UK should say sorry for century-old Amritsar massacre, India says

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An Indian girl looks at a painting of the martyrs ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar. (AFP)
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Indian visitors gather near the Jallianwala Bagh Martyrs’ Memorial ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar. (AFP)
Updated 09 April 2019

UK should say sorry for century-old Amritsar massacre, India says

  • The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which British troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed protesters, remains an enduring scar of British colonial rule in India
  • Colonial-era records show about 400 people died when soldiers opened fire on men, women and children in an enclosed area, but Indian figures put the toll at closer to 1,000

NEW DELHI: Britain should apologize for the killing of unarmed Indian civilians in the city of Amritsar, India’s defense minister told AFP on Tuesday days before its 100th anniversary — and for the 1943 Bengal famine too.
The April 13, 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which British troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed protesters, remains an enduring scar of British colonial rule in India.
Colonial-era records show about 400 people died when soldiers opened fire on men, women and children in an enclosed area, but Indian figures put the toll at closer to 1,000.
Former British prime minister David Cameron described it as “deeply shameful” in a visit to the northern Indian city in 2013 but stopped short of an apology.
In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II laid a wreath at the site but her gaffe-prone husband Prince Philip stole the headlines by reportedly saying that Indian estimates for the death count were “vastly exaggerated.”
Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s defense minister, told AFP ahead of the 100th anniversary on Saturday that now was the time for Britain to say sorry.
“Without a doubt, yes,” Sitharaman said. “There couldn’t have been a bitterer tragedy during the freedom movement in India.... That was an inhuman act.”
Arguments that apologizing would leave London open to legal claims “could be no legitimate reason to say I shall not regret this. That’s the baggage you have to carry with you.”
Sitharaman also said that Britain should also say sorry for a lesser-known but much bigger tragedy — the Bengal famine in eastern India during World War II.
As many as three million people died in 1943 after Japan captured neighboring Burma — a major source of rice imports — and British colonial rulers in India stockpiled food for soldiers and war workers.
“Three million people, they starved to death... Britain owes an apology for that,” she said.
“That was a man-made diaster. Grains of Bengal, from all parts of India, were all diverted for the war, depleting the people’s basic needs.”
Sitharaman added that the chaos over Brexit was “really sad.”
“It is a situation in which no country would ever want to be in, because it is an unenviable position. You have thrown yourself into an area about which you have no clue.”


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 10 August 2020

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”