Shashi Tharoor: Jalianwala Bagh centenary, a good time for British to apologize

Kolkata: Congress MP and author Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the Jalianwala Bagh centenary in 2019 will be a “good time” for the British to apologise to the Indians for wrongs committed during their rule.

The former diplomat, who was speaking on his book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire In India before inaugurating the Kolkata Literary Festival-2017 here, said, “Either the British Prime Minister or a member of the royal family can come and convey their own profound apologies to the people of India, not just for that atrocity (Jallianwala Bagh massacre) but for all wrongs done during the empire.”

“Why not use that opportunity ? … that would be a very fine gesture because after all the wrongs were done in the name of the Crown,” he said.

According to him it’s never too late to admit. “But the fact is that what the British have done is opposite,” he said

“They (British) have brushed it under the carpet. There is a certain historical amnesia. You are finding it in the way in which the British are relating to their own colonial past and on top of that, a lot of romanticising of the empire — a lot of self justification is taking place, including, British historians today, who praise the empire as a good thing,” Tharoor said.

“I am concerned, what is to my mind the best thing to do is to seek a certain atonement, which in the case of the British they have never apologised to the people of India for what was done here for 200 years. There are a couple of examples I have mentioned in the preface of the book,” he said.

He gave the example of the Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who apologised for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident where hundreds of Hindu, Sikh and Mulsim immigrants were denied entry into Canada and turned away from the port of Vancouver to return to an uncertain and ultimately violent fate in India. Tharoor said, “London would not look like London today without the resources that were looted from India and from the other colonies.”

He said his latest book was prompted by his speech at the Oxford University in 2015. “The speech itself, to be earnest was sparked-off by Oxford Union debate choosing a topic about Britain owning reparations to former colonies.”

“Reparations particularly were not of great interest to me in the sense that I don’t think you can calculate the loss and damage done in any reasonable terms today,” he said.

“Any sum that is credible to make up for the damage and the loot would not be payable and any sum that is payable would not be credible,” Tharoor said.

“Once an act of atonement has taken place we can be more free to concentrate on today’s relationship, which is after all a relationship of sovereign equals today,” he explained.