Jallianwala Bhag massacre was a turning point in the history of India. An entire generation of Indians were outraged at the kind of killing by the British and it altered the course of our freedom movement. The memory of Jallianwala Bagh belongs to entire India. But for 7 long decades a Congress Party President was a Trustee by default. Such a partisan provision was included in the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act of 1951 by the Congress when Jawaharlal Nehru was the PM.
On November 19th, the Parliament passed the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019. Rajya Sabha approved the bill yesterday while Lok Sabha had passed it in the last session. The Bill seeks to amend the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951. It now has a provision to remove the President of the Congress party as a trustee and clarifies that when there is no Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the leader of the single largest Opposition party will be the trustee.
Rajya Sabha passes the bill
The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by Mr. Prahlad Singh Patel, Minister of State for Culture, on July 8, 2019. The 1951 Act provided for the erection of a National Memorial in memory of those killed or wounded on April 13, 1919, in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar in the firing by the British troops. The Act also mandated the creation of a Trust to manage the National Memorial. However, among the trustees, the President of the Indian National Congress was a de-facto member.
The Congress as expected requested for the bill to be withdrawn saying that it was vendetta against the party. Rejecting the charges, the government reminded the Opposition party that India got its independence not because of the effort of any one particular political party but because of the efforts and sacrifices made by its people. Culture Minister Prahlad Patel replied to the discussion on the Bill and said the government’s intention is to build a Memorial so that the sacrifice of martyrs is remembered by generations to come.
The Rajya Sabha passed the bill with a voice vote. The government asserted that the bill would end the political color, which the trust earlier had.
Composition of Trustees
Under the 1951 Act, the Trustees of the Memorial include: (i) the Prime Minister as Chairperson, (ii) President of the Indian National Congress, (iii) Minister in-charge of Culture, (iv) Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, (v) Governor of Punjab, (vi) Chief Minister of Punjab, and (vii) three eminent persons nominated by the central government. The Bill passed yesterday amends this provision to remove the President of the Indian National Congress as a Trustee.
The Bill also allows the Central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of the period of his term, without assigning any reason.