Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
About a hundred years ago on this day, the 13th of April, 1919, the joyous festival of Baisakhi turned into a tragic event that shook the nation to its core. Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, an officer of the British Indian Army, commanded his troops to open fire on a non-violent gathering of unarmed civilians, men, women, and children, at the Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar. This came to be known as the Amritsar Massacre, and Dyer himself earned the moniker – The Butcher Of Amritsar. Many believe that the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre was the beginning of the end of British rule in India and is remembered as one of the most pivotal moments in the history of Indian Independence.
Baisakhi is the festival of harvests, the beginning of a new year an auspicious day that Punjab celebrates wholeheartedly. About a hundred years ago the Baisakhi celebrations were somewhat similar at Jallianwala Bagh. In this article, you get to know about the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
The Rowlatt Act
Mahatma Gandhi and other revolutionary leaders helped unite many regional movements into one national movement in India. The British government continued the repression of nationalists but in March of 1919, they went one step ahead. Through the anarchical and revolutionary crimes act, popularly known as the Rowlatt Act, 1919 the government gave itself the power to shut down all political campaigns, meetings, and rallies. Merely on suspicion, the police could detain anyone for a period of two years without any trial or appeal. Despite fierce opposition from every Indian member, this gruesome act was passed.
Indians felt humiliated and angry. Against this backdrop, Mahatma Gandhi issued a clarion call for a nationwide civil disobedience hartal on the 6th of April. In Punjab, people answered the call for hartal or strike, with unprecedented enthusiasm. It became a platform for voicing their anguish against the prevalent issues. Popular and beloved Gandhian leaders Dr. Satyapal and Dr. Saiffudin kitchlew led the Rowlatt Satyagraha here.
At this time the comradery between the Hindu, and Muslim communities was at its peak and the protest against the British government was a sight to behold. The British government foresaw the seeds of a large-scale organized movement in its unity and decided to end it at its nascent stage. The authorities deceitfully arrested and deported Dr. Satyapal and Dr. Kitchlew. This infuriated the people of Amritsar. They took to the streets to protest against this unlawful detention, during which the police fired upon a peaceful procession provoking attacks on railway stations, banks, and government offices by the protesters. Both sides suffered casualties and severe injuries. To crush the voices of revolution and terrorize people into submission, the British brought in Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer he imposed martial law and deployed airplanes to survey gatherings across the city. Martial law restricted civil liberties such as freedom of meeting, and associations. Gatherings of more than four people were Prohibited. Nearly twenty thousand people gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi on 13 April 1919, and to demand the release of Dr. Satyapal and Dr. kitchlew. That day something happened that changed the course of our freedom struggle. The age-old walls of Jallianwala Bagh witnessed. The shooting had started without any warning and continued till the troops ran out of ammunition. According to an estimate by the Indian National Congress, more than one thousand had died and around Fifteen Hundred were injured. The news of the massacre spread like a wildfire across the country. It encouraged many more to strenuously participate in the struggle for India’s Freedom.
Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood awarded by the British. Mahatma Gandhi also returned his Kaisar-i-hind Medal in the wake of this incident. It also transformed congress’s moderate cooperation stance into revolutionary non-cooperation. This incident exposed the true nature of imperialism disguised well under the facade of civilization.
Jallianwala Bagh is a monument to our historic struggle for independence. It is a symbol of sacrifices, made at the altar of freedom by hundreds of unnamed and unadorned Patriots. Patriots who carried the flames of revolution through the long and dark nights of oppression.