Jallianwala Bagh Massacre : A Scar of Imperial India

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre : A Scar of Imperial India

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also called Massacre of Amritsar, the incident took place on April 13, 1919. British troops fired on a large crowd of unarmed Indians in an open space known as the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in the Punjab region (now in Punjab state) of India, killing several hundred people and wounding many hundreds more.

It marked a turning point in India’s modern history, in that it left a permanent scar on Indo-British relations and was the prelude to Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi’s full commitment to the cause of Indian nationalism and independence from Britain.

Scenario after World War I (1914–18)

During World War I (1914–18) the British government of India enacted a series of repressive emergency powers that were intended to combat subversive activities. By the war’s end, expectations were high among the Indian populace that those measures would ease and that India would get more political autonomy.

The Montagu-Chelmsford Report, presented to the British Parliament in 1918, did, recommend limited local self-government. Instead, however, the government of India passed what became known as the Rowlatt Acts in early 1919, which fundamentally extended the repressive wartime measures.

The acts were met by widespread anger and discontent among Indians, notably in the Punjab region. Gandhi, in early April, called for a one-day general strike throughout the country. In Amritsar, the news that prominent Indian leaders had been arrested and banished from that city sparked violent protests on April 10.

Brig. Gen. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer at Jallianwala Bagh

Soldiers fired upon civilians, buildings were looted and burned, and angry mobs killed several foreign nationals and severely beat a Christian missionary—a force of several dozen troops commanded by Brig. Gen. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer was given the task of restoring order. Among the measures taken was a ban on public gatherings.

Proceedings of Jallianwala Bagh

On the afternoon of April 13, a crowd of at least 10,000 men, women, and children gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh, which was nearly completely enclosed by walls and had only one exit. It is not clear how many people some protesters were defying the ban on public meetings and how many had come to the city from the surrounding region to celebrate Baisakhi, a spring festival.

Dyer and his soldiers arrived and sealed off the exit. Without warning, the troops opened fire on the crowd, reportedly shooting hundreds of rounds until they ran out of ammunition. It is not sure how many died in the bloodbath, but, according to one official report, an estimated 379 people got killed, and about 1,200 more were wounded. After they ceased firing, the troops immediately withdrew from the place, leaving behind the dead and injured.The proclamation of martial law followed the shooting in the Punjab that included public floggings and other humiliations.

Indian outrage after Jallianwala Bagh

Indian outrage grew as news of the fire and subsequent British actions spread throughout the subcontinent. The Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore renounced the knighthood that he had received in 1915. Gandhi was initially hesitant to act, but he soon began organizing his first large-scale and sustained nonviolent protest (satyagraha) campaign, the noncooperation movement (1920–22), which thrust him to prominence in the Indian nationalist struggle.

The government of India ordered an investigation of the incident (the Hunter Commission), which in 1920 censured Dyer for his actions and ordered him to resign from the military.

Reactions against Jallianwala Bagh

The reaction in Britain to the massacre was mixed, however. Many condemned Dyer’s activities—including Sir Winston Churchill, then secretary of war, in a speech to the House of Commons in 1920—but the House of Lords praised Dyer and gave him a sword inscribed with the motto “Saviour of Punjab.” Besides, a large fund was raised by Dyer’s sympathizers and presented to him.

The Jallianwala Bagh site in Amritsar is now a national monument,
The day which got marked on every Indian’s mind and heart give an incurable burning pain. As India commemorates 101 years of the ghastly incident in the history of pre-independence that took over hundreds of lives, the residents of the Sikh holy city, Amritsar, are yet to recover from unforgettable pain.

Day at a Glance : Jallianwala Bagh

On this day, 101 years ago, the colonial rulers had committed a crime against humanity by launching indiscriminate firing on unarmed Sikhs who had gathered in the vicinity of the Golden Temple in Amritsar to protest peacefully.

What was the agenda of protesting people

On April 13, 1919, around 10,000 people gathered at Jallianwala Bagh in the afternoon to condemn the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew.

What caused the Jallianwala Bagh massacre

After the arrest of freedom fighter Saifuddin Kitchlew in early April of 1919 and the ban imposed on Mahatma Gandhi from visiting Punjab, the administration was cautious about a revolt in the state. General Reginald Dyer had issued an order barring any form of congregations in Amritsar. Since the law as not effectively disseminated, a gathering had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh on the occasion of Baisakhi. The people were unaware of the restrictions and curfews. They included unarmed men, women, and children of all ages. After the government was alerted about their presence, Dyer reached the spot with 50 soldiers armed with the rifles. The soldiers trapped the visitors and launched an indiscriminate fire. The firing continued for the next ten minutes, killing 379 people officially and wounded 1,500 more.

What happened after the massacre

After killing hundreds of innocent people, Brigadier Dyer walked away from the site and offered no help to the wounded. He also imposed the controversial ‘Crawling order,’ which forced the Indians to crawl on all fours on the stretch of the road where Ms. Sherwood got attacked. He issued a speech in Lahore on April 14 in Urdu, where he warned the locals of being shot dead if they resort to protests over the killing of civilians in Amritsar.

As criticism grew, however, the British regime was compelled to send him back to London. He retired in 1920, retaining the rank of colonel. In 1927, he died at the age of 62 after suffering from multiple brain strokes.

Governor-General during Jallianwala Bagh massacre

The Governor-General of British India at the time was Michael O’Dwyer, whose reign extended from 1913 to 1919. O’Dwyer had drawn criticism for supporting General Dyer for his decision to order the firing in Amritsar. To avenge the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Indian revolutionary Udham Singh assassinated him in Caxton, England, on March 13, 1940.

Who manages the Jallianwala Bagh

The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust manages the memorial. The chairman of the Trust is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Last year, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the unfortunate event, British High Commissioner to India Dominic Asquith said that Britain deeply regretted the incident. “The events of Jallianwala Bagh 100 years ago today reflect a shameful act in British-Indian history. We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused,” Asquith wrote in the visitors’ book at the memorial. “I am pleased today that the UK and India have and remain committed to developing further a thriving 21st-century partnership,” he added. In his brief interaction with reporters later, Asquith said British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday described the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as a “shameful scar” on British Indian history.

May, however, stopped short of offering a formal apology.