The Labour Party has promised to tender a ‘formal apology’ on behalf of the British government for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and hold a ‘public review’ into the UK’s role in the 1984 Operation Bluestar if it is voted to power in the December 12 elections, report agencies.
Releasing the party’s manifesto on Thursday, party leader Jeremy Corbyn set out an ambitious plan to shake-up the status quo that, according to him, benefits the rich and wealthy, and bring about real change for the common people. In the centenary year of the massacre, the British government confined itself to expressing ‘deep regret’, despite facing any calls for a formal apology, but senior functionaries have since insisted that the issue is ‘work in progress’ and may well happen before the year ends.
The manifesto promises that besides the apology, the party’s government would hold a ‘public review’ into ‘Britain’s role in the Amritsar massacre’, referring to Operation Bluestar in Amritsar. In the 2017 manifesto, it had promised an ‘independent inquiry’ into the role. The issue blew up in 2014 when declassified files suggested that the Margaret Thatcher government provided advice to the Indira Gandhi government before the operation. A section of the Sikh community in the UK has since been demanding an independent inquiry into Britain’s role.
The 107-page manifesto alleged that the Conservative party had failed to play a constructive role in resolving what it called “the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises, including Kashmir”. However, the manifesto did not elaborate on its perspective on Kashmir. An emergency resolution passed at Labour’s annual conference in September had called for international intervention in Kashmir, which riled New Delhi and the increasingly assertive 1.5 million-strong Indian community in the UK.
The party has since faced a backlash from the community, with sections campaigning in social networks against voting for Labour, which has long been the natural party of preference for the community, but has been haemorrhaging support to the Conservatives in recent elections.
The British Indian vote is estimated to be significant in 15 constituencies in which Asians, including Indians, constitute over 40 per cent of the population, 46 constituencies in which they constitute over 20 per cent, and 122 constituencies where they number over 10pc. The manifesto also promised a full apology to black and Asian soldiers who fought in Britain’s colonial armies and explore ways to compensate them for the discriminatory demobilisation payments they received compared to their white counterparts serving at the same rank in the same regiments.
The manifesto adds: “We will work through the UN and the Commonwealth to insist on the protection of human rights for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil and Muslim populations. Internationalism is at the core of the Labour movement. We recognise our responsibility to confront injustices we see today and to correct the injustices of the past”.