Jallianwala Bagh Massacre- A Tragic History

Baisakhi is one of the auspicious festivals celebrated by Punjabis in the month of April. The festival falls on April 13 or sometimes on April 14.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre- A Tragic History
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre- A Tragic History
Himadri Kalita

In the year 2012, my family took a vacation to Punjab when we visited Jallianwala Bagh. My father showed me the bullet marks on the walls, the Martyrs' well where several Indians took their lives along with their children so they don’t have to die at the hands of Britishers. It was from my father that I came to know about one of the tragic histories India faced during British colonization.

Baisakhi is one of the auspicious festivals celebrated by Punjabis in the month of April. The festival falls on April 13 or sometimes on April 14.

In March 1919, when India was preparing to struggle for independence, the British government passed a Rowlatt Act to increase their grip on power over the common folk. According to this act, the power was given to the government to detain anyone without trial.

The act was followed by freedom fighters staging protests against it that resulted in impose of curfews in several parts of the country. During this time, two national leaders, Satyapal and Saifuddin Kitchlew, were arrested which angered several Punjabis.

On April 13, several Punjabis gathered at Jallianwala Bagh, surrounded by high walls and only one exit gate, to celebrate the auspicious occasion of Baisakhi as well as peacefully protest against the arrest of the national leaders.

After a few moments, troops headed by British military officer General Dyer surrounded the place without leaving any space for them to escape or a warning to disperse and open fire on the unarmed crowd for over 10 minutes until their ammunition was exhausted.

Over thousands of people were killed while other thousands sustained wounds. Among the people, several jumped into a well with their children to kill themselves before dying at the hands of the Britishers. The well was later named as Martyrs' Well.

The incident was published in a small corner of the newspaper which was missed by several nationalists. One of the nationalists among them was Nobel Laureate for Literature Rabindranath Tagore. Though the incident occurred in the month of May, he was aware of the bloody massacre in the month of May following which he renounced the knighthood conferred to him in the year 1915 in protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

The last part of the handwrittern letter by Tagore
The last part of the handwrittern letter by Tagore

The following is the letter written by Rabindranath Tagore to Lord Chelmsford:

31 May 1919

Your Excellency,

The enormity of the measures taken by the Government in the Punjab for quelling some local disturbances has, with a rude shock, revealed to our minds the helplessness of our position as British subjects in India. The disproportionate severity of the punishments inflicted upon the unfortunate people and the methods of carrying them out, we are convinced, are without parallel in the history of civilised governments, barring some conspicuous exceptions, recent and remote. Considering that such treatment has been meted out to a population, disarmed and resourceless, by a power which has the most terribly efficient organisation for destruction of human lives, we must strongly assert that it can claim no political expediency, far less moral justification.

The accounts of the insults and sufferings by our brothers in Punjab have trickled through the gagged silence, reaching every corner of India, and the universal agony of indignation roused in the hearts of our people has been ignored by our rulers-possibly congratulating themselves for what they imagine as salutary lessons. This callousness has been praised by most of the Anglo-Indian papers, which have in some cases gone to the brutal length of making fun of our sufferings, without receiving the least check from the same authority-relentlessly careful in smothering every cry of pain and expression of judgement from the organs representing the sufferers.

Knowing that our appeals have been in vain and that the passion of vengeance is blinding the nobler vision of statesmanship in our Government, which could so easily afford to be magnanimous as befitting its physical strength and moral tradition, the very least that I can do for my country is to take all consequences upon myself in giving voice to the protest of the millions of my countrymen, surprised into a dumb anguish of terror. The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part wish to stand, shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen, who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.

These are the reasons which have painfully compelled me to ask Your Excellency, with due reference and regret, to relieve me of my title of Knighthood, which I had the honour to accept from His Majesty the King at the hands of your predecessor, for whose nobleness of heart I still entertain great admiration.

Yours faithfully,
Rabindranath Tagore

The letter published in newspaper
The letter published in newspaper

Today marks 104 years of the bloody massacre that took the lives of thousands of Indians and the cries of those killed could be still heard in the place.

The Jallianwala Bagh is maintained by the government to remember the ones who lost their lives in the fight against the Britishers and the atrocities faced by millions of Indians during the British rule in the country.

After 21 years of the bloodbath, on March 31, 1940, an Indian revolutionary Udham Singh assassinated Michael O’Dwyer, who was the lieutenant Governor of Punjab in 1919 and partly responsible for the massacre.

A movie was also made based on the assassination where Bollywood actor Vicky Kaushal played the role of Udham Singh. The movie displays the heartwrenching visuals from the massacre and the assassination.

It is one of the unforgotten tragical histories of India faced during the colonial period.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled the martyrs of the massacre. He wrote, "I recall the sacrifices of all those martyred on this day in Jallianwala Bagh. Their great sacrifice inspires us to work even harder to fulfil the dreams of our great freedom fighters and build a strong and developed India."

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