Amritsar: David Cameron on Wednesday became the first serving British prime minister to voice regret for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, one of the bloodiest episodes in colonial India where hundreds of civilians were killed in Amritsar in 1919.
               
The killings were described by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian independence movement, as having shaken the foundations of the British Empire. A group of soldiers opened fire on an unarmed crowd without warning in the city after a period of unrest, killing hundreds in cold blood.

Cameron's visit and expression of regret for what happened stopped short of an apology - but made it clear he considers the episode a stain on Britain's past.
               
Dressed in a dark suit with his hands at his side, Cameron laid a wreath at a memorial to the massacre, a terracotta-coloured stone obelisk. He then stood in front of the monument in silence for a few moments.


 
The gesture, coming on the third and final day of a visit to India aimed at drumming up trade and investment, is seen as an attempt to improve relations with Britain's former colonial possession and to court around 1.5 million British voters of Indian origin ahead of a 2015 election.

Before his visit, Cameron said there were ties of history between the two countries, "both the good and the bad".

JALLIANWALA BAGH
The brutal incident of mass killing happened on April 13, 1919
Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, the man who gave the order to fire, explained his decision by saying he felt it was necessary to "teach a moral lesson to the Punjab"
379 people lost their lives and 1,200 sustained injuries
Winston Churchill called the Amritsar massacre "a monstrous event"
On a visit to Amritsar in 1997, Queen Elizabeth called it a distressing episode, but said history could not be rewritten
Tony Blair said the memorial at Amritsar was a reminder of "the worst aspects of colonialism"

"In Amritsar, I want to take the opportunity to pay my respects at Jallianwala Bagh," he had said ahead of the visit. Cameron also visited Amritsar's Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine.

The British report into the Amritsar massacre at the time said 379 people had been killed and 1,200 wounded. But a separate inquiry commissioned by the Indian pro-independence movement said around 1,000 people had been killed.
               
Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, the man who gave the order to fire, explained his decision by saying he felt it was necessary to "teach a moral lesson to the Punjab".

Some in Britain hailed him "as the man who saved India", but others condemned him. India became independent in 1947.
               
Many historians consider the massacre a turning point that undermined British rule of India. It was, they say, one of the moments that caused Gandhi and the pro-independence Indian
National Congress movement to lose trust in the British, inspiring them to embark on a path of civil disobedience.
               
(Agencies)

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