Prince Philip kicks up another storm
The British royal couple's visit to Jallianwala Bagh stirred another storm with Prince Philip's controversial statements on Tuesday.
Walking by the ''Flame of Liberty'', a memorial to unarmed men, women and children who succumbed to General Reginald Dyer's tyranny on April 1, 1919, Prince Philip reportedly said the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy was ''vastly exaggerated''.
Ignoring the feelings of shock and dismay writ large on the faces of Indians officials and dignitaries accompanying him, the pince dropped another bombshell by saying that he had virtually obtained the ''facts'' from the horse's mouth. No, not General Dyer himself who was unrepentent about the tragedy. But his son who was the prince's colleague in the Canadian army.
What was even more shocking was the royal couple's attitude. Ignoring repeated requests that the British should express regret -- if not apology -- for the massacre, Queen Elizabeth II maintained stoic silence. In the visitors's book at the memorial, she merely wrote, ''Elizabeth R October 14, 1997.''
Did the more ''vocal'' prince make up for his wife's shortcomings? Refusing to make any comments, he said, ''I would follow her footsteps having lived with her for 50 years.''
The royal couple, according to reports, also ensured that no gestures would be made that would show their ''remorse'' for the massacre. That is putting it rather mildly.
Reports said that the couple showed their ''arrogance'' even at the Golden Temple, where they refused to eat the prasad offered in the sanctum sanctorum. Equally shocking was their conduct while receiving mementoes from Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra. The couple remained seated even as the Indian dignitaries stood up to hand over an exquite model of the shrine to the queen and a gold-plated sword to the prince.
As tales of the couple's ''disgusting behaviour'' spread, the police had a tough time controlling the protestors who have been demanding an official apology for the massacre.
The police had to cane a crowd of Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninst activists at Lawrence Road in Amritsar. ''Queen go back,'' the crowd, displaying black flags, screamed.
The police took several protestors, including those belonging to the Association for Democratic Rights led by Shaheed Bhagat Singh's nephew, Professor Jagmohan Singh, into custody.
Expressing shock that ''we have learned no lessons from history'', Professor Singh said, ''It is sad that democratic protests can be suppressed at the very place which is so central to our struggle for freedom.''
Several others were shocked that the couple had raked up another controversy hours after the queen bought peace by terming the massacre a ''distressing example'' of the ''difficult episodes in our past''. The remarks prompted the Jallianwala Bagh Shaeed Parivar Samitee to withdraw their agitation at the memorial. According to Samitee chief Bushan Behl, this is ''nothing short of atoning for the wrongs done by the British in India''.
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