Indian pop video honours activist's 1940 killing of British official

Indian pop video honours activist's 1940 killing of British official
Animated film tells story of how Udham Singh shot a colonial official who had said 1919 massacre of protestors in Amritsar was justified

An Indian pop group has made a music video honouring an independence activist who assassinated a British official in revenge for a 1919 massacre, at a time of renewed calls in India for reparations from Britain for excesses during colonial rule. 

The animated video tells the story of Udham Singh, who shot dead former British colonial official Michael O’Dwyer in 1940. O’Dwyer had said the killing of hundreds of protesters during a demonstration at Jallianwala Bagh in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, had been justified.

The massacre hardened opinion against British rule, which finally led to independence in 1947.

The four-minute video by the band the Ska Vengers takes its title, Frank Brazil, from an alias used by Singh during an undercover trip overseas. It traces the activist’s life from the Amritsar massacre to his shooting of O’Dwyer in London 21 years later.

Michael O’Dwyer, who was shot dead by Urdham Singh. Photograph: Public domain

The video is due to premiere on music channel Vh1 India on Friday, 75 years to the day after Singh was executed in London for killing O’Dwyer.

O’Dwyer was the British lieutenant governor of Punjab when the Jallianwala Baghmassacre took place. Singh travelled to England to avenge the killings and shot O’Dwyer at a public meeting at Caxton Hall in Westminster, central London.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who is due to visit Britain this year, said on Friday he bowed to Singh “on his martyrdom day”.

“The valour of Shaheed Udham Singh remains etched in the memory of every Indian,” Modi posted on Twitter. Shaheed means martyr.

In the song, the fiery protagonist says he does not care if he spends 99 years in jail or is sent to the electric chair.

India’s 200 years under colonial rule ended in 1947 but remains a sensitive issue. This month, opposition politician Shashi Tharoor said Britain owes reparations for the economic and social torture India suffered undercolonial rule.

Modi praised the speech, but did not say whether he supported Tharoor’s demand for an apology.

Taru Dalmia, the Ska Vengers’ singer, said he agreed with Tharoor’s sentiment, adding that colonial excesses were too often forgotten.

“Europe has a debt to pay, but more than that [in] the formerly colonised countries, the debates have stopped,” he said.

British prime minister David Cameron was criticised after he did not apologise for the Jallianwala killings when he visited Amritsar in 2013, although he mourned the event.

The band will tour Britain next year for the first time.

Indian pop video honours activist's 1940 killing of British official Indian pop video honours activist's 1940 killing of British official Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 4:29 PM Rating: 5

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