The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed by voice vote the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Amendment Bill, 2019 with minor opposition from few political parties, including the Congress.
It amends the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 and the provision that the chief of the Congress will be the ex-officio trustee. It provides for nomination of three trustees by the Centre for five years and their renomination as well.
The central government can now terminate a nominated trustee before the expiry of his/her term without assigning any reason.
The Bill clarifies that when there is no Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, leader of the single largest opposition party will be the trustee.
Tabling the Bill, Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel said, "After 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, everyone should have come on board leaving politics aside and pass the Bill."
The Lok Sabha passed the Bill on August 2, 2019.
Taking part in the debate, Partap Singh Bajwa (Congress) said the amendments were "cynical" and removing the Congress president as ex-officio trustee would only destroy the sentiments of the freedom struggle.
Requesting for the withdrawal of the Bill, Bajwa urged the government to show magnanimity, pay respect to the Congress contribution in the freedom struggle, and not to try to rewrite history. He also urged Bharat Ratna for Bhagat Singh as well as Udham Singh, who avenged the massacre by killing Gen. R.E. Harry Dyer in London, who had ordered troops to fire at the congregration there.
Shwait Malik (BJP) called for turning Jallianwala Bagh massacre site into a national memorial place and the light & sound show highlighting the sacrifices of the freedom fighter there.
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) said the kin of martyrs be made trustee and the government must ensure thier welfare. "Rabindra Nath Tagore renounced the British Knighthood in protest against the 1919 massacre," said Roy.
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said the government should come out with the list of martyrs.
Supporting the Bill, S. Muthukarupan (AIADMK) said in the massacre, also known as the Amritsar massacre, that took place on April 13, 1919, as many as 400 people, including 41 children -- one only six-week-old, lost their lives. Over 1,000 others were injured.
Criticising the eagerness of the tresury benches to take control of the Jallianwala Bagh Trust, KK Ragesh of the CPI-M said, monuments were not mere monuments, they tell us the great history. Monuments should be associated with history. "You are taking total control of that monument. I don't know why," he said.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said, the memorial should be maintained as a place of patriotism and not as a tourist place.
Sanjay Singh (Aam Admi Party) said, instead of discussing who should run the memorial, efforts should be made to honour the martyrs' families. He also raised the JNU issue and compared the police action with General Dyer's action.
Responding to the debate, Patel said said after 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, everyone should have come on board, leaving politics aside. "After death of life trustees, like Jawaharlal Nehru, Saifuddin Kitchlew and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Congress never nominated other people in their place," said Patel.
Only in 1970, Indira Gandhi chaired a meeting of the trust as the Prime Minister not as the Congress chief. After that, in 1998, Sonia Gandhi chaired the meeting of the trust as the Congress president.
"The Congress never decided whether the Prime Minister or the Congress chief will be chairing the trust. Also, we have not replaced the Congress chief with the BJP chief," said Patel.
He said the government was committed to pay respect to martyrs of the freedom struggle and the Bill was a step in this regard.