The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre is one of the bloodiest incidents that shook India and was also shunned by one and everyone, but, of course with the exception of the Britishers who showered praises on the butcher who led his troops to murder innocent people that had gathered in Jalianwala Bagh for Baisakhi celebrations.
Being an Indian, we must know what was this incident and how it happened. We as school students have studied about this event in history and believe it or not, whenever this chapter has been read, it has made our eyes swell with tears. So, if you are still unaware about this massacre, we are here to enlighten you with our top 13 little known facts that every Indian must know about.
1. The blood bath happened on the day of Baisakhi
Such filthy minded were the British that the whole blood bath was carefully planned out on the auspicious day of Baisakhi – Punjab’s biggest festival. The Amritsar Massacre as it is famously called happened on 13th April, 1919 at Jalianwala Bagh or garden. On that fateful day, hundreds of pilgrims had come together to celebrate when all of a sudden, they were taken off guard by General Reginald Dyer whose soldiers fired indiscriminately on the innocent crowd till all of them died.
Many of these pilgrims were inhabitants of the nearby villages and had come to attend the fairs held in Amritsar on the occasion of Baisakhi. These were innocent civilians who had no idea about the Martian Law being imposed all over the state of Punjab. Since the bagh or park was an enclosed premise, there wasn’t any chance to run away from the bullet shower that followed suddenly when Dyer along with his troops marched in and ordered his soldiers to start firing. The firing continued till all the ammunition expired and resulted in the death of at least 1000 innocent people.
2. Martian Law was imposed in Amritsar
The Britishers had imposed Martian Law all over the state of Punjab in the wake of protests that were taking place. Such protests were carried to oppose the forced enlistment of Indian soldiers in the military as well as the war tax imposed against the Indians. Looking at the intensity of these protests and a nationalist fever that was gripping India, the Britishers imposed Martian Law whereby no meetings or gatherings could be held. Amritsar was handed over to Brigadier General Reginald Dyer who banned all kinds of nationalist protests in the city.
Since, most people arrived at the park from the nearby villages, they were not aware of this Martian Law. These people gathered at the park on April 13th, 1919 to mark the festivities related to Baisakhi. A nationalist demonstration was also organized where several protesters had gathered for a non violent meet. Dyer arrived with his troops and without any warning started the fusillade that killed and wounded several thousand people. He called this act moral and that he had done his duty.
3. 1650 rounds were fired in the Jallianwala Bagh incident
In the bloodiest massacre of Jallianwala Bagh, several thousands of innocent Indians died as a result of firing. The entire fusillade was ordered by Dyer who led his troops to the city park where over 10,000 people had assembled for celebrating Baisakhi. Some have also gathered to protest against British Raj. Dyer, along with his soldiers arrived at the park and made them position themselves in the passageway. After positioning them, he ordered his men to open fire without warning the crowd. The soldiers were 50 in number and they all started firing, killing innocent people. A total of 1650 rounds were fired for 15 minutes till the ammunition was exhausted.
4. The whole massacre was planned meticulously
General Dyer was a very tactful man who knew about his strategies. Before carrying on the firing, he had meticulously planned the whole sabotage of the crowds. Jallianwala Bagh was a park that was enclosed in a space bordered on all sides by walls. There was one main gate of entrance and just two narrow lanes from where people could make their exit. Dyer planned the whole thing keeping in mind the landscape of the park. He got the exit gates closed and ordered his soldiers to open fire without any warning to the crowd. The massacre was carried out in cold blood and the general had no remorse of his act.
5. 120 dead bodies were recovered from the well at Jallianwala Bagh
Jallianwala Bagh was a city park and had a well built inside. It was built in such a way that it was encapsulated on all sides by walls with only one main gate and narrow passageways. These passageways were locked most of the time and when Dyer ordered his soldiers to fire blatantly on the crowds, the gates were all closed. In all, 1650 rounds of bullets were fired for 15 minutes without stopping. This resulted in large number of casualties. Those that didn’t die or were wounded in firing got killed mercilessly in the stampede that followed soon while some people jumped to their deaths in the well. Its reported that 120 dead bodies were fished out from the well after the massacre.
6. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre set the motion for many important events in the history of the freedom struggle
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre led to the start of many new events important in the history of India’s freedom struggle. It generated quite a flak from Indians all over and made the whole country speak of it openly and with disgust. Some noteworthy events after the happening of this massacre include Bhagat Singh’s transformation into an extremist. ‘Kabi Guru’ Rabindrabath Tagore, Bengal’s poet gave up his knighthood and Mahatma Gandhi returned his medal that was bestowed on him by the British – ‘Kaisar-i-Hind’. Motilal Nehru made a bonfire out of his England bought furniture and clothes. He was deeply hurt by this event which motivated him to start going the ‘Swadeshi’ way. Even Jinnah, a member of imperial legislature renounced his membership.
