It’s too late to apologize…really?

Just some facts at first: the Amritsar-Massacre took place in 1919 in the city of Amritsar in India. British soldiers cruelly assassinated a crowd of people (Sikhs, muslims and hindus) demonstrating for more social and political rights and against injustice (e.g. for Indian veterans). In total, 379 people were killed and there were 1200 injured people.

In 2013, the British prime minister David Cameron visited Amritsar in order “to acknowledge what happened, to recall what happened, to show respect and understanding for what happened”.

Again: 379 people were killed, 1200 injured. Cameron wanted to show respect and give a great gesture. So… prepare for his “respect”:

“we are dealing with something here that happened a good 40 years before I was even born, and which Winston Churchill described as ‘monstrous’ at the time and the British government rightly condemned at the time. So I don’t think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologise for.”

Later on, he even tried to focus on the positive achievements of the British Empire, things “to be proud of”. You can call it whatever you want — in my view, Cameron’s attitude is tactless. Not only to not apologize for what the British soldiers did to the unarmed demonstrators, but then even to be proud of positive factors seems very outrageous.

In his speech, he referred to Churchill, who described the massacre as “monstrous”. He could have easily referred to more of Churchill’s words, for example from a speech in 1920 in a House of Commons debate:

“The crowd was unarmed […] When fire had been opened upon it to disperse it, it tried to run away. Pinned up in a narrow place considerably smaller than Trafalgar Square, with hardly any exits, and packed together so that one bullet would drive through three or four bodies, the people ran madly this way and the other. When the fire was directed upon the centre, they ran to the sides. The fire was then directed to the sides. Many threw themselves down on the ground, the fire was then directed down on the ground […].

He could have easily continued these words with an official apology. But in politics, it’s always a matter of diplomacy and an antinomy between admission and the own position and power. Humaneness seems to not always have its place in this discourse.

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