Jallianwala bagh massacre: Britons at the peak of Barabrity
1 year ago Hassan Kalam | Hunt Media Desk 1
We’re just a year away from the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre but the wounds are so deep that it feels like it happened yesterday. A large congregation of people, unknown about their fate, met at Jallianwala Bagh in the spirit of festivities and also to condemn the arrest of the two national leaders, Satya Pal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew met their end at the hands of the Colonel Reginald Dyer’s army. The entire populous of the nation was startled by the inhumane act of the Britons. The 7 acre public garden, walled on all sides, echoed with the sound of shots fired for 10 minutes, piercing through the body of anyone and everyone. Innocent, defenceless and unarmed Indians died in stampedes while trying run through the narrow exit gates and some jumped into the solitary well to escape shooting.
What led to such brutality?
It began with the Indian contribution to the British war effort during World War I by providing soldiers, labourers, food, money and ammunition. Meanwhile in Bengal and Punjab, end numbers of anticolonial activities were organized by the Indian nationalists. A pan India mutiny in the British Indian Army planned for February 1915 was ultimately thwarted when British intelligence infiltrated the Ghadarite movement, arresting key figures. In the light of the threat from the militant movement in India, the Defence of India Act was passed in 1915, limiting the civil and political liberties. Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915 at the request of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, conveyed to him by C. F. Andrews. The consequences of the war such as high casualty rates, rising inflation, imposition of heavy tax, the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, and the disruption of trade during the war escalated human suffering in India. Congress formed an alliance with the All-India Muslim League, putting aside their differences and established Lucknow Pact. Anticolonial events such as Ghadar conspiracy, the presence of Mahendra Pratap’s Kabul mission in Afghanistan (with possible links to the then nascent Bolshevik Russia), and several active revolutionary movement especially in Punjab and Bengal encouraged the appointment of a Sedition committee in 1918 which recommended an extended version of the Defence of India Act, popularly known as Rowlatt Act with the intention of limiting civil liberties. This led to massive political unrest, eventually leading Muhammad Ali Jinnah to resign from his Bombay seat, writing to viceroy a letter, “I, therefor, as a protest against the passing of the Bill and the manner in which it was passed tender my resignation………………a government that passes or sanctions such a law in times of peace forfeits its claim to be called a civilized Government”. Gandhi at the same time also retaliated to the act passed by Britons. Consequently rail, telegraph and communication systems started deteriorating in Punjab over the next few days, leading to the imposition of Martial Law. Michael O’Dwyer believed that these were the early and ill-concealed signs of a conspiracy. On the evening of 12 April, the leaders in Amritsar held a meeting at the Hindu College – Dhab Khatikan. At the meeting, Hans Raj, an aide to Dr. Kitchlew, announced a public protest meeting to be held at 16:30 the following day in the Jallianwala Bagh, to be organised by Dr. Muhammad Bashir and chaired by a senior and respected Congress Party leader, Lal Kanhyalal Bhatia. A series of resolutions protesting against the Rowlatt Act, the recent actions of the British authorities and the detention of Drs. Satyapal and Kitchlew was drawn up and approved, after which the meeting was adjourned.
Colonel Reginald Dyer along with city officials proceeded through the city and announced the implementation of curfew and banned all sort of processions and public meetings of four or more persons. Many people learned about it later and after worshipping at the Golden Temple went to Bagh on their way home. Around 20,000-25,000 people gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh by the time of the meeting. Instead of sending police to disperse crowd and end the matter peacefully, Colonel Dyer arrived at the Bagh with a group of ninety Sikh, Gurkha, Rajput from 2-9th Gurkhas, the 54th Sikhs and the 59th Sind Rifles soldiers. He order the troops to open fire without giving them warning to disperse because he was preoccupied with punishing Indians for disobeying orders of the Britons. Firing continued for 10 minutes on the dense congregation of people and stopped only after every last ammunition was exhausted. In the quest of saving their life many people died in stampedes at the narrow gates or by jumping into the solitary well on the compound to escape the shooting. British official figure stated the death of 379 deaths but when Indian National Congress instituted a separate inquiry of its own; casualty number was found to be more than 1,500, with approximately 1,000 being killed.
It was definitely a moment that stunned the entire nation and continues to haunt us even today.
No, please, I have a child with me
Don’t shoot, I have a child with me.
I have nowhere to run
please stop them someone
there is no place to hide
please stop them someone.
Take my life spare my child
Take me as the prey of your bullet
I beg of you please spare my child.
God please save us from this rainfall of ammunition
I pray for your benediction
These demons have gotten wild
They will hurt my little child.
Oh my child, are you alright?
Speak up my baby, are you alright?
Your bullet has claimed my child’s life
Your insanity has claimed my child’s life.
Are you still hungry?
Are you thirsty for more?
If yes, then take my life too
for there is nothing left for me to live anymore.
My child has transcended to the highest
and you have descended to the lowest
God has witnessed your barbaric acts
Whole humanity will have to pay for your debts.
Nowhere will your soul find the place to hide
Nowhere your soul will find the way to run
God’s wrath will surely fall upon you
His justice spares none.
My Mother India will get Her independence some day
She will be free from your clutches some day.
No innocent will be murdered again
no parent will cry in vain.
Rich and poor will be seen alike
My country will be free of strife
God will once again take birth from human’s womb
There will be no bullet and there won’t be any bomb.
Such will be its Civilization
Such will be my Free Nation
That is Her destination
Such will be my Free Nation!
(A poem by Anshul Gupta)