Jallianwala Bagh: British Empire's Dark Day
On a Sunday evening, on 13th April 1919, at a place not far from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a tragic event unfolded that sent shockwaves across India and Britain. This was the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
This merciless act by a British army officer left hundreds Indians dead and more than a thousand injured, when soldiers opened fire at a peaceful gathering at the Jallianwala Bagh on the occasion of Baisakhi.
For 10 minutes, soldiers ordered by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer fired 1,650 bullets at the men, women and children gathered in the open ground, till they ran out of ammunition. A British newspaper, the Star, called it the “darkest stain on British Rule in India”.
Resentment against the British had been growing. The Partition of Bengal in 1905 had given rise to a group of violent #revolutionaries in #India, and India’s participation in #WWI on behalf of Britain had left 70,000 Indians dead.
Then, in 1919, the colonial government passed the Rowlatt Act, which took away the civil liberties of Indians, who could now be arrested and jailed without a trial. It was meant to increase the government’s control over political protestors.
As protests erupted, Punjab came to a tipping point, where taxes had been raised and prices of foodgrains skyrocketed. Amritsar's businessmen called for a strike in early April 1919.
Two Congress leaders from Amritsar, Dr Satyapal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew, were arrested on 10th April. This enraged the public and there were flare-ups between the public and the police.
In defiance of a ban on public gatherings, people peacefully gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh on 13th April, which is when Dyer ordered the massacre of unarmed Indians.
An enquiry commission was set up but it was no more than a sham. Reginald Dyer returned to England, where he died in 1927. Thirteen years later, an Indian revolutionary named Udham Singh killed Michael O' Dwyer, Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab when the massacre took place.
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