Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister and Congress veteran Capt Amarinder Singh Tuesday called the revamped Jallianwala Bagh memorial “nice”, contradicting the stand taken by party leader Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul had early Tuesday tweeted that the memorial was an “insult to the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh”.
“Such an insult to the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh can only be done by those who do not know the meaning of martyrdom,” he had tweeted. “I am the son of a martyr. I will not tolerate the insult of martyrs at any cost. We are against this indecent cruelty.”
जलियाँवाला बाग़ के शहीदों का ऐसा अपमान वही कर सकता है जो शहादत का मतलब नहीं जानता।
मैं एक शहीद का बेटा हूँ- शहीदों का अपमान किसी क़ीमत पर सहन नहीं करूँगा।
हम इस अभद्र क्रूरता के ख़िलाफ़ हैं। pic.twitter.com/3tWgsqc7Lx
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 31, 2021
He followed it up with another tweet, saying that “those who didn’t struggle for freedom can’t understand those who did”.
Those who didn’t struggle for freedom can’t understand those who did.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 31, 2021
But speaking to the media, on the sidelines of a function in Chandigarh, Amarinder appeared to suggest that he didn’t know what the fuss was all about.
Replying to a question on the changes made at the memorial, Amarinder said, “The incident happened 102 years ago. Over the years some things might have needed repair. I don’t know what has been removed. To me it looks very nice.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had virtually inaugurated the renovated memorial complex Saturday in the presence of the chief minister and former Punjab governor V.P. Singh Badnore.
Amarinder had during the inauguration made a brief speech, in which he said that the memorial “must serve as a reminder for the future generations about the right of the people to peaceful democratic protest”. The CM’s statement was seen as a veiled reference to the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws brought in by the Modi government.
A memorial under scanner
Since the revamp of the memorial, there has been severe criticism of the renovation and a sound and light show at the site, in which scores of unarmed protesters were massacred by British colonial forces in 1919.
The criticism has been widespread on social media, where the renovation has been termed hideous and a monstrosity.
Kim A. Wagner, a professor of Global and Imperial History at the Queen Mary University of London, who has written a book on the massacre, tweeted that “the last traces of the event have been effectively erased”.
“Amritsar Massacre of 1919, has been revamped — which means that the last traces of the event have effectively been erased,” Wagner tweeted. “This is what I wrote of the memorial in my book, describing a space that has now itself become history.”
Devastated to hear that Jallianwala Bagh, site of the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, has been revamped – which means that the last traces of the event have effectively been erased. This is what I wrote of the memorial in my book, describing a space that has now itself become history. pic.twitter.com/GypQfrOulq
— Kim A. Wagner (@KimAtiWagner) August 28, 2021
“Jallianwala Bagh memorial has been literally turned into an amusement park. I wonder how BJP is able to make these historical changes and that it only finds attention when the damage cannot be undone is wicked but also a gigantic failure on the media’s part,” tweeted another user.
Jallianwala Bagh memorial has been literally turned into an amusement park. I wonder how BJP is able to make these historical changes and that it only finds attention when the damage cannot be undone is wicked but also gigantic failure on media's part.
— UrbanShrink (@UrbanShrink) August 31, 2021
According to The Hindu, historians have said that the new-look Jallianwala Bagh is a distortion of history.
The memorial is under the control of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust of which Modi is the chairperson. It is maintained by the union ministry of culture. The renovation of the memorial was planned in 2019 to mark the centenary of the massacre.
Amarinder remarks amid divisions in Punjab Congress
The chief minister’s Jallianwala Bagh remarks come amid the ongoing battle for supremacy between him and state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Amarinder contradicting Rahul is being seen as a rebuff to the latter, who until recently appeared to be backing Sidhu.
The chief minister’s statement on the memorial is expected to give fresh arsenal to his detractors in the party.
“On the face of it, Amarinder’s remarks don’t seem based on any solid information. In fact, he seems to be totally unaware of the outrage on social media about the changes made to the memorial,” Chandigarh-based political analyst Dr Kanwalpreet Kaur said. “He also does not seem to know that his party has taken a view on it, especially after so many days of the inauguration. It happens quite often in the Congress that party leaders are not aware of what stand the high command is likely to take on any issue. They are thus faced with the tough task of facing questions from the media and often end up making contrary statements.”
“But given the situation in Punjab where the Congress is deeply divided into two distinct camps, Amarinder’s remarks are not going to be ignored, not just by the BJP but also his detractors within the party,” Kaur added.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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