Jallianwala Bagh (Punjabi: ਜਲ੍ਹਿਆਂਵਾਲਾ ਬਾਗ਼, Hindi: जलियांवाला बाग़) is a public garden in Amritsar in the Punjab state of India, and houses a memorial of national importance, established in 1951 to commemorate the massacre by British occupying forces of peaceful celebrators on the occasion of the Punjabi New Year on April 13, 1919 in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Colonial British Raj sources identified 379 fatalities and estimated about 1100 wounded. Civil Surgeon Dr. Smith indicated that there were 1,526 casualties. The true figures of fatalities are unknown, but are likely to be many times higher than the official figure of 379.
The memorial is managed by the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, which was established as per the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act passed by the Government of India in 1951.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre
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(As described by M.S. Randhawa on 30 January 1974)
World War I was about to conclude, and India was in ferment. In August 1917, E.S. Montagu, the Secretary of State for India, had declared on behalf of the British Government to grant responsible government to India within the British Empire. The war came to an end on 11 November 1918. On 6 February 1919 Rowlatt Bills were introduced by the British Government in the Imperial Legislative Council, and one of the bills was passed into an Act in March 1919. Under this Act, people suspected of so-called sedition could be imprisoned without trial. This resulted in frustration among Indians and there was great unrest. While people were expecting freedom, they suddenly discovered that chains were being strengthened. At that time, Punjab was governed by Lieutenant Governor Michael O'Dwyer, who had contempt for educated Indians. During the war he had adopted unscrupulous methods for collecting war funds, press-gang techniques for raising recruits and had gagged the press. He truly ruled Punjab with an iron hand.
At this juncture, Mahatma Gandhi decided to launch a Satyagraha campaign. This unique form of political struggle eschewed violence, was open, and relied on truth and righteousness. It emphasized that means were as important as the ends. The city of Amritsar responded to Mahatma's call by observing a strike on 6 April 1919. On the 9th April on Ram Naumi festival, a procession was taken out, in which Hindus and Muslims had participated, giving proof of their unity, and the government ordered the arrest of Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlu and Dr. Satyapal, popular leaders of the people of Amritsar. They were deported to Dharamshala where they were interned.
On the 10 April, as people wanted to meet the Deputy Commissioner to demand the release of the two arrested leaders, they were fired upon. This event angered people and disorder broke out in Amritsar. Some bank buildings were sacked, telegraph and railway communications were snapped, three Britishers were murdered and one woman injured.
Chaudhari Bugga Mal, a leader was arrested on 12 April, and Mahasha Rattan Chand, a piece-goods broker, and a popular leader a few days later. This created great resentment among the people of Amritsar.
On 11 April, Brigadier General R.E.H. Dyer arrived from Jalandhar Cantonment, and virtually occupied the town as civil administration under Miles Irving, the Deputy Commissioner, had come to standstill.
On 13 April 1919, the Baisakhi Day, a public meeting was announced to be held in Jallianwala Bagh in the evening. Dyer came to Jallianwala Bagh with a force of 150 troops. They took up their positions on an elevated ground towards the main entrance, a narrow lane in which hardly two men can walk abreast.
At six minutes to sunset they opened fire on a crowd of about 20,000 people without giving any warning. Arthur Swinson thus describes the massacre:
"Towards the exits on the either flank, the crowds converged in their frantic effort to get away, jostling, clambering, elbowing and trampling over each other. Seeing this movement, Brigs drew Dyer's attention to it, and Dyer mistakenly imagining that these sections of the crowd were getting ready to rush him, directed the fire of the troops straight at them. The result was horrifying. Men screamed and went down, to be trampled by those coming after. Some were hit again and again. In places the dead and wounded lay in heaps; men would go down wounded, to find themselves immediately buried beneath a dozen others.
The firing still went on. Hundreds abandoning all hope of getting away through the exits, tried the walls which in places were five feet high and at others seven or ten. Fighting for a position, they ran at them, clutching at the smooth surfaces, trying frantically to get a hold. some people almost reached the top to be pulled down by those fighting behind them. Some more agile than the rest, succeeded in getting away, but many more were shot as they clambered up, and some sat poised on the top before leaping down on the further side.
20,000 people were caught beneath the hail of bullets: all of them frantically trying to escape from the quiet meeting place which had suddenly become a screaming hell.
Some of those who endured it gave their guess as a quarter of an hour. Dyer thought probably 10 minutes; but from the number of rounds fired it may not have been longer than six. In that time an estimated 1000 people were killed, and 1,500 men and boys wounded.
The whole Bagh was filled with the sound of sobbing and moaning and the voices of people calling for help."
The flame lighted at Jallianwala Bagh ultimately set the whole of India aflame. It is a landmark in India's struggle for freedom. It gave great impetus to Satyagrah movement, which ultimately won freedom for India on 15 August 1947.
Though Dyer claimed that he had nipped a revolution by his drastic action, he never had sound sleep after the Massacre. He died on July 23, 1927 and was buried at the Church of St. Martin in the Fields in London. Sir Michael O'Dwyer survived him by 13 years. On March 13, 1940 he was shot dead by Sardar Udham Singh of Sunam, at the Caxton Hall, London.
- Home Political Deposit, September, 1920, No 23, National Archives of India, New Delhi; Report of Commissioners, Vol I, New Delhi
- Report of Commissioners, Vol I, New Delhi, p 105
- Jallianwala Bagh commemoration volume and Amritsar and our duty to India. Publication Bureau, Punjabi University. 1994. ISBN 978-81-7380-388-8.
- Datta, Vishwa Nath (1969). Jallianwala Bagh. [Kurukshetra University Books and Stationery Shop for] Lyall Book Depot.
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