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Tragedy Of Jallianwala Bagh (1919)

Tragedy Of Jallianwala Bagh (1919)

In the Indian history of freedom struggle for independence many great warriors laid down their life. There is a record of every incident. One of the most tragic incident in the history is the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which took place in Amritsar (Punjab).

Winston Churchill stated this account as "'The incident in Jallian walaBagh was an extra ordinary event,a monstrous event, an event which stands in a singular and silver stone isolation......"

The most heartbreaking incident of the Indian history took place a few months after the end of the First World War. Great atrocities were committed in Punjab during the reign of Sir Michael O'Dwyer, lieutenant who was a Governor of Punjab. Sir Michael had no faith in political reforms and consequently, had no sympathy for the political agitators. He refused Tilak and B.C.Pal to enter the Punjab. The method adopted by him to raise war loans and to find recruits were very unauthorized and oppressive.

When the agitation against the Rowlatt Act started, on 7th April 1919 Sir Michael gave a stern warning to the people of Punjab. Amritsar observed hartal peacefully on 30th March and 6th April. On 10th April 1919 the government passed orders for the deportation of Dr. Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew and their internment at Dharamsala under the defense of India act.

Many people went on demonstration to demand the release of two popular leaders of the Indian Independence Movement. The crowd was fired on by a military picket. The firing set off a chain of violence. As the started sinking in the dark hours of night some protesters set the city on burning fire. Several banks and other government buildings, including the Town Hall and the railway station were attacked. The violence made the British to squeeze indoors as it culminated in the deaths of at least 5 Europeans, including government employees and civilians.

On 12th April 1919 General Dyer proclaimed that whoever took charge of the meetings or gatherings a serious action will be taken. However no steps were taken to see that proclamation was brought to the notice of the people living in various localities in the city. The impact was that the announcement were made in the evening of 12th April 1919 at 4:30pm in the Jallianwala Bagh. Neither General Dyer nor other authorities took any action to stop the meeting. The meeting started at the right time with practically any armed defenses.

The Jallianwala Bagh was closed practically on all sides by walls except one entrance. General Dyer entered the Jallian walaBagh with armed car and troops without giving any warning to the the people to disperse. He ordered the troops to fire and he continued to do until the whole ammunition was exhausted. Hundreds of people were killed. The contention of General Dyre was that he wanted to teach the people a lesson so the he would have fired longer if he had the ammunition. Research states that he had fired only 6000 rounds as his as his ammunition was running short.

The regime of Dyrer imposed unthinkable punishment on the people. The water and electric supply of Amritsar were cut off. Public flogging was common. The 'crawling order 'was the worst of all. The action of General Dyer was approved by Sir O' Dwye, Lord Hunter reported adversely on the action of General Dyer. His view was that the duty of the officer on such occasion was to take only those measures which were necessary to save life and prevent the destruction of property. It was not his duty to strike terror into the hearts of the people of the province. The view of the hunter committee was accepted by the government of India and Dyer was censured by the secretary of state for India. The commander in chief forced him to resign and his action was upheld by the army council.

The action of general Dyer was universally contempt. Mr Asquith, Prime Minister of England described it in the British parliament as "one of the worst outrages in the whole of our history ''. Sir Sivaswamy, President of All India Moderates conference, criticized the action of General Dyer strongly. Sir Rabindra Nath Tagore was so much depressed by the monstrous event that he returned his knighthood to the King-Emperor in protest.

Hundreds of dead souls in Jallianwalla Bagh evoked feelings of deep anguish and anger through out the country. It catalysed the freedom movement against British rule and paved the way for Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement against the British. That's not all it even trigged great freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh to fight for a noble cause. The cry, blood and tears did not go for a waste, but it rather made millions to fight more fiercely for their birthright A free India.

Story first published: Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 16:46 [IST]
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