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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Royal Compromise Found in India

AMRITSAR, India -- Queen Elizabeth laid a wreath at the site of a 1919 civilian massacre by British colonial troops as a long-running dispute over the royal state visit ended in compromise Tuesday.


The queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, on a six-day trip to India coinciding with the country's 50th anniversary of independence, laid the wreath at the Jallianwala Bagh memorial in Amritsar.


The occasion, termed a "special gesture" by British officials, was widely welcomed, even by some who had previously called for the monarch to issue a full public apology for the massacre.


Later the queen, who had reportedly been advised to avoid possible controversy and stay clear of Amritsar by Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, was enthusiastically applauded by thousands as she visited the Sikhs' Golden Temple, their holiest shrine.


Meanwhile, a group representing relatives of the Jallianwala Bagh victims, whose calls for a royal apology had been ruled out by British officials, announced on Tuesday that it was satisfied.


Bhushan Bahl, the association president, said: "Her gesture of coming here and also her comments yesterday, both are nothing short of atoning for a wrong done by the British rulers in India.


"With this, our aim has been fully achieved."


The queen, wearing an orange dress and hat, was shown around the enclosed compound where 379 people were killed and around 1,200 others were wounded after British troops opened fire on an unarmed crowd at a protest meeting.


The massacre proved a watershed in India's history, galvanizing opposition to British colonial rule.


The queen removed her shoes in a sign of respect and bowed her head with her husband at her side for around half a minute after laying the wreath at the base of a red sandstone memorial. She then signed a visitors' book.


The compound was sealed off before her arrival and surrounded by hundreds of armed police officers.


The memorial manager, Sukumar Mukherjee, said he had told the queen during the 25-minute visit "what happened here," pointing out bullet holes in the compound walls and a well in which scores had drowned trying to escape the bullets." This was a de facto apology," he said. "She asked me questions. She asked: 'So this is the place where the massacre took place?'


"I told [her] 150 soldiers had opened fire on a crowd of 20,000."


The royal visit had begun inauspiciously on Monday, after an angry reaction by India's prime minister to reports, later denied, that Britain was ready to mediate in the country's dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.


The threat of controversy receded when the queen, speaking at a banquet held in her honor, underlined the close ties between the two countries.