The Lok Sabha on Friday, the 2nd of August passed The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeking to do away with the automatic nomination of Congress president as trustee of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial trust in Amritsar, Punjab; amid vociferous protests from the party members who later walked out of there. Amendments moved by members of opposition parties were also defeated by division of votes.
While Congress member Gurjeet Singh Aujla accused the BJP and organizations linked to it of not having had a role in the freedom struggle, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal hit back at the Congress and raked up the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
“They talk of Jallianwala Bagh and memorial, but this is the party that indulged in killing Sikhs in 1984. Congress has selective memory—they remember and lie about what suits them,” Badal stated.
Opposing the Bill, Aujla asked what the “compulsion” of the government was in wanting to remove the Congress President as a trustee and alleged that the BJP wants to promote members of its ideology. “Why are we wasting useful parliament time in rewriting history? Let`s proceed,” he said walking out.
The Bill was passed by a division of votes in which 214 members voted in favor while 30 were ‘against’ even as the Congress walked out in protest. Moving the Bill, Culture Minister Prahlad Patel said national memorials could not be “political memorials” and ought to be kept away from politics. “No political party can claim hold over a trust like the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial.’
The amended bill says that “the Leader of Opposition recognized as such in the House of the People, or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in that House will be on the trust.”
Hitherto, the trust that manages the memorial had included the Prime Minister as the chairperson, with the president of the Indian National Congress, Culture Minister, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Punjab Governor and the Punjab Chief Minister as its members.
But now, the Congress chief is being removed as a member while the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha is being added as a member of the trust.
The Bill also amends the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 which was passed to erect a National Memorial in memory of those killed and wounded in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of over 1,000 people on April 12, 1919. Not only that, it also creates a trust to manage the memorial.
It further allows the central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of the period of his term.