Amritsar: After nearly one and half years of renovation and development work, the Jallianwala Bagh national memorial has not only courted an unsavory controversy but has also led to a deep chasm between the kin of Jallianwala Bagh martyrs.
Divided into political lines, Mahesh Behal-led pro-BJP Jallianwala Bagh Shaheed Pariwar Samiti (JBSPS) and pro-Congress group Jallianwala Bagh Freedom Fighters Federation (JBFFF) led by Sunil Kapoor have divergent views on the facelift of the historical garden where hundreds of gullible freedom fighters were mercilessly exterminated by British General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, also known as the Butcher of Amritsar.
Both Behal and Kapoor claimed to have received calls from the Ministry of Culture asking their opinion about the renovation work carried by them and have also sought their suggestions.
While JBSPS is contented with freedom fighter identity cards issued to them by the government and has ‘mild’ objections on the renovation work, on the other hand, JBFFF has some strong objections and has a list of demands.
They also dubbed August 28, the day on which Jallianwala Bagh reopened as a Black Day.
While talking to Zee News, Kapoor informed that they had some ‘serious’ objections in the new look of Jallianwala Bagh and claimed that the history had been erased from the historical place. He informed that JBFFF had written a letter to the Ministry of Culture pointing towards their objections and had also given their suggestions.
Some of the demands of JBFFF includes removal of murals from the alleyway, shifting of Amar Jyoti to its original place, restoring the old structure of martyrs well, construction of a divine temple comprising of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Geeta, Bible and Quran Sharif, honoring kin of martyrs with Tamar Patar, freedom fighter certificates and facilities to the freedom fighters including pension, banning eatables inside the Jallianwala Bagh, inscribing stories of martyrs on a wall of martyrs etc.
However, JBSPS has not many demands to make from the government except for the removal of murals and continuation of facilities provided to the freedom fighter cardholders besides the inclusion of two members of JBSPS in Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust.
“But let me make it clear that we are the oldest organisation representing the kin of martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh and for nearly the past four decades we have not only been taking up various issues pertaining to the Jallianwala Bagh but also representing the kin of martyrs,” said Mahesh Behal.
He said they didn’t like altering the narrow street as they have decorated it with murals, closed the doors and windows, removed the nanakshahi bricks, and also covered it with wooden logs. He suggested that there was no need of replacing the brass grills installed along the walk away with the wooden one. Another suggestion of JBSPS is letting the tourists exit from the Jallianwala Bagh from the same lane from where they enter.
Due to contrary political alignments, the JBSPS not only support the renovation work done by the government but have also expressed gratitude towards the government
Born in Amritsar, former ambassador Navdeep Suri, whose grandfather Nanak Singh had survived the pogrom while two of his grandfather’s friends had lost their lives to Gen Dyer’s bullets, has strongly objected to revamping of the entry lane.
He said there was sufficient historical research to suggest that Dyer chose the Jallianwala Bagh since it had only one narrow passage and there was no exit and it served as a death trap for Dyer’s savagery.