British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday expressed regret for a massacre by British troops in India in 1919 but stopped short of a full apology.
“We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused,” May told the British parliament, as India prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the killings.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, called for “a full, clear and unequivocal apology”.
The April 13, 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which British troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed protesters, remains an enduring scar from British colonial rule in India.
Colonial-era records show about 400 people died in the northern city of Amritsar 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” during a visit in 2013 but also stopped short of an apology.
May’s statement comes a day after British MPs at Westminster Hall of the Parliament complex debated the issue of a formal apology for the April 13, 1919 massacre to mark its centenary this Saturday.
Foreign Office Minister Mark Field had told MPs that he had been “compelled” by the arguments to raise the issue of going further than the “deepest regret” expressed over the killings during the British Raj.
The debate was tabled by Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman, who opened proceedings with a strong sentiment of “shame” as he called on the British government to apologise.