Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: 100th Anniversary of British Massacre of Unarmed Innocent Indians on April 13, 1919
Sachi G. Dastidar
April 13, 2019
Recently to pay homage to the massacred Indian martyrs of India’s freedom struggle I visited Jallianwala Bagh memorial garden in the heart of the City of Amritsar in northern Punjab State of India. (Our first visit was in 2008 when we arrived in Amritsar crossing the desolate India-Pakistan Wagha border after attending the 150th Anniversary of the First War of Independence Conference at Peshawar University of the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan.) The massacre was committed by the repressive Colonial British Army led by a British officer. Most Indian history books today in new, post-colonial independent India rarely discusses British atrocities – from the massacres of 1857-1958 First War of Independence also called Shepoy Mutiny by the colonial rulers to massacres of freedom fighters throughout 1900s to 1943 killings of millions in the British-made Bengal Famine to 1946 Noakhali Pogrom Killing to 1947 British Partition of India and subsequent mass killings. However, the Jallianwala mass killing was brought to limelight by the British Director Attenborough in his 1982 Oscar-winning movie Gandhi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LaoamJ3vbs). The Jallianwala Bagh massacre caused soul searching among Indians, but not in the repressive British colonial circle. Killer of hundreds of unarmed Indian men, women and children, the British army general, didn’t get any prison time. Murdered victims numbering over a thousand didn’t get any compensation from the colonial rulers! That year the first non-European Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, returned his knighthood to the British Monarch King George V in protest against the massacre.
Today the park is saved as one of India’s national monuments receiving tens of thousands of visitors. My first visit had a somber atmosphere, while during the latest trip visitors to the park were in joyous mood for celebration as if the martyrs have been reborn in their pious land.
Today, April 13, 2019 is the 100th Anniversary. Today we remember those martyrs once again.
A Memorial at the Entrance
The Narrow Gali (lane) Through which Killer General couldn't take his Armored Vehicle
To Escape Bullets many Jumped into the Well
Crowd at the Martyr's Memorial
Here are two recent articles that appeared in the daily newspapers in India and Bangladesh.
Statesman April 9, 2019
100 years of Jallianwala Bagh massacre: Epic TV airs special show
First part of the show commissioned by the Punjab government was aired on 6 April, concluding part will be telecast on 13 April
SNS Web | New Delhi | April 9, 2019 1:43 pm
Hundreds of people were killed at Jallianwala Bagh on 13 April, 1919, the Baisakhi day. (Photo: Epic Channel)
On 13 April, 1919, Punjab was celebrating the main Sikh festival of Baisakhi. At Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, people had gathered for a Baisakhi mela and to stage a peaceful protest against the British rule. On hearing about the crowd, General Reginald Dyer reached the place and ordered his force to open fire on the unarmed people, scripting one of the bloodiest stories in the history of India’s struggle for Independence. With the relentless, unprovoked firing blocking their only exit from the park, hundreds of people lost their lives trapped in the enclosed area. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre went on to become a symbol of colonialism and the atrocities suffered by India during the British rule. As the incident completes 100 years this year, Epic TV is airing a special show, ‘Jallianwala Bagh – Punjab Ka Dil’, commemorating the martyrs.
Commissioned by the Government of Punjab, the EPIC Original show is a tribute to all those people who were killed in cold blood. The first of the two-part project was aired on 6 April at 7 pm with a repeat telecast on 7 April at 10:30 am. The concluding part will be telecast on 13 April at 7 pm and repeated on 14 April at 10:30 am.
Entrusted by the Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) of the Punjab government, the Epic Channel says the feature on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre “examines the events leading up to the incident and analyses the far-reaching impact of its fall-out; that spurred the clarion call of Poorna Swaraj — complete independence”.
“Through interviews with renowned scholars, rare archival footage, meetings with descendants of the martyrs, along with an exploration of those who visit the hallowed ground to pay homage, the hour long narrative explores the various facets that make the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy an extremely significant event in India’s history,” the channel said in a statement.
