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Queen visits Jallianwalla Bagh

Attired in a checked peach dress, Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday spent 12 minutes at the Jallianwala Bagh complex and chose to express her regrets for the 1919 massacre by laying a floral wreath.

The Queen and her husband prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, jointly placed the wreath at the Flame of Liberty memorial and observed a minute's silence. The royal couple also signed a newly laid-out visitors book at the complex.

They were shown the well from which 120 bodies were fished out as well as the bullet marks on the outer walls of the complex. The queen took in everything with interest, but did not react.

Earlier, at a banquet which President K R Narayan hosted in New Delhi, she had described the Jallianwalla Bagh episode as a 'distressing example' of the 'difficult episodes in our past.'

"But history cannot be rewritten however much we might wish otherwise," she said.

The queen said that Indo-British ties can be summed as 'old friends and modern partners.' "We have taken what's good from the past to cooperate together for future.''

In Amritsar, the royal couple was given a rousing welcome. However, the police had to resort to a mild cane-charge outside Hall gate and round up 50 people belonging to various Leftist organisations who wanted an apology from the queen.

Another group of 150-odd protestors were rounded up at Novelty chowk on Lawrence road a few minutes before the queen's motorcade was to pass by.

Official sources said 97 protestors were altogether arrested.

The warm welcome accorded to the Queen, expectedly, sparked off a lot of criticisms in the city. The Association of Democratic Rights general secretary Jagmohan Singh (nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh), for instance, described it as an 'act of national shame'.

Surprisingly, the Jallianwalla Bagh Shaheed Parivar Samiti, who were the first to demand a public apology from the Queen, did not stage any demonstration -- they expressed themselves satisfied with the wreath which she placed at the memorial.

On her arrival at the Golden temple, the queen was warmly welcomed by the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee. A red carpet had been laid out for the royal couple from the spot where her car stopped to the Harmandir Sahib, the sanctum sanctorum.

Wearing white socks, she alighted from the bullet-proof car and made her entry into the shrine in SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra's company. Instead of moving in the customary clockwise direction, the queen and the duke moved the reverse way.

At the sanctum sanctorum, the royal couple did not kneel and bow their heads before the Guru Granth Sahib, as is the normal custom. Maintaining an upright posture, they bowed their heads before the holy book.

Golden Temple head priest Bhai Mohan Singh placed saffron siropas (robes of honour) around the shoulders of the queen and the dDuke.

The customary prasad offering was made by an SGPC official on behalf of the royal couple.

Outside the temple, Bent Singh Sandanwalia, who had issued many press statements claiming he was the descendant of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last Sikh monarch, presented a memorandum to the Queen.

The memorandum demanded that the mortal remains of Duleep Singh, who died in England, be handed over to him. Sandanwalia also wanted the king's prized possessions which, he said, were with the British be handed back.



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