Jallianwala Bagh massacre: Here's what happened 103 years ago
New Delhi, Apr 12: The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which several hundreds of people were killed on this day in 1919 as a result of indiscriminate firing by the colonial forces, will complete 103 years on Wednesday.
The Britishers had banned gatherings at the time and to punish civilians for their 'disobedience', Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered the army to fire into a crowd of thousands of unarmed Indians who had come together to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi, unaware of the order.
What happened in 1919?
On the afternoon of April 13, a crowd of at least 10,000 men, women, and children gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh, which was nearly completely enclosed by walls and had only one exit. It is not clear how many people there were protesters who were defying the ban on public meetings and how many had come to the city from the surrounding region to celebrate Baisakhi, a spring festival.
Dyer and his soldiers arrived and sealed off the exit. Without warning, the troops opened fire on the crowd, reportedly shooting hundreds of rounds until they ran out of ammunition. It is not certain how many died in the bloodbath, but, according to one official report, an estimated 379 people were killed, and about 1,200 more were wounded.
After they ceased firing, the troops immediately withdrew from the place, leaving behind the dead and wounded.
The shooting was followed by the proclamation of martial law in the Punjab that included public floggings and other humiliations. Indian outrage grew as news of the shooting and subsequent British actions spread throughout the subcontinent.
The Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore renounced the knighthood that he had received in 1915. Gandhi was initially hesitant to act, but he soon began organizing his first large-scale and sustained nonviolent protest (satyagraha) campaign, the noncooperation movement (1920-22), which thrust him to prominence in the Indian nationalist struggle.
The government of India ordered an investigation of the incident (the Hunter Commission), which in 1920 censured Dyer for his actions and ordered him to resign from the military.
How did Britain react to it?
Reaction in Britain to the massacre was mixed, however. Many condemned Dyer's actions-including Sir Winston Churchill, then secretary of war, in a speech to the House of Commons in 1920-but the House of Lords praised Dyer and gave him a sword inscribed with the motto "Saviour of the Punjab." In addition, a large fund was raised by Dyer's sympathizers and presented to him. The Jallianwala Bagh site in Amritsar is now a national monument.