An Indian pop group has made a music video honouring Udham Singh, 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 protest in Punjab, was justified.
The massacre hardened opinion against British rule, which finally led to independence in 1947.
Source: Video Screenshot
The four-minute video by the group The Ska Vengers takes its title, “Frank Brazil”, from an alias used by Singh during an overseas undercover trip. It traces the activist’s life from the Amritsar massacre to his shooting of O’Dwyer in London 21 years later.
The video premieres on music channel VH1 India on Friday, July 31, 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 Bagh killings took place in the city of Amritsar. Singh travelled to England to avenge the killings and shot O’Dwyer dead at a public meeting in a London hall.
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 touchy topic. This month, opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor said Britain owes reparations for the economic and social torture India suffered under British 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 formally colonized countries, the debates have stopped,” he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron came under criticism for not apologising for the Jallianwala killings when he visited Amritsar in 2013, although he mourned the event.
The band will tour in Britain next year for the first time.