Jallianwala Bagh Massacre - A Story from The Pages of History That Will Leave You in Tears!
Popularly known as the Amritsar Massacre, this incident took place on April 13, 1919, at Jallianwala Bagh,Amritsar, Punjab. It marks one of the major heinous political crimes committed by the Britishers during the twentieth century. It is named after the famous Jallianwala Bagh, which is a public garden stretched over an area of 7 acres, with walls covering all of its sides.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre History
Since the beginning of the World War I, there had been an increasing resentment and civil unrest throughout the country especially in the states of West Bengal and Punjab. It was due to the terrible repercussions of the war, like- inflation, heavy taxation, a huge number of dead and wounded soldiers that contributed immensely in uniting the nation against the British Rule. The worsening civil unrest led to the formation of Rowlatt Committee in 1919. The Rowlatt Act was a legislative act that allowed certain political cases to be tried without the presence of a jury and permitted internment of suspects without any trial. This is the time when Mahatma Gandhi came to light as a revolutionary. The Act resulted in furious protests throughout the country. The unrest became worst, especially in Punjab.
There were demonstrations held at the residence of Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar to demand the release of two popular leaders of the Indian Independence Movement- Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. There were violent protests that resulted in the burning of the Town Hall and Railway station, disruption of telegraphs and communication system. It resulted in many deaths including a few deaths of the European government officials as well as civilians.
Due to all these activities, the city of Amritsar witnessed a few days of silence while other parts of Punjab suffered. The British Government thus decided to place most of Punjab under Martial Law. Restrictions were placed on the civil liberties that banned public gatherings and prohibited assembling of more people together.
What Happened in Jallianwala Bagh in 1919?
On 13 April 1919, thousands of people were gathered at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab. This day marks the beginning of New Year for the Sikhs and is also celebrated as Baisakhi festival all over Punjab. People travel days to reach Punjab on this auspicious day to celebrate Baisakhi with their family and loved ones.
On the morning of Baisakhi, Colonel Reginald Dyer had announced the implementation of a curfew throughout Amritsar and a ban on all processions that even prohibited a group of 4 or more people to meet publicly. At about 12:40 PM, Dyer received confidential information about the meeting taking place at Jallianwala Bagh that may result in riots and protests. By mid-day, thousands of people were gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh including the devotees at Harmandir Sahib. Jallianwala Bagh was covered on all sides by walls reaching up to 10 feet. It is equipped with narrow entrances, most of which were locked. The place was flocked by the devotees, traders, farmers and merchants who visited Amritsar to enjoy the festival and witness the Baisakhi horse and cattle fair. Sensing the number of people present there and the secret meeting that was going to take place at 4:30 PM, General Dyer arrived there with armed troops.
The main entrance was also guarded by the armed troops. There were armoured cars accompanying the troops that were supposedly carrying machine guns and explosives. On Dyer's orders, there was ruthless firing done on the uninformed crowd. There were about 25,000 people present there at the time of firing. Some tried to escape while some choose to jump in the solitude well built in the premises of Jallianwala Bagh. The troops were ordered to start shooting from the most densely crowded spot to harm the maximum number of people. This heinous act of violence resulted in extreme mass killing. The firing continued for about 10 minutes, and it only ceased when the ammunition supplies were almost exhausted. The scattered dead bodies could not even be moved due to the implemented curfew. Colonel Dyer reportedly carried out this firing not just to disperse the meeting, but to punish the Indians for disobeying their orders. In a telegram sent by British Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, Colonel Dyer's actions were supposed to be correct and approved by him. Further, the British Lieutenant even asked the Viceroy to implement martial law in Punjab.
How many people died in Jallianwala Bagh?
The number of deaths caused due to the firing had been a disputed issue till now. While the official enquiry by the British informed about 379 deaths, the death toll was quoted to be around 1,000 by Congress. There were about 120 dead bodies recovered from the well also.
Keeping in mind the significance of this place in the history of India, a trust was founded in 1920 to build a memorial site at Jallianwala Bagh. American architect, Benjamin Polk, built the memorial on site which was inaugurated by the then President of India, Rajendra Prasad on 13 April 1961.
The monument and the adjoining buildings exhibit the bullet marks on their walls and depict the excruciating pain that the people suffered that day. The well that rescued numerous people from the bullets fired by the troops is also preserved in the compound of the park.
This historical monument is visited by many tourists throughout the year to recollect the struggles faced by our ancestors to free India from the shackles of slavery. It is located near the renowned and glorious Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar, Punjab. It can be visited on any day of the week from 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM, without paying any fee.