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JALLIANWALA BAGH MASSACRE

JALLIANWALA BAGH MASSACRE

The 1919 Amritsar massacre, known alternatively as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre after the Jallianwala Bagh (Garden) in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, was ordered by General R.E.H. Dyer. On Sunday April 13, 1919, which happened to be 'Baisakhi', one of Punjab's largest religious festivals, fifty British Indian Army soldiers, commanded by Brigadier-General Reginald 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 British Raj sources estimated the fatalities at 379, and with 1,100 wounded. Civil Surgeon Dr Williams DeeMeddy indicated that there were 1,526 casualties. However, the casualty number quoted by the Indian National Congress was more than 1,500, with roughly 1,000 killed. 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, commemorating the day that Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Panth in 1699, and also known as the 'Birth of Khalsa.' 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. The Jallianwalla Bagh during 1919, months after the massacre. "The Martyrs' Well" at Jallianwala Bagh. Cartoon in Punch 14 July 1920, on the occasion of Montagu labelling as "frightful" General Dyer for his role in the Amritsar massacreAn 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 ammunition 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 deaths, the method used by the inquiry has been subject to criticism.[by
whom?] Officials were tasked with finding who had been killed during July 1919, three months after the massacre, by inviting inhabitants of the city to volunteer information about those who had died. This information was likely incomplete due to fear that those who participated would be identified as having been present at the meeting, and some of the dead may not have had close relations in the area. Additionally, a senior civil servant in the Punjab interviewed by the members of the committee admitted that the actual figure could be higher. 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. As per regimental diaries kept by the Gorkha Battalion adjutants in the British Indian Army, the plan to attack the gathering in Amritsar was claimed to have been triggered by the news of a mob attack on a British school teacher Sherwood on April 9, which was later shown to be merely an excuse used by an incensed Dyer who commanded a brigade in nearby Jalandhar and the Lt Governor of Punjab Michael O'Dwyer who were convinced that they faced an imminent threat of mutiny in Punjab on the scale of 1857. Back in his headquarters, General Dyer reported to his superiors that he had been "confronted by a revolutionary army". In a telegram sent to Dyer, British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O'Dwyer wrote: "Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves." O'Dwyer requested that martial law be imposed upon Amritsar and other areas; this was granted by the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, after the massacre. The "crawling order" was posted on Aug 19 under the auspices of martial law. Dyer was messaged to appear before the Hunter Commission, a commission of inquiry into the massacre that was ordered to convene by Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, during late 1919. Dyer said before the commission that he came to know about the meeting at the Jallianwala Bagh at 12:40 hours that day but did not attempt to prevent it. He stated that he had gone to the Bagh with the deliberate intention of opening fire if he found a crowd assembled there. "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." — Dyer's response to the Hunter Commission Enquiry. Dyer said he would have used his machine guns if he could have got them into the enclosure, but these were mounted on armoured cars. He said he did not stop the shooting when the crowd began to disperse because he thought it was his duty to keep shooting until the crowd dispersed, and that a little shooting would not do any good. In fact he continued the shooting till the ammunition was almost exhausted. He stated that he did not make any effort to tend to the wounded after the shooting: "Certainly not. It was not my job. Hospitals were open and they could have gone there." The Hunter Commission did not award any penal nor disciplinary action because Dyer's actions were condoned by various superiors (later upheld by the Army Council). However, he was finally found guilty of a mistaken notion of duty and relieved of his command.
JALLIANWALA BAGH MASSACRE, involved the killing of hundreds of unarmed, defenseless Indians by a senior British military officer, took place on 13 April 1919 in the heart of Amritsar, the holiest city of the Sikhs, on a day sacred to them as the birth anniversary of the Khalsa. Jallianwala Bagh,. a garden belonging to the Jalla, derives name from that of the owners of this piece of land in Sikh times. It was then the property the family of Sardar Himmat Singh (d.1829), a noble in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), who originally came from the village of Jalla, now in Fatehgarh Sahib district of the Punjab. The family were collectively known as Jallhevale or simply Jallhe or Jalle, although their principal seat later became Alavarpur in Jalandhar district. The site, once a garden or garden house, was in 1919 an uneven and unoccupied space, an irregular quadrangle, indifferently walled, approximately 225 x 180 meters which was used more as a dumping ground. In the Punjab, during World War I (1914-18), there was considerable unrest particularly among the Sikhs, first on account of the demolition of a boundary wall of Gurdwara Rikabgang at New Delhi and later because of the activities and trials of the Ghadrites almost all of whom were Sikhs. In India as a whole, too, there had been a spurt in political activity mainly owing to the emergence of two leaders Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi (1869-1948) who after a period of struggle against the British in South Africa, had returned to India in January 1915 and Mrs. Annie Besant (1847-1933), head of the Theosophical Society of India, who established, on 11 April 1916, Home Rule League with autonomy for India as its goal. In December 1916, the Indian National Congress, at its annual session held at Lucknow, passed a resolution asking the British government to issue a proclamation announcing that it is the aim and intention of British policy to confer self government on India at an early date." At the same time India having Contributed significantly to the British war effort had been expecting advancement of her political interests after the conclusion of hostilities. On the British side, the Secretary of State for India E.S Montagu, announced, on 20 August 1917; the policy of His Majesty's Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India ..." However, the Viceroy of India Lord Chelmsford, appointed, on 10 December 19l7, a Sedition Committee, popularly known as Rowlett Committee after the name of its chairman, to investigate and report on the nature and extent of the criminal conspiracies connected with the revolutionary movement in India, and to advise as to the legislation necessary to deal with them. Based on the recommendations of this committee, two bills, popularly called Rowlett Bills, were published in the Government of India Gazette on 18 January 1919. Mahatma Gandhi decided to organize a satyagrah, non-violent civil disobedience campaign) against the bills. One of the bills became an Act, nevertheless, on 21 March 1919. Call for a countrywide hartal or general strike on 30 March, later postponed to 6 April 1919, was given by Mahatma Gandhi. The strike in Lahore and Amritsar passed off peacefully on 6 April. On 9 April, the governor of the Punjab, Sir Michael Francis O'Dwyer (1864-1940), suddenly decided to deport from Amritsar Dr Satyapal and Dr Saif ud-Din Kitchlew, two popular leaders of men. On the same day Mahatma Gandhi's entry into Punjab was banned under the Defence of India Rules. On 10 April, Satyapal and Kitchlew were called to the deputy commissioner's residence, arrested and sent off by car to Dharamsetla, a hill town, now in Himachal Pradesh. This led to a general strike in Amritsar. Excited groups of citizens soon merged together into a crowd of about 50,000 marching on to protest to the deputy commissioner against the deportation of the two leaders. The crowd, however, was stopped and fired upon near the railway foot-bridge.

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