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‘Remembering the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar’ by K.J.S.Chatrath

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 Today it is 13th April the Baisakhi day, in 2013.

That day too it was 13th April the  Baisakhi day in 1919.

The place was Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.

There is a board in the Jallianwala Bagh which briefly but succintly describes the sad history of the massacre of unarmed Indians by the British rulers on April 13, 1919:

“Jallianwala Bagh massacre involved the killing of hundreds of unarmed, defenseless Indians by a senior British military officer, Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer on 13th April,1919, at this spot in the holy city of Amritsar. The Jallianwala Bagh was then the property of Sardar Himmat Singh, a noble in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

General Dyer deployed his riflemen, near the entrance, and without warning or order the crowd to disperse, opened fire. The firing continued for 20 minutes and 1650 rounds of .303 mark VI ammunition had been fired. The official figure is 379 killed and 1,200 wounded. The crowd was estimated at between 15,000 and 20, 000.

The Jallianwala Bagh was acquired by the nation on 1st August 1920 at the cost of Rs. 5,65/- lakhs and the memorial befittingly named “The Flame of Liberty” was was built at a cost of Rs. 9.25 lakhs. It was inaugurated by Dr. Rajinder Prasad,, the first President of the Republic of India in the presence of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India on 13th April 1961.”

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  Dyer conducted soldiers for firing on an innocent crowd of Indians through passage.

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There were two officers with similar sounding surnames –  Dyer and O’Dwyer.

Col. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer was an army officer and acting as Brigadier-General. He was the one who ordered the troops to fire on unarmed Indians. Col. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer was born in Murree, in the Punjab province of undivided India,  which is now in Pakistan.  He spent his childhood in Shimla and received his early education at the Bishop Cotton’s School, Shimla. He died of natural causes on 24 July 1927, aged 62.

The other was an I.C.S Officer Michael O’Dwyer, who was the Lt Governor of Punjab from 1912 to 1919. He had endorsed Col. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer’s ordering of the massacre a “correct” action, He was assassinated at the age of 75 by Saheed Udham Singh in 1940, as a revenge for his support of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

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The memorial covering the martyr’s well.

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Since all the exits were blocked by Dyer, some people jumped into the well there and died.

Visitors put money coins into the well as a mark of tribute to the innocent martyrs.

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A  sombre and dignified memorial.

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One wonders how old is this tree. Was it there on April 13, 1919 and was a witness to the terrible happenings of that day?

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The bullet marks tell the tale of horror.

Before closing let me add a precision and pose two doubts.

The person who ordered firing that fateful day was Col. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer. He was holding the ‘Acting ‘ next higher level rank of Brigadier-General.  This rank was in existence in the British indian army and the British army till 1922. The shorter form of this rank was ‘Brigadier’ and not ‘General’ as some have erroneously described Dyer.

(i) I could not find a list of the persons who got killed in the firing on April 13, 1919. Do we have such a list?

(ii) The second doubt is as to why was the land not donated by the owner of the Jallianwala Bagh and it had to be purchased?

I would be happy if some one gives information on these points. If there is any inaccuracy in the facts mentioned above, I would be glad to consider correcting the same.

Mr. Cameron, the British Prime Minister visited the Jallianwala Bagh on February 19, 2013 and  said that Jallianwala Bagh was a “deeply shameful event in British history”. Mr. Cameron later said that the incident had happened 40 years before he was born and it will not be “the right thing to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologise for”.

How wrong were we in expecting that the leader of the “once upon a time world power” would apologize on behalf of his country for that terrible, terrible massacre!

 Photographs  and text by K.J.S.Chatrath.

Copyright K.J.S.Chatrath

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