The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre took place on 13th April 1919. It was one of the most brutal and heart-wrenching chapters in India’s freedom struggle.
Baisakhi- The festival of harvests, the beginning of a new year, an auspicious day which Punjab celebrates wholeheartedly. About a hundred years ago, the Baisakhi celebrations were somewhat similar at the Jallianwala Bagh. Nearly a century ago, with the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi and other revolutionary leaders, India was starting to unite many regional movements into one national movement. 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,1919, popularly known as the Rowlatt Act, the government gave themselves power to shut down all the political campaigns, meetings and rallies. Merely on suspicion, the police could detain anyone for a period of two years without a trial or appeal. Despite fierce opposition from every Indian member this gruesome act was passed.
Indians felt humiliated and angry at the same time. Against this backdrop, Mahatma Gandhi issued a clarion call for a nationwide civil disobedience hartal on 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.Saifuddin Kitchlew led the Rowlatt Satyagraha here. At this time, the relation between the Hindu and Muslim communities was at it’s peak and the protest against the British government were a sight to behold which happened on 9th April, 1919 in Amritsar.
The British government foresaw the seeds of a large-scale organized movement in it’s unity and decided to end it at it’s nascent stage. On 10th April,1919 the authorities deceitfully arrested and deported Dr.Satyapal and Dr.Kitchlew. This outraged 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 station, banks and government offices by the protesters. Both sides suffered the 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 meetings and associations. Gatherings of more than four people were prohibited. Nearly twenty thousand people gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi, and to demand the release of Dr.Satyapal and Dr.Kitchlew. The shooting had started without any warning, under the order of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer and continued till the troops ran out of ammunition. More than 1000 people had died and 1500 had been injured. Many people out of panic jumped into the well because the doors were locked so that no one was able to escape from there.
The news of the Massacre spread like wildfire across the country. It encouraged many more to participate in the struggle for India’s freedom. Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood award by British, Mahatma Gandhi returned his Kaisar-i-Hind Medal in the wake of this incident.
Categories: Culture and History