India

98 years of Brutal Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Bloodshed on Baisakhi festival

Written by Pallavi Parmar

Jallianwala Bagh massacre completed 98 years which is one of the bloodiest attack of British rule in which around 1500 people were died. 1919, Jallianwala Bagh massacre was one of the ruthless attack of the twentieth century which was committed in Punjab. The British colonial power, General Dyer ordered open firing in public garden “Jallianwala Bagh”, Amritsar in which many people died. According to British government released figures 379 dead and 1,200 wounded. While the official figure for lives lost was 1,526 the actual figure was reportedly much higher. Almost a century on, the massacre has not been forgotten. Popular films like Gandhi, Rang de Basanti, Phillauri even British TV series Downton Abbey – have relived and remembered 13 April 1919, Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

History of Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Jallianwala Bagh massacre is also known as the Amritsar massacre which took place on 13 April 1919 when a crowd of nonviolent protesters along with Baishakhi pilgrims was gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar were fired upon by troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer. Thousands of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh (garden) near the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. Many who were present had earlier worshipped at the Golden Temple, and were passing through the Bagh on their way home. The Bagh was large, open area of six to seven acres with roughly 200 yards by 200 yards in size, and surrounded by walls roughly 10 feet in height. Balconies of houses three to four stories tall overlooked the Bagh, and five narrow entrances opened onto it, several with locked gates. During the rainy season, it was planted with crops, but served as a local meeting-area and playground for much of the year. In the center of the Bagh was a samadhi (cremation site) and a large well partly filled with water and about 20 feet in diameter.

Apart from pilgrims, Amritsar had filled up over the preceding days with farmers, traders and merchants attending the annual Baisakhi horse and cattle fair. The city police closed the fair at 14:00 that afternoon, resulting in a large number of people drifting into the Jallianwala Bagh. It was estimated that about 20,000 to 25,000 people had gathered in the Bagh by the time of the meeting. On hearing that a meeting had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, Dyer went with fifty Gurkha troops to a raised bank and ordered them to shoot at the crowd. Dyer continued the firing for about ten minutes, until the ammunition supply was almost exhausted.

 

How did the Massacre Happen?

  • The Rowlatt Act

On 18 March 1919, the British Indian Govt passed the Rowlatt Act a draconian anti-militancy law. This act was passed to control the Indian revolutionaries from rising against them. According to the act, the government can arrest people without any trial on terms on suspicion. This led to anger in the minds of the people who resulted in a revolution.

  • Public gatherings Ban

General Reginald Dyer acting military commande had also banned all public gatherings of over four people. On April 10, 1919 two national leaders, Dr Satyapal and Dr Kichlu were arrested under the British government act of ban on public meetings or gatherings. To opposing this act around 6,000 to 10,000 People gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh to attend a meeting.

  • How General Dyer Planned attack

General Dyer had ordered to shoot innocents after closing four exit gates of the public park Jallianwala bagh where people gathered to opposing the act of goverment. On hearing that a meeting had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, Dyer went with fifty Gurkha troops to a raised bank and ordered them to shoot at the crowd. Dyer continued the firing for about ten minutes, until the ammunition supply was almost exhausted. Their arms and ammunition exhausted making the festival into a bloodshed.

  • Attack Aftermath

On 14 October 1919, ‘The Hunter Commission’ was formed to enquire about the incident led by Lord Hunter. After orders issued by the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, the Government of India announced the formation of a committee of inquiry into the events in Punjab. It was named after the name of chairman, Lord William Hunter, former Solicitor-General for Scotland and Senator of the College of Justice in Scotland. The stated purpose of the commission was to “investigate the recent disturbances in Bombay, Delhi and Punjab, about their causes, and the measures taken to cope with them”. The Hunter Committee had also suffered the setback of being boycotted by Indian nationalists, represented by the Congress, because of the government’s refusal to release Punjab leaders on bail.
The Hunter Commission did not impose any penal or disciplinary action because Dyer’s actions were condoned by various superiors. Two days later, on 15 April, demonstrations occurred in Gujranwala protesting the killings at Amritsar. Police and aircraft were used against the demonstrators, resulting in 12 deaths and 27 injuries. On 13 March 1940, at Caxton Hall in London, Udham Singh who was an Indian independence activist from Sunam had also witnessed the events in Amritsar and was himself wounded. He shot and killed Michael O’Dwyer, the British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab at the time of the massacre, who had approved Dyer’s action and was believed to be the main planner.  General Dyer himself had died in 1927.

Tributes to all who died in this attack

Today 98 years completed of this draconian attack many people and leaders paid tributes to martyrs and the people who died in this attack. PM Modi tweeted “Saluting the martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Their valour & heroism will never be forgotten.”

About the author

Pallavi Parmar

Journalism is my profession, Blogging and Writing are my passion, Travelling is my love, Food is my life and Feminist by nature.

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