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Just shame? Not enough

Chandigarh, Feb. 20: Bhushan Behal wanted David Cameron to come and say “sorry”. In person.

The British Prime Minister did neither. Nor was Behal allowed to step out of home by police as Cameron laid a wreath at Jallianwala Bagh, the site of one of the worst massacres during the Raj, and visited the Golden Temple.

Cameron did use the word “shameful” but Behal, who heads a trust for the families of victims of the Jallianwala Bagh firing, was disappointed.

“We are not happy with his comment that it was a ‘shameful’ act. We were expecting him to meet the families of those killed and tender an unconditional apology,” Behal, president of the Jallianwala Bagh Shaheedi Parivar Samity, told The Telegraph from Amritsar, where the massacre took place.

Behal’s grandfather Lala Hari Ram was among those killed in the April 1919 shooting ordered by Brigadier General Reginald Dyer on unarmed protesters.

“How can the British Prime Minister just call the massacre of over a thousand innocents ‘shameful’? The least he could have done is meet us.”

In the condolence book, Cameron wrote: “This was a deeply shameful act in British history. One that Winston Churchill rightly described at that time as monstrous. We must never forget what happened here and we must ensure that the UK stands up for the right of peaceful protests.”

Sikh historian G.S. Dhillon called it a “personal” comment. “There is nothing in his statement that states that the British nation is apologising.”

Sunil Kapoor, 36, whose great-grandfather, Wassoo Mal Kapoor, was killed, said: “I’m not satisfied because he didn’t meet the descendants. If you feel shameful then why not make an apology?”

Avtar Singh Makkar, who heads the SGPC, the body responsible for upkeep of gurdwaras, however, welcomed Cameron’s comments. “Shameful is as good as ‘monstrous’,” Makkar said. “It was long due and it has come.”

In a statement, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said: “The country, especially Punjab, had been waiting for such an apology since long. The visit of the British Prime Minister itself describes a lot.”