DEDICATING the renovated Jallianwala Bagh Smarak Complex to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Saturday that it was a country’s responsibility to preserve its history “as it gives us lessons and a direction to move forward”. In his virtual address, he also referred to the Centre’s recent move to observe August 14 as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, and said, “India witnessed another horror like the Jallianwala Bagh during Partition — the people of Punjab have been the biggest victims of Partition. We still feel the pain of what happened in every corner of India, especially in the families of Punjab.”
Touching upon the ongoing Afghanistan crisis, the PM said: “Today, if Indians are in trouble anywhere in the world, India stands up to help them with all its might. Be it the Corona period or the crisis of Afghanistan, the world has experienced this. Hundreds of friends from Afghanistan are being brought to India under Operation Devi Shakti,” Modi said, adding that due to “Guru kripa (blessings)”, the swaroop of Guru Granth Sahib were also brought back safely.
He said laws have been made taking inspiration from the teachings of Gurus. “Keeping the lessons in humanity given by Gurus in the forefront, the country has made new laws for the people who have suffered,” he said, in an apparent reference to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, that eases citizenship for minorities like Sikhs from neighbouring countries.
With families of martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre present, the PM talked about how, to mark 75 years of Indian Independence, ‘Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ was being celebrated, with freedom fighters being honoured in every village and places associated with the freedom struggle seeing a revamp, including Jallianwala Bagh. He also said efforts were on to celebrate national heroes whose sacrifices had been forgotten, like those belonging to the tribal community. Work was currently underway in museums to showcase the contribution of tribal freedom fighters in nine states, Modi said.
With elections in Punjab due early next year, Modi listed the steps taken by the Centre to take the legacy of the Gurus to the youth — turning Sultanpur Lodhi into a heritage town, the Kartarpur corridor, air connectivity of Punjab with other countries, interconnectivity of places related to the Sikh gurus and development of the Anandpur Sahib, Fatehgarh Sahib, Chamkaur Sahib, Ferozepur, Amritsar, Khatkar Kalan, Kalanour and Patiala heritage circuit.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said the Smarak as well as the state government’s Jallianwala Bagh centenary memorial remind leaders of the inalienable right of people to conduct peaceful democratic protests, which could not be stifled. The state has been seeing protests for nearly a year now on the Centre’s farm laws, with the Modi government virtually closing doors on them.
The CM said his government had constituted a special research team to continue work on a memorial it had built for unknown martyrs in Amritsar.
Singh also urged the PM to bring back the personal effects of Shaheed Udham Singh from the United Kingdom. Udham Singh had assassinated Michael O’ Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab in India, as revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.