On Wednesday, Sadiq Khan, the first Asian-origin mayor of London, appealed to the United Kingdom government to apologise formally for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by British Indian Army soldiers.
"The suggestion, coming from a British government functionary, was good and, if implemented, would go a long way in strengthening ties between India and United Kingdom, and perhaps, to some extent, assuaging the wounds of Indians who suffered the pain of the independence struggle", he said. In February 2013, on a visit to India, the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, described the massacre as "deeply shameful", falling short of a formal apology. It is time for the British government to finally apologize. It is thought that 379 people were killed, but the figure is still disputed.
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Almost 100 years later, it remains a controversial subject as many British dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, and former prime minister David Cameron, have visited Jallianwala Bagh to pay their respects. "This is about properly acknowledging what happened here and giving the people of Amritsar and India the closure they need through a formal apology", Khan told the media following his visit to Amritsar on Wednesday.
"I am clear that the government should now apologise, especially as we reach the centenary of the massacre". During a ceremonial visit to Jallianwala Bagh in 1997, Queen Elizabeth had chosen not to leave any comment in the visitors' book. "Although our two great countries now have a close relationship in business, culture, education and more, an apology from the British Government will go a long way in healing the wounds left by this very bad event".
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Earlier this morning in Amritsar, Sadiq Khan also visited Sri Harmandir Sahib, often known as The Golden Temple, which is the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism. "These courageous individuals sacrificed an enormous amount to defend the freedoms that we enjoy today and it is only right that there is a memorial in our capital city to honour the Sikhs who fought to preserve our freedoms", Khan said.
In October, Mayor Sadiq Khan, whose grandparents were born in India and parents migrated from Pakistan to United Kingdom, said he would visit India and Pakistan to promote the British capital as a destination of choice for trade and cultural ties. "I want to make it clear that a memorial should take pride of place in London to honour those who served and died in the wars". Sadiq is the first major British politician to embark on a trade mission to both countries in recent times.
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