July 23, 2015 / 5:08 PM / 4 years ago

Modi praises Shashi Tharoor's speech demanding reparations from Britain

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised a speech of opposition MP Shashi Tharoor that called for Britain to pay reparations to India and other former colonies for its decades of imperial rule.

Shashi Tharoor pauses before the opening of the Frankfurt book fair, October 3, 2006. REUTERS/Alex Grimm/Files

The comments of Tharoor have struck a chord in India. The 15-minute video of the speech has got over a million hits on YouTube in a week and has become the top trending topic on social media in India.

“It shows the depth of an Indian’s feelings,” Modi said on Thursday, referring to the speech.

In a debate organised by the Oxford Union, Tharoor highlighted the economic toll that British colonial rule had extracted from India, leaving it as a laggard.

He said Britain governed the country for its own benefit and its rise for 200 years was financed by plundering India.

“As far as I am concerned, the ability to acknowledge a wrong that has been done, to simply say sorry, will go a far, far, far longer way than some percentage of GDP in the form of aid,” he had said.

“What is required, it seems to me, is accepting the principle that reparations are owed.”

Modi, however, did not say whether he backed Tharoor’s demand for an apology. The British High Commission in New Delhi also declined to comment.

The prime minister is due to visit Britain later this year. The dates of the trip have yet to be finalised.

Many in India want Britain to make amends for the wrongs committed during its colonial rule.

Prime Minister David Cameron had to face severe criticism during his last trip for not apologising for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, where hundreds of non-violent pro-independence protesters were shot dead at the behest of British Colonel Reginald Dyer.

Cameron expressed regret for the massacre during a visit to Amritsar in 2013 and laid a wreath at a memorial, but Indian critics said it was not enough.

Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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