Historians, politicians and academics have slammed the BJP-led government at the Centre for desecrating the Jallianwala Bagh monument in Punjab in the name of renovation. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that he would not tolerate this ‘insult’ to martyrs since he himself was a martyr’s son.
Gandhi tweeted, “Only those people can insult the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh, who do not know the meaning of martyrdom. I am a martyr’s son and will not tolerate the insult to martyrs at any cost. We are against this indecent cruelty.”
In his subsequent tweet, Gandhi wrote, “Those who didn’t struggle for freedom can’t understand those who did.”
The renovation of the historic monument in Amritsar and its grand opening with an extravagant light and sound show evoked considerable anger from netizens and non-BJP politicians. CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury tweeted, “Insulting our martyrs. Jallianwala Bagh massacre of Hindus Muslims Sikhs who gathered together for Baisakhi galvanised our freedom struggle. Every brick here permeated the horror of British rule. Only those who stayed away from the epic freedom struggle can scandalise thus.”
Historian Irfan Habib tweeted, “This is corporatisation of monuments, where they end up as modern structures, losing the heritage value. Look after them without meddling with the flavours of the period these memorials represent.”
Another historian, Kim A Wagner, wrote Twitter, “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.”
Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted, “The pain was real, the loss was immense, the tragedy was unforgettable. Sometimes the places evoke pain&serve as a reminder to what we lost&what we fought for. Trying to ‘beautify’ or ‘modify’ those memories is doing great damage to our collective history. #JallianwalaBagh.”
This was after renovated photos of the monument’s entrance showed how the Modi government had completely changed the route taken by General Dyer before massacring hundreds of unarmed Indian freedom fighters. The entrance in its original avatar made visitors feel the pain and horror of the massacre of innocent Indians by a cruel British general. This has now been replaced with unnecessary decoration and construction of too many statues.
Modi had tweeted a video of the light and sound show last week announcing the inauguration of the renovated monument.