Sunday, March 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India





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Kalam keen to meet Jallianwala survivor
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

The 107-year-old Bapu Shingara Singh
The 107-year-old Bapu Shingara Singh (C), the sole survivor of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, recalls the gory incident in Amritsar on Saturday. President APJ Abul Kalam will honour Bapu Shingara Singh during his visit to the holy city on Sunday. Photo Rajiv sharma 

Amritsar, March 22
Time has not healed his wounds. The memories about the holocaust of Jallianwala Bagh are still fresh in the mind of the 107-year-old Bapu Shingara Singh, the sole survivor of the massacre. The President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, wants to meet the old man to have a first-hand information about the massacre of hundreds of innocent Indians at the hands of General Dyer on Baisakhi of 1919 during his first proposed visit here tomorrow.

The old man who had sustained bullet injury on his right arm during the massacre has decided to take up the neglect of the national memorial with the visiting President tomorrow. Talking to TNS, Bapu Shingara Singh said the Jallianwala Bagh had played as catalyst in the freedom struggle. He also had a chance to meet the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

The NDA government has failed to give any attention to the memorial as Ms Sonia Gandhi, Congress President, was the Chairman of the Jallianwala Bagh National Trust Memorial. Now the Union Cabinet has decided to amend the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust Act to replace Ms Gandhi there by to enable the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Cultural Minister and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha to become permanent members of the trust.

However, Mr R.L. Bhatia, veteran Congress MP and Chairman of the local management committee opposed the move to remove Ms Sonia Gandhi as Chairperson of the trust. Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister, had set up the trust under the Parliament Act and its first Chairman was the President of the Indian National Congress along with the Chief Minister and the Governor of Punjab as members. Mr Bhatia said there was no need to change the basic structure of the trust which was formed by Mr Nehru.

Bapu Shingara Singh who visited the Jallianwala Bagh after a long time was shocked to see that the memorial had not come up as per aspirations of the freedom fighters. He said the central and the state governments should give top priority to the memorial so that the coming generations know about the supreme sacrifices made by the freedom fighters.

Struck with a paralytic attack, Bapu Shingara Singh vividly recalled the pre-Partition days. He narrated many incidents of his youth when he killed many rioters. Giving details of the massacre, Bapu said he along with four friends had gone to Jallianwala Bagh to listen to the speeches of freedom fighters on the fateful Baisakhi day. While his three friends died in the indiscriminate firing, he managed to sneak out. He was also a witness to people jumping into the well to save themselves from the firing.

The All-India Anti-Terrorist Front Chief, Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, said it was a matter of concern that the Rs 2.50 crore grant released by the then Prime Minister, Mr Narasimha Rao, for the face-lift of the memorial was still unused. He said Mr Rao had given a green signal for making provisions for permanent light-and-sound programme at Jallianwala Bagh. Instead of implementing the decisions taken by the Rao government he (Bitta) was unceremoniously removed as member of the trust by his own party.

The indifferent attitude of officials of the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Central Government notwithstanding, Mr R.L. Bhatia, local Member of Parliament, had allocated some funds from his discretionary funds to set up public conveniences in the Jallianwala complex.Back

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