April 24, 2024
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Boris Johnson is being pressured to apologise for a massacre in India during the colonial era

When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Gujarat today, 100 years after up to 1,200 people were killed protesting against colonial rule, he will face calls to apologise for the massacre.

Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the Pal-Dadhvav massacre, when 2,000 tribal people led by social reformer Motilal Tejawat gathered to protest exploitation, forced labour, and high taxes, according to historians.

British Major HG Sutton, according to the Gujarat government, ordered his troops to open fire. “The entire area was filled with corpses, like a battlefield,” it said. It went on to say that two wells were “overflowing with bodies.”

The killings were depicted as the “untold story of bravery and sacrifice of the tribals” on the state’s official float at this year’s annual Republic Day parade, according to a statement that put the death toll at 1,200.

Mr Johnson, who has been chastised over Downing Street parties during the coronavirus pandemic, arrives in Ahmedabad, the state’s largest city, today to begin a two-day visit to India.

“These killings occurred during British rule, so if the British Prime Minister comes here, he must apologise,” Mr Tejawat’s grandson Mahendra told AFP.

“My grandfather was just running a campaign for the poor, harmless, and illiterate tribals,” the 77-year-old continued.

“If he believes what happened to the defenceless tribals was wrong, he must express regret.”

Mr Johnson’s portraits lined the streets of Delhi in the days leading up to his visit.

However, the legacies of colonial rule have long coloured relations between Britain and India, when London saw the world’s second-most populous nation as the jewel in its empire’s crown, but hundreds of millions of Indians resented its rule.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasises the independence struggle as an important part of India’s national identity on a regular basis. The Modi government has erected massive statues of key independence leaders and established a museum in the Red Fort dedicated to one of them.

PM Modi is a former Gujarat Chief Minister, during whose tenure a memorial to the massacre victims was built.

However, Arun Vaghela, the head of the history department at Gujarat University, is sceptical that the British Prime Minister will address the issue.

Journalist Vishnu Pandya, author of a Gujarati-language book on revolutionary sites in the state, has gathered many oral accounts of the killings from the tribal community, where the incident is described in multiple folk songs, according to him.

“The British Prime Minister who is coming here wasn’t even born at the time,” he said, “and he would have no knowledge of the incident.” “What has been done is done; it is history, and we must look forward.”

Picture Courtesy: Google/Images are subject to copyright

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