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Jallianwala Bagh massacre: the campaign goes on

Justice is still sought for the 1,500 unarmed civilians shot by the British army in 1919, writes AMARJITE SINGH

WITH the crisis in the Tory Party over Brexit and Theresa May finally falling on her sword, the campaign on the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre may have slipped temporarily from public view.

But the campaign has not slackened. New productive work is the order of the day.

Documentaries have been on television and articles by politicians in the mainstream press. In Britain, the Punjab Times and the Urdu Times have both carried features, along with the Times of India in its Indian and British editions.

All these papers circulate widely among Asian communities in other parts of the world, particularly in Canada.

The Centenary Committee maintains its active part in the campaign, with new members and branches joining in Manchester, Bradford and London.

Well-attended meetings have been held in major cities, and exhibitions and cultural events are scheduled.

The Centenary Committee is taking several new initiatives — for one, collecting signatures on a public petition calling for a formal apology.

It has also issued a statement of support for mosques, Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras to sign.

This has met with a large, positive response. We hope to present the statement of support to 10 Downing Street in September.

Approaches to the Labour movement have been stepped up. The CWU and GMB conferences both passed motions of support with action points; the National Trades Council Conference did similar, with action planned including getting the TUC on board; the NEU has welcomed our proposals on adapting the school teaching curriculum to take in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and other similar atrocities in the history of the British empire, and an exchange of ideas is on the agenda.

In the Welsh Assembly, a statement of opinion is now collecting signatures — approximately a quarter have already signed.

A motion goes to the STUC Black Workers’ Conference in October, which in part aims to prompt the STUC into approaching Scottish Parliament MPs for individual support and for the Parliament to take up the need for a formal apology from the Westminster Parliament.

At the September TUC Congress in Brighton, a fringe meeting has already been organised.

The centenary demand will now be aimed at the next Tory prime minister. Looking at the candidates, prospects may look bleak — but no-one is giving up, having travelled this far.

If the Tory Party response, like Brexit, remains in limbo, a general election can only be welcomed.

The Labour opposition has given strong unequivocal backing to the campaign. The new Tory PM’s “sincerity” will be challenged persistently by our campaign for a formal apology.

Whatever the political colour of the government, a long-term change of attitudes and culture is called for. Will a formal apology help contribute to a “new atmosphere” within society?

Can it be translated into people seeing international relations as co-operation, instead of policies of tension, bullying and confrontation?

Amarjite Singh is secretary of South East Wales CWU branch.


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