7. The British Raj released distorted reports on the number of people killed in the massacre
After the massacre had happened, it’s news reached England in December 1919 with the formation of the Hunter Committee. But the reports represented by the British Raj were much twisted. Instead of publishing the actual number of deaths that totaled to more than 1500, they projected the total deaths to 379 only.
As per their reports, 1100 people were grievously injured. However, the actual number of deaths were 1526 as reported bu Williams DeeMeddy. The British government passed an Indemnity Act for the sole purpose of protecting its officers. This act was passed just before the Hunter Committee could start its proceedings. As a result of this act, Dyer was given a clean chit but was suspended after he went back to Britain.
8. Michael Francis O’Dwyer was assassinated by a witness of the massacre as a revenge
Michael Francis O’Dwyer was the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab when the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy happened in 1919. He held this position from 1913 till 1919. In this massacre more than 1500 innocent people, including a baby were killed by firing. One among the people gathered there on that fateful day was Udham Singh, an activist of Indian freedom struggle. He witnessed the whole massacre but lived on to assassinate Dwyer as a mark of revenge. The Governor had only suspended Dyer but no strict action was taken against him. Therefore, Udham Singh, in retaliation shot O’Dwyer at a meeting of the East India Association in Caxton Hall in London. The day was March 13th 1940. He waited for 21 years to avenge the killings at Jallianwala Bagh. Dwyer died at the age of 75.
9. The Indian National Congress set up a trust to build a memorial at Jallianwala Bagh
A memorial was built in 1951 inside the Jallianwala Bagh as a remembrance of the innocent people that were mayhemed on the fateful day of April 13th, 1919 by the orders of General Reginald Dyer. But, before the memorial was built, the Indian National Congress took the initiative to set up a trust in 1920 as a symbol of respect to the people who lost their lives in the incident. Once the memorial was completed, its inauguration was done in 1961 by the President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The architect who designed the memorial was an American named Benjamin Polk. A flame of honor was added as an extra feature at the park and now attracts hundreds of tourists.
10. The Jallianwala Bagh Incident happened as a revenge act by the British
The massacre happened because of one particular incident that happened between an English woman named Miss Marshella Sherwood and Indian mob. It happened once in 1919 that a British woman Marshella was attacked by a crowd of Indians who beat her up. She was saved, but the consequences of this act proved to be devastating for innocent civilians who had nothing to do with it. After the incident, Dyer got furious and ordered that Indian men would be beaten the moment they would come close to the range of the lathi or stick held by any English soldier while patrolling. He continued with his abuses and as a result, thousands of protectors gathered in the park on Baisakhi day to oppose his acts. What followed was a horrific episode of mass bloodbath that shook the nation.
11. The Hunter Committee was appointed after the massacre
After the gruesome massacre happened on the day of Baisakhi and killed more than 1500 innocent people, the government appointed the Hunter Committee to enquire about the whole incident. It came under pressure as the massacre generated a huge public reaction, not just in India but also in England. The committee comprised of four members and it was presided over by their chairman-Lord Hunter. However, the Indian National Congress took measures to boycott the committee and appointed its own members who were famous lawyers and included names like Motilal Nehru, Abbas Tyabji, Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Jayakar and CR Das. After the incident, Dyer was summoned to appear before the Hunter Commission that was ordered to start its enquiry by the then Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu.
12. The House of Lords presented Dyer with a jeweled sword with ‘Savior of the Punjab’ inscription on it
Dyer was responsible for the gruesome murder of innocent people that had gathered for celebrating Baisakhi on that fateful day at Jallianwala Bagh, but he happened to show no remorse for his act. Rather, he claimed in front of the Hunter Committee that though he knew about the gathering of people at the bagh, he did nothing to stop it. He said he did his duty and opened fire. After he was summoned by Montegu, he appeared before the commission and remained calm. Though this incident generated quite a strong response in England and India, the House of Lords showered praises on Dyer and presented him with a jeweled sword that was inscribed with tagline ‘Savior of the Punjab’. Apart from this, Dyer was also looked upon as a hero by fellow Englishmen that collected funds for him.
13. Dyer shamed humanity with his troops mainly comprising of non whites
The whole massacre was a shameful act committed by Brigadier General Reginald Dyer who was the commanding officer of his troops that comprised of mostly non white people. The troops comprised of soldiers of Gurkha and Baluchi origins who marched on the orders of Dyer and killed 1500 people on the day of Baisakhi. On the day of the massacre, Dyer positioned himself and his two British officers and soldiers at the gate. Apart from these five white people, there was the rest of the non white troop. After shooting rampantly for 15 minutes, the whole troop along with the general and his officers left the park while the innocent victims breathed their last.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre can be termed as India’s most shameful events that had a huge impact on the Indian freedom struggle movement, and we as Indians must know about our martyrs that laid their lives that day on 13th April 1919.