Jallianwala Bagh: Facelift has erased massacre memories, say historians

Families of martyrs slam Centre over ‘modernisation’ of Jallianwala Bagh | UK MP Preet Kaur Gill too questions move

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 31

One and a half years after Jallianwala Bagh was reopened, the entire interior has been revamped. This has evoked sharp reactions not just from tourists but also from experts and research scholars of international repute.

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British historian Kim A Wagner, who has penned the book ‘Jallianwala Bagh: An Empire of Fear and the Making of A Massacre’, tweeted: “Devastated to hear that Jallianwala Bagh, site of the Amritsar massacre of 1919, has been revamped, which means that the last traces of the event have effectively been erased. This is what I wrote of the memorial in my book, describing a space that has now itself become history.” He even tweeted a pair of old and new pictures of the narrow street, from where the British Indian troops led by General Dyer had gained access to the Bagh on April 13, 1919. 

‘Beautification, not conservation’

Historian Irfan Habib and conservationist Gurmeet Rai defined the recent works in the Bagh as beautification and not conservation or restoration. Netizens are also voicing their concerns over the “modernisation” of the historic Bagh.

Endorsing her view, MP from UK Preet Kaur Gill tweeted, “Our history being erased! Why?” Noted historian Irfan Habib and conservationist Gurmeet Rai also defined the recent works in the Bagh as beautification and not conservation or restoration. Netizens are also voicing their concerns over the “modernisation” of the historic Bagh.

Sunil Kapoor, whose great-grandfather Vasu Mal Kapoor was killed in the Bagh, expressed his astonishment at repeated beautification drives involving crores of rupees. Pointing at the well, he said its façade has been redone with small bricks. Its erstwhile crown-like structure was built with the donation collected from the families of martyrs, he said, adding that he had heard from his grandmother that the martyrs’ families had themselves contributed Re 1 and Rs 2, as per one’s financial capacity, to construct its exterior.

He demanded that the antiquity of the historic place be maintained and money should be spent for the betterment of the families of martyrs. Photographs of five martyrs, including that of his grandfather, used to be displayed in the martyrs’ gallery, but these were no longer there, he said.

Kamal Poddar, whose 34-year old grandfather Lakshmi Chand was killed in the massacre, said the present government had a lot of resources and was lavishly spending on enhancing its beauty. “But when it comes to giving anything to the family members of the martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh, it has nothing to offer, except felicitations.”

A visitor from Lucknow, Lajwanti, whose grandparents had migrated from Sindh during the Partition, said she was surprised to see a beautified park. “It is entirely different from the one I had seen during my previous visit in 1973. That park was more earthy and simple. The present one

is swanky,” she said.

Another tourist Neha Dariyani said the beautified park gave the impression of one being in a garden with aesthetic environment where costly stones have been used on pedestrian paths and walls. 

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