sikh outfit Dal Khalsa has written to the British Prime Minister over various 'identity' issues faced by Sikhs worldwide.
Extending a warm welcome to Cameron and his delegation for visiting Darbar Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple, a
letter written by Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh, was sent through fax to British High Commissioner, Sir James Bevan KCMG at New Delhi.
"While some may like to see your visit to Golden Temple only as a compulsion of immigration politics, we consider it as a tactical recognition of Sikhs as a separate nation for which your team should be applauded," the letter said.
The letter also noted that due to the historical Anglo-Sikh connection, the British government owes it to the Sikhs to ensure that their fundamental rights are protected.
The letter has appealed to British PM to be helpful in resolving the identity problems of European Sikhs including turban ban in France.
Referring to the British Pod car that would make its presence in Amritsar transporting pilgrims from the city centre to the Golden Temple, as a significant example of continuing British interest in the state.
The Dal Khalsa has also suggested setting up a British Council Library here for the benefit of students in the state.