Boris Johnson is being pressured to apologise for a massacre in India during the colonial era.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

When visiting Gujarat today, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be asked to apologise for a colonial-era massacre in which up to 1,200 people died fighting imperial control.
The Pal-Dadhvav massacre occurred 100 years ago this month, when 2,000 tribal people led by social reformer Motilal Tejawat assembled to protest exploitation, forced labour, and exorbitant taxes.

British Major HG Sutton allegedly ordered his troops to fire. “It was like a battlefield,” it claimed. “Bodies overflowed” two wells, it said. ‘The untold story of bravery and sacrifice of the tribals’ was depicted on this year’s official state float at the annual Republic Day parade. Mr Johnson, who has been criticised over Downing Street parties during the coronavirus pandemic, arrives in Ahmedabad today for a two-day visit.

“If the British Prime Minister comes here, he must apologise,” Mahendra Tejawat, Mr Tejawat’s grandson, told AFP. “He must apologise if he thinks what happened to the tribals was wrong.” Before his visit, Mr Johnson’s portraits were all over Delhi.

But colonial legacy has long coloured British-Indian ties, when London considered India as the crown jewel of its empire, but hundreds of millions of Indians chafed under its power. Modi frequently highlights the independence fight as an important part of India’s national identity. One of the important freedom leaders has a museum dedicated to him in the Red Fort.

Former Gujarat Chief Minister Modi oversaw the construction of a memorial to the massacre victims. But Arun Vaghela, dean of Gujarat University’s history department, doubts Cameron will address the matter. He said villagers still find old bullets in trees and skeletons in deep wells where individuals tried to flee 20 years ago.

No murdering government, British or elsewhere, ever reveals and acknowledges the number of people it has killed. The death toll, according to Mr Vaghela, exceeds that of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, which overshadowed the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s state visit to India in 1997.

And for some, it’s time to go. The incident is detailed in many folk ballads, according to journalist Vishnu Pandya, author of a Gujarati-language book on revolutionary places in the state. At that time, British Prime Minister David Cameron wasn’t even born,” he said. “What’s done is done; we must move on.”


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ZZED Reporter

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