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New Delhi: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the renovated Jallianwala Bagh complex on Saturday and pictures of the revamp were shared on social media, several people have criticised the government for turning the memorial into an “insult”.
Instead of a sombre memorial for those who lost their lives in the gruesome violence, they argue that the government has turned the memorial into a flashy site that does not take history seriously.
On April 13, 1919, British forces led by Reginald Dyer opened fire on peaceful protesters at Jallianwala Bagh, killing nearly 1,000 people. The site in Amritsar serves as a memorial for those who lost their lives. Now, after revamping parts of that memorial site, the government has drawn the ire of historians, politicians and others.
“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,” tweeted historian S. Irfan Habib.
Former Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Chaman Lal called it a “distortion of history”. “People visiting Jallianwala Bagh should go with a sense of pain and anguish. They have now tried to make it a space for enjoying, with a beautiful garden. It was not a beautiful garden,” Lal told The Hindu.
Kim A. Wagner, professor of history in London and author of Amritsar 1919 – An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre, tweeted that the renovation “means that the last traces of the event have effectively been erased”.
Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury to criticised the move, calling it an “insult to martyrs”. “Only those who stayed away from the epic freedom struggle can scandalise thus,” Yechury said.
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. https://t.co/KvYbl840qE
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) August 30, 2021
“I am the son of a martyr – I will not tolerate the insult of martyrs at any cost,” Gandhi said.
जलियाँवाला बाग़ के शहीदों का ऐसा अपमान वही कर सकता है जो शहादत का मतलब नहीं जानता।
मैं एक शहीद का बेटा हूँ- शहीदों का अपमान किसी क़ीमत पर सहन नहीं करूँगा।
हम इस अभद्र क्रूरता के ख़िलाफ़ हैं। pic.twitter.com/3tWgsqc7Lx
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 31, 2021
Several social media users from different walks of life too expressed their disappointment with the government’s decision.
Heartbreaking to see Jallianwala Bagh’s historic entrance permanently destroyed by way of renovation. Those walls told stories. Their plainness reminded Indian visitors of their own neighbourhoods, their own homes. https://t.co/CTn77e2omX
— Siddharth Singh (@siddharth3) August 29, 2021
Pic 1: what Jallianwala Bagh entrance was
Pic 2: what it is after renovation
Haven’t seen a more hideous transformation than this.
Worldwide, experts try to maintain the texture, color & feel of historic buildings, but in India, we like to make a Jhaanki out of everything. pic.twitter.com/GDAJWnFhLt
— Jas Oberoi | ਜੱਸ ਓਬਰੌਏ (@iJasOberoi) August 30, 2021
jallianwala bagh isn’t a place of celebration. it’s a place of mourning and of deep, abiding grief. the starkness of the bagh itself is a reminder of what happened there. what a mockery of everything it once represented.
— harnidh (@chiaseedpuddin) August 30, 2021
Grateful that I visited #JallianwalaBagh before this shameful desecration. When I went, it was packed, but there was a sombre silence in memoriam of those we’d lost. We wept at the sight of the bullet-holes in the plain walls. Can’t believe what this clueless govt. has done.
— VISHAL DADLANI (@VishalDadlani) August 30, 2021
The whole purpose of maintaining Jallianwala Bagh in its stark original form was to remind us of its horrors. The iconoclastic govt has no idea that revamping the whole place takes away all that and makes a travesty of the place
— Ajay Kamath (@ajay43) August 30, 2021