British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday described as 'deeply shameful' the killing of peaceful protesters in Jallianwala Bagh in 1919 during British rule, but stopped short of a public apology.
Writing in the visitor's book of Jallianwalla Bagh, Cameron said, "This was a deeply shameful act in British history, one that Winston Churchill rightly described at that time as monstrous. We must never forget what happened here and we must ensure that the UK stands up for the right of peaceful protests around the world".
President of Jallianwalla Bagh Shaheed Pariwar Samiti Bushan Behal, who had demanded an apology from the visiting British prime minister, was not allowed to meet him.
Cameron, who is the first democratically elected British prime minister to visit the site, kneeled down while paying tribute to martyrs and observed one-minute silence with folded hands to give respect to the martyrs.
The visit of the British prime minister comes 16 years after Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip visited Amritisar in 1997
Cameron paid floral tribute to the martyrs of Jallianwalla Bagh. He also stood for a few seconds before the Amar Joyti at Jallianwalla Bagh, where he bowed his head to show respect to the martyrs, officials said.
Cameron spent nearly 25 minutes in the park.
The Indian media was kept at a distance during the visit of Cameron. Only photojournalists were allowed to click photographs from a distance.
Bushan Behal had requested the deputy commissioner of Amritsar and the police administration, besides the Punjab government, for an appointment with the British prime minister.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre had taken place in Amritsar on April 13, 1919.
On hearing that a meeting of 15,000 to 20,000 people was taking place at Jallianwala Bagh, Brigadier General Reginald E H Dyer had ordered 50 riflemen to shoot at the crowd.
Dyer kept the firing on for about ten minutes, till the ammunition supply was almost exhausted. Approximately 1,650 rounds were fired, killing more than 1,000 innocent Indians, besides leaving more than 1,100 injured.
Image: Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron places a wreath at the Jallianwala Bagh memorial | Photograph: Munish Sharma/Reuters