On the afternoon of April 13, 1919, a crowd of at least 10,000 men, women, and children gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab. The grounds were completely enclosed with only one exit and people had gathered there to celebrate Baisakhi, one of the biggest festivals celebrated in the state. Before this, the news of prominent Indian leaders being arrested and banished from Amritsar had sparked violent protests on April 10. During these protests, British soldiers fired upon civilians and on the opposite side, angry mobs killed several foreign nationals and attacked a Christian missionary. As a result of this, a force of several dozen troops commanded by Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer enforced a ban on public gatherings. It was unclear whether the gathering at Jallianwala Bagh was only there to celebrate or some were even protestors. However, without any warning, General Dyer and his troops sealed off the only exit and opened fire on the civilians, killing thousands of men, women and children. This day has been etched in India’s history as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and marked a turning point in the country’s freedom struggle from the British.
On this day, as we commemorate the flashpoint event of the freedom struggle, here are a few important facts about the massacre that you should know about:
– Jallianwala Bagh is an open ground close to the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, Punjab. It is an empty ground with houses built around it with their back walls to the area. It was closed on three sides and there was only one exit.
– The public gathering was present there to celebrate a festival named Baisakhi, one of the biggest festivals in Punjab on April 13, 1919.
– Prior to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an English missionary named Marcella was attacked and left for dead in the streets by an angry mob protesting against the arrests of two popular leaders of the Indian Independence Movement, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew.
– A force of about 50 soldiers commanded by Brig Gen Reginald Edward Harry Dyer reached Jallianwala Bagh and without any warning or provocation ordered his troops to open fire.
– An official report after the shootout put the dead at 379 people and about 1,200 as wounded. But some estimates said that over a thousand people were killed.
– Apart from the people killed and injured by the bullets fired, several others lost their lives as they fell into a well trying to escape the shooting.
– The firing stopped only when Dyer’s soldiers ran out of ammunition.
– Following this, the Hunter Commission, set up by the British government, indicted Dyer for the massacre. Dyer was eventually dismissed from the army following an inquiry. General Dyer died in 1927 in England at the age of 63.
– Poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in protest of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
– Udham Singh, a revolutionary of the Ghadar Party, to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, assassinated Michael O’Dwyer in London on March 13, 1940. O’Dwyer was the Lt Governor of Punjab during the massacre.
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