NEW DELHI: After a fierce debate, a Bill seeking the removal of the Congress president as a trustee from the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial was passed in the Lok Sabha on Friday, with the opposition accusing the government of trying to "rewrite" history.
The Bill got the approval of 214 members while 30 voted against following a walkout by the opposition including the Congress, RSP, NCP, TMC and DMK. The Bill will go to the Rajya Sabha to cross its final hurdle before becoming law.
Moving for passage of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said the government's move was to keep the historic site a "national memorial, not a political memorial".
"There should not be politicization in the institution but nationalization," he said.
In his concluding remark, Patel said the Congress had not done anything for the memorial in the last 40-50 years. "No political party can claim hold over a trust like the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial."
The Bill seeks "to delete the president of the Indian National Congress" as a trustee and to have the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as a trustee.
The draft legislation provides that in the case there is no Leader of Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest opposition party will be made the trustee.A
It also seeks to empower the Central government to terminate a nominated trustee before the expiry of his or her term.
The move comes during the centenary commemoration of the massacre when British troops fired at a peaceful gathering of unarmed people in Amritsar on April 12, 1919.
The Bill was passed in the winter session of the 16th Lok Sabha but was rejected by the Rajya Sabha and hence lapsed after the dissolution of the House.
The Bill amends the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951, which was enacted to provide for the erection and management of a National Memorial to perpetuate the memory of those killed or wounded.
In addition, the Act provides for a trust for the erection and management of the memorial and also provided for composition of the trust with certain trustees for life.
In 2006, the Act was amended to change the composition of the trust wherein nominated trustees were given a fixed term of five years and auditing the accounts of the trust was enabled.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was missing from the House when the debate over the Bill went on for around three hours.
Opposing the Bill, Congress's Gurjeet Singh Aujla said the Bill should be withdrawn. He accused the government of attempting to remove the Congress from history although it played a major role in building the memorial.
"What is the need to remove the Congress president from the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial trust?" he asked.
His speech triggered uproar in the House, with treasury benches raising objections.
Allegations and counter-allegations were hurled between the treasury and opposition benches when Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal accused Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's grandfather Bhupinder Singh of saying that the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was "correct".
DMK's Dayanidhi Maran asked: "Why the government is wasting time in rewriting history? Parliament is to create history, not to rewrite it. People of India have given you (BJP) mandate. With great power, responsibility comes."
NCP's Supriya Sule said the government does not need to change history. TMC's Saugata Roy opposed the Bill for removing the name of the Congress president from the trust.
Currently, the trust is chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has Congress president, Union Culture Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Minister and Governor of Punjab on board.