The renovation of Jallianwala Bagh, where more than 1,000 Hindus and Sikhs died 102 years ago and created one of the darkest chapters in Indian history, has sparked a wave of outrage and criticism of the government on social media. Most of the criticism centered on the high-tech galleries that replaced the grim, unadorned passageway through which General Dyer had led his men and ordered them to open fire on the thousands of men and women who staged peaceful protests on the day of Baisaki.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had opened the renovated complex on Saturday and said it is the country’s duty to protect its history.
Many people on social media have accused the government of destroying history in the name of renovation. Others argued that politicians rarely have a sense of history.
“This is the privatization of monuments, where they end up as modern structures and lose their heritage value. Take care of them without interfering with the flavors of the period these memorials represent,” tweeted historian S Irfan Habib.
The sharpest criticism to date has come from CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, who said, “Only those who stayed away from the epic freedom struggle can make such a scandal”.
Insulting our martyrs.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs who gathered for Baisakhi strengthened our freedom struggle.
Every stone here imbued the horror of British rule.
Only those who stayed away from the epic freedom struggle can make such a scandal. https://t.co/KvYbl840qE
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) August 30, 2021
Congress also criticized the government, citing the history of the right wing in India.
What the hell is wrong with this man? What’s so festive about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that you need a light and sound show there? But I mean, how can we expect those who colluded with the British to understand the horrors of this day. https://t.co/wtZo24yzFv
— Hasiba | حسيبة (@HasibaAmin) August 30, 2021
“Devastated to hear that Jallianwala Bagh, site of the 1919 Amritsar massacre, has been renewed – meaning the last traces of the event have been effectively erased. This is what I wrote about the memorial in my book, which is a space describes that has now itself become history,” tweeted historian Kim A. Wagner.
Speaking at the opening of the renovated complex on Saturday, Prime Minister Modi said horrors such as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Partition speak of the sacrifices made for India’s freedom and should not be forgotten.
“It is not right for any country to ignore such horrors from its past,” he said, noting that August 14 is now celebrated as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.
He had also tweeted a preview of the lights installed in the complex.
Join the inauguration of the renovated complex of Jallianwala Bagh Smarak today at 6:25 PM. I also invite you to come and see the sound and light show. It would show the horrific massacre of April 1919 and inspire a spirit of gratitude and reverence for the martyrs. pic.twitter.com/p2BDHUbXAJ
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 28, 2021
“At a time when we celebrate Amrut Mahotsav, we should strengthen the foundation of our nation and be proud of it,” the prime minister said.