Revamp of Jallianwala Bagh memorial outrage Indians

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The restoration of the Jallianwala Bagh memorial park has outraged Indians as the place had witnessed one of the bloodiest massacres in British history.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the renovated Jallianwala Bagh complex in the northern city of Amritsar on Saturday.

In 1919, hundreds of Indians were shot by Britishers at the site while attending a public meeting. It was a massive turning point in India’s nationalist movement.

Since then, the place has served as a sombre reminder of India’s painful past, and have attracted tourists from across the world.

And recently the government has restored the site – museums have been opened and a daily sound and light show has been started to display the events of 13 April 1919.

The walls of a narrow path through which General Dyer and his troops entered the park have been blown up with paintings and sculptures, to honour those who died on that fateful day.

The place consists of a Martyr’s Well, in which numerous people jumped to escape the open fire. It has now been covered with a transparent barrier.

According to PM Modi, the renovation “will remind the new generation about the history of this holy place and will inspire to learn a lot about its past”.

But critics called the move insensitive and accused the government of trying to erase and alter the country’s history.

Historian Kim Wagner called it a “part of the general Disneyfication of the old city of Amritsar”, adding that the refurbishing of the site “means that the last traces of the event have effectively been erased”.

Chaman Lal, a historian and professor at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the project had tried to “mystify and glamourise history”.

“People visiting Jallianwala Bagh should go with a sense of pain and anguish,” he told The Hindu newspaper.

“They have now tried to make it a space for enjoying, with a beautiful garden. It was not a beautiful garden.”

Eminent historian S Irfan Habib called the project a “corporatisation of monuments,” that has been done “at the cost of history, cost of heritage”.

“It is absolutely gaudy…Why should there be murals on the wall?” he said.

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