Lok Sabha on Friday passed The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which seeks to remove the Congress president as a trustee, amid vociferous protests from the party members who later walked out.
Piloting the bill, Culture Minister Prahlad Patel asserted that national memorials cannot be “political memorials” and they should be kept away from politics.
The bill was passed by a voice vote amid Congress walkout. Amendments moved by Opposition parties were defeated by the division of votes.
A division sought by opposition members at the time of consideration of the bill was defeated with 214 voting in favour and 30 against.
The amendment bill also paves the way for the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha to be a member of the trust.
But no such post exists at present as no non-BJP party won the required 10 per cent of total seats to get the status.
As of now, the trust which manages the memorial has the Prime Minister as the chairperson, President of Indian National Congress, Culture Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Punjab governor, Punjab CM as its members.
Replying to the debate on the bill, Patel said the government wants to end politics associated with the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust.
“It is our belief and principle that politics should be removed from the national memorial and hence the amendments were brought to the 1951 Act,” he said.
Patel said there should be no politicisation of the memorial rather there should be nationalisation.
“It should be a great tribute to Udham Singh,” he said while questioning Congress party for stopping it from appointing his family members on the board.
As soon as the minister started speaking on the bill, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi entered the house.
Opposing the bill, Congress member Gurjeet Aujla said the government wants to re-write the history by removing the Congress president from the trust.
Participating in the debate, Akali Dal member and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said it was the members of the Congress who were involved in the 1984 riots against Sikhs.
Speaking on the bill, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann said Jallianwala Bagh belongs to all.
Giving point by point rebuttal, Patel said no one can rewrite history and nor the Modi government is doing that. It is only reviewing it and acknowledging those who have been forgotten.
He further said the majority contribution for acquiring land for the memorial was given by common man and it was also common people who sacrificed their lives there.
Taking on Congress, the minister said in 1970 Babu Jagjivan Ram was the president of Congress but then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was on the board of trust.
And it took more than 40 years for Congress to replace Jawaharlal Nehru, Abdul Kalam Azad and Saifuddin Kitchlew from the board of the trust in 2006, he said.
A similar bill was brought by the previous government but it could not get the parliamentary nod and lapsed.
The amendment bill also confers power to the central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of the term without assigning any reason.
Virendra Kataria, Ambika Soni and Harvendra Singh Hanspal are nominated trustees appointed in 2013 for five years, according to the Culture Ministry website.
Jallianwala Bagh memorial was established in 1951 by the central government to mark the massacre of unarmed people on April 13, 1919 by the British Indian Army under the command of Col Reginald Dyer.