100 Years Since the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
#explained Today commemorates 100 years since the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre, more commonly known as the Amritsar Massacre. It is one of the worst atrocities under British colonial rule, which Britain has yet to apologies for. Hundreds gathered to pay their respects, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place on the 13th of April 1919 when troops of the British Indian Army, under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer fired rifles into a crowd of Indians, who had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.
Dyer was convinced of a major insurrection, and, as a result, banned all meetings on this day. However, the notice was not widely broadcasted, hence why many villagers were gathered in the Bagh for a peaceful pro-independence demonstration. Dyer caught wind of this meeting that had assembled and marched into the Bagh with his troops, blocking the main entrance after them. On Dyer’s orders, they fired at the crowd- made up of unarmed men, women and children- for approximately ten minutes, directing the bullets largely towards the few open gates, through which people were trying to escape. Many also tried, unsuccessfully, to escape by scaling the walls. Others jumped into an open well at the site. A report by a British led committee put the number of victims at close to 400, but Indian observers said that more than 1000 people lost their lives.
The reactions towards the massacre varied in Britain. Dyer received support from the House of Lords and Rudyard Kipling, who is said to have called him “the man who saved India.”
Winston Churchill, who was then the secretary of state for war, called the massacre “monstrous”. Former Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, called it “one of the worst outrages in the whole of our history.”
Subsequent to the massacre, Dyer was removed from command into enforced retirement. He died in 1927.
The massacre has become a symbol of colonial cruelty, and for decades, India has demanded an apology from Britain, including during Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Amritsar in 1997.
In 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first serving Prime Minister to visit the Jallianwala Bagh. He described the killing as a ‘deeply shameful event’ in a visitor book at the site, but issued no apology.
He later defended his decision to not apologise, explaining that the massacre happened 40 years before he was born and saying: “I don't think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologise for.”
On Wednesday, Theresa May told the British Government that the Jallianwala Bagh was a ‘shameful scar’, but, once again, issued no formal apology.
Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab State, stated that May’s words were not enough.
It seems that the demands of several past Indian politicians and leaders for Britain to apologise for the massacre has fallen on deaf ears.
Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister tweeted: “Today, when we observe 100 years of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre, India pays tributes to all those martyred on that fateful day. Their valour and sacrifice will never be forgotten. Their memory inspires us to work even harder to build an India they would be proud of.”
Sources: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/100-years-of-jallianwala-bagh-massacre-venkaiah-naidu-rahul-gandhi-to-mark-jallianwala-bagh-massacre-2022400 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jallianwala_Bagh_massacre https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/jallianwala-bagh-british-soldiers-massacre-amritsar-india-1.5097108 https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/jallianwala-bagh-100-years-britains-shame-and-still-not-sorry-the-1919-jallianwala-bagh-massacre-2022536