The Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy (Massacre)

Jallianwala Bagh, an event that left a sinisterly mark in the history of India. It all began on 10th April 1919, when people protested at the Deputy Commissioner’s residence in Punjab demanding the release of two eminent leaders Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew who supported the Satyagraha movement. It was then when the protesters were shot dead by the British military. Various violent events followed the same day including the attack on banks, railway station, town halls, and finally setting them ablaze.

April 13, 1919, Amritsar, was an auspicious day when multitudes of Hindus, Muslims and Punjabis gathered to celebrate the Sikh festival Baisakhi and to secretly protest against the extraordinary measures of the British. The congregation was a community fair that marked the “Birth of Khalsa”.  The meeting was scheduled to commence at 4.30 pm. The meeting began peacefully when people were listening peacefully to the testimony of victims. An hour passed when General Dyer appeared with his troops. It was a team of 65 Gurukha and 25 Baluchi soldiers, 50 of whom were armed with rifles. Dyer was accompanied by two cars filled with machine guns that were stationed outside the main gate of Jallianwala Bagh.

The Jallianwala Bagh was a public place that was surrounded by houses and buildings from all the sides and had a few narrow locked entrances. It was the main entrance that was wider in size.

Without issuing any warnings for the crowds to disperse, General Dyer ordered the armed troops to begin shooting at the crowd. The shooting continued until a point of 1650 rounds and stopped when the ammunition was almost on the verge of exhaustion. The exits were sealed and people struggled for life. Innocent lives were taken for the sake of satisfying own selfish beliefs and clearing doubts. Blood was gushing through the walls to the ground, moaning cries around, the scene of the blood stained bodies  were pathetic, no words to describe the monstrous act that gave a tragic end to the happy and united beginning.

Many died from the shooting while others in the stampede that resulted as a failed attempt to escape death. They were many who jumped into the solitary well to escape being shot by the bullets of the British. It is estimated that 12 bodies were removed from the well, followed by a curfew that accelerated the increase in the death ratio as the wounded could not be moved to the hospital. The number of deaths by shooting was officially declared to 379 deaths by the British official records. But the actual figure of the dead was disputed considering the size of the crowd, the number of rounds of shooting and the duration of shooting. The Indian national Congress quoted that the number exceeded 1500 with approximately 1000 killed in the massacre. This incident swept a wave of outrage in the whole nation and General Dyer was asked to appear before the Hunter commission for a detailed inquiry into the massacre. Sir Michael O Dwyer also supported the action of General Dyer.

General Dyer replied to the Hunter Commission that he did not stop shooting when the crowd began dispersing because he waited till the entire crowd dispersed and then little shooting was not enough so the shooting continued till the ammunition exhausted completely. He never tried to attend the wounded as he believed it wasn’t his duty and hospitals were open for the treatment.

Though General Dyer was not penalized for his actions, it was in the later stages when his guilt was proved; he was relieved from his command.

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