Agence France-Presse, April 21, 2022
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces calls to apologise for a colonial-era massacre when he visits Gujarat today, 100 years after as many as 1,200 people were killed protesting against imperial rule.
Last month saw the centenary of the Pal-Dadhvav massacre, when historians say around 2,000 tribal people led by social reformer Motilal Tejawat gathered to protest against exploitation, forced labour and high taxes.
The state’s official float at this year’s annual Republic Day parade depicted the killings as the “untold story of bravery and sacrifice of the tribals”, it said in a statement that put the death toll at 1,200.
Mr Johnson — who has been assailed by controversy over Downing Street parties during the coronavirus pandemic — lands in the state’s largest city, Ahmedabad, today at the start of a two-day visit to India.
“It was the British rule at the time when these killings happened so, if the British PM is coming here, he must apologise,” Mr Tejawat’s grandson Mahendra told AFP.
But relations between Britain and India have long been coloured by the legacies of colonial rule — when London saw the world’s second-most populous nation as the jewel in the crown of its empire but hundreds of millions of Indians chafed under its authority.
But Arun Vaghela, head of Gujarat University’s history department, has little expectation the British Prime Minister would address the issue.
“The British records only show 40 to 50 deaths — but when does any killer government, British or otherwise, ever truly reveal and acknowledge the number of people it has killed?”