Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre..........




"'I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing but they would have come back again and laughed, and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself." — Brigadier -General Reginald E H Dyer's response to the Hunter Commission Enquiry



The Jallianwala Bagh massacre  took place in the  Jallianwala Bagh public garden in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, and was ordered by General Dyer. On Sunday 13 April 1919 (which happened to be 'Baisakhi'—one of Punjab's largest religious festivals), fifty British Indian Army soldiers commanded by Dyer began shooting at an unarmed gathering of men, women, and children without warning. Dyer marched his fifty riflemen to a raised bank and ordered them to kneel and fire. Dyer ordered soldiers to reload their rifles several times and they were ordered to shoot to kill. Official Government of India sources estimated the fatalities at 379, with 1,100 wounded. Civil Surgeon Dr Williams DeeMeddy indicated that there were 1,526 casualties.The casualty number quoted by the Indian National Congress was more than 1,500, with approximately 1,000 killed On April 10, 1919, there was a protest at the residence of the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, a city in Punjab, a large province in the northwestern part of the then unpartitioned India. The demonstration was to demand the release of two popular leaders of the Indian Independence Movement,Satya Pal  and Saifuddin Kitchlew, who had been earlier arrested by the government and removed to a secret location. Both were proponents of the Satyagraha movement led by  Gandhi ji. The crowd was shot at by a military picket, killing several protesters. The shooting set off a series of violent events. Later the same day, several banks and other government buildings, including the Town Hall and the railway station were attacked and set afire. The violence continued to escalate, culminating in the deaths of at least five Europeans, including government employees and civilians. There was retaliatory shooting at crowds from the military several times during the day, and between eight and twenty people were killed.
For the next two days, the city of Amritsar was quiet, but violence continued in other parts of the Punjab. Railway lines were cut, telegraph posts destroyed, and government buildings burnt. Three Europeans were murdered. By April 13, the British government had decided to put most of the Punjab under martial law. The legislation restricted a number of civil liberties, including freedom of assembly. Gatherings of more than four people were banned On April 13, the holiday of Baisakhi, thousands of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh (garden) near the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. Baisakhi is a Sikh festival.  During this time people celebrate by congregating in religious and community fairs, and there may have been a large number who were unaware of the political meeting.
An hour after the meeting began as scheduled at 4:30 pm, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer marched a group of sixty-five Gurkha and twenty-five Baluchi soldiers into the Bagh, fifty of whom were armed with rifles. Dyer had also brought two armoured cars armed with machine guns, however the vehicles were stationed outside the main gate as they were unable to enter the Bagh through the narrow entrance.
The Jallianwala Bagh was bounded on all sides by houses and buildings and had few narrow entrances, most of which were kept permanently locked. The main entrance was relatively wider, but was guarded by the troops backed by the armoured vehicles. General Dyer ordered troops to begin shooting without warning or any order to disperse, and to direct shooting towards the densest sections of the crowd. He continued the shooting, approximately 1,650 rounds in all, until the ammunition supply was almost exhausted.
Apart from the many deaths directly from the shooting, a number of people died in stampedes at the narrow gates or by jumping into the solitary well on the compound to escape the shooting. A plaque in the monument at the site, set up after independence, says that 120 bodies were pulled out of the well.
The wounded could not be moved from where they had fallen, as a curfew had been declared – many more died during the night.
The number of deaths caused by the shooting is disputed. While the official figure given by the British inquiry into the massacre is 379 .Since the official figures were likely flawed considering the size of the crowd (15,000–20,000), number of rounds shot and period of shooting, the politically interested Indian National Congress instituted a separate inquiry of its own, with conclusions that differed considerably from the Government's. The casualty number quoted by the INC was more than 1,500, with approximately 1,000 killed. Despite the Government's best efforts to suppress information of the massacre, news spread elsewhere in India and widespread outrage ensued; however, the details of the massacre did not become known in Britain until December 1919.