Akul Tripathi, Head – Content and Programming, Epic Channel, added: “We are honoured and proud to be the vessel of choice, to tell the story of such an important moment in India’s history. The feature is homage to generations of martyrs and freedom fighters from the brave land of the Punjab. The Jallianwala Bagh incident and its sacrifices must not be forgotten, today and by generations to come.”
Jallianwala Bagh – Punjab Ka Dil will also be available on EPIC On, which is the channel’s video streaming service, in Hindi, English, and Punjabi.
Daily Observer, Dhaka, April 13, 2019
General Reginald Dyer’s troops fired for 10 minutes and only stopped because they had run out of ammunition.’ The Amritsar massacre, 13 April 1919. Photograph: Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo
Britain’s high commissioner to India laid a wreath on Saturday on the 100th anniversary of the Amritsar massacre, one of the worst atrocities of colonial rule for which London is still to apologise.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, as it is known in India, saw British troops fire on thousands of unarmed men, women and children in the northern city of Amritsar on the afternoon of April 13, 1919, AFP reports.
The number of casualties from the event, which galvanised support for independence, is unclear. Colonial-era records put the death toll at 379, but Indian figures put the number closer to 1,000.
Even 100 years on, Britain has still made no official apology and Dominic Asquith, high commissioner, on Saturday followed suit at the Jallianwala Bagh walled garden where bullet marks are still visible.
“You might want to re-write history, as the Queen said, but you can’t,” Asquith said.
“What you can do, as the Queen said, is to learn the lessons of history. I believe strongly we are. There is no question that we will always remember this. We will never forget what happened here.”
In the memorial’s guest book Asquith, a descendant of Herbert Asquith, prime minister from 1908-16, called the events “shameful”.
“We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused,” he wrote.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet called the tragedy “horrific” and that the memory of those killed “inspires us to work even harder to build an India they would be proud of.”
Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was present in Amritsar and on Twitter called the massacre “a day of infamy that stunned the entire world and changed the course of the Indian freedom struggle.”
In a visit in 2013 then British prime minister David Cameron described what happened as “deeply shameful” but stopped short of an apology.
In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II laid a wreath at the site but her gaffe-prone husband Prince Philip stole the headlines by reportedly saying that Indian estimates for the death count were “vastly exaggerated”.
On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that the massacre was “a shameful scar on British Indian history”.
“We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused,” May said, but she, too, avoided saying she was sorry.
Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab state, said May’s words were not enough.
He said “an unequivocal official apology” is needed for the “monumental barbarity”.
Singh said thousands attended a candlelight march Friday in memory of the victims ahead of a commemoration ceremony later on Saturday.
Around 10,000 unarmed men, women and children had gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh walled public garden in Amritsar on April 13, 1919.
Many were angry about the recent extension of repressive measures and the arrest of two local leaders that had sparked violent protests three days before.
The 13th of April was also a big spring festival, and the crowd —estimated by some at 20,000 — included pilgrims visiting the nearby Golden Temple sacred to Sikhs.
Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer arrived with dozens of troops, sealed off the exit and without warning ordered the soldiers to open fire.
Many tried to escape by scaling the high walls surrounding the area. Others jumped into a deep, open well at the site as the troops fired.
One of several eyewitness accounts compiled by two historians and published in the Indian Express newspaper this week described the horror.
“Heaps of dead bodies lay there, some on their backs and some with their faces upturned. A number of them were poor innocent children. I shall never forget the sight,” said Ratan Devi, whose husband was killed.
Dyer, dubbed “The Butcher of Amritsar”, said later the firing was “not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience”.
Indian newspapers this week repeated their calls for an apology for a massacre that Winston Churchill, then secretary of state for war, called “monstrous”.
“But even in the centenary year of the massacre, Britain has refused to… take that important step,” the Hindustan Times said in an editorial. May’s statement was “perhaps qualitatively a notch stronger… but is far from enough.”