A day of infamy

Amal Chatterjee
6 min readApr 10, 2020

Source :Google painting of the Jalianwalabagh massacre of 1919 in Amritsar.

Synopsis : The history of the colonialism of the British is stained with atrocities committed in India but the massacre of innocent people in Jalianwalabagh in Amritsar surpassed all the rest in its sheer brutality and the magnitude. The blog looks at the day of infamy and the reasons for the massacre in 1919.

We all know about what happened in Jalianwalabagh of Amritsar in 1919 but it will take your breath away when you actually visit the site and tremble at the bullet scarred walls and the ruins of a garden where a British army officer ordered the massacre of peaceful citizens who had gathered there to protest the British rule on that day . They did not know what was going to happen even when the troops lined up to fire at them until the bodies started to fall and their innocent blood started to spill and stain the sand.

This video is a part of the movie Gandhi showing in graphic detail the massacre.

Source : U tube video of the massacre of people in Jalianwalabagh in Amritsar in 1919

When I visited the Jalianwalabagh one day in August of 2020 , I did not want my wife to be with me so she stayed back at the premises of the Golden temple nearby because I wanted to feel myself what had taken place more than a hundred years ago by touching the bullet holes and looking at the narrow entrance that General Dyer had blocked with his armored car so that no one could escape the bloodbath that day.

The video is taken from the movie Gandhi where it shows in graphic detail the utter cruelty of the British officer who ordered the killing of civilians in cold blood and who showed absolutely no remorse in doing so. He said that had he been able to bring in the armored car, he would have used its machine guns as well but the narrow gate prevented him to do so . The soldiers on foot had no such problem so they lined up , took aim and kept on firing until over 1500 men , women and children lay dead and hundreds more lay severely wounded. It was a day of infamy that was condemned by the whole world but neither the British nor the general ever showed remorse or asked for forgiveness. A very mild regret was expressed by the Prime Minister of England Theresa May lately that did not placate anyone in India.

I saw the well where men and women with their children had jumped into to escape the barrage of bullets but died just the same suffocating themselves. Now there is a memorial plaque and a museum nearby where some photos , documents and other memorabilia of Udham Singh are kept . There is a tall statue of Udham Singh outside near the entrance to the park.

This was the day of infamy in the history of the British Raaj in India that brought shame to the empire with this act of cruelty that had no parallel in the modern history of colonialism although there have been many other massacres in the long history of India by the invaders.

Source : Google photo of the statue of Udham Singh in Jalianwalabagh .

I wrote about Udham Singh in a blog earlier called My heroes : Udham Singh that you may like to read in this context. Standing there in the park I could imagine all the dead bodies scattered all over the park while a bewildered 11 year old boy called Udham Singh stood there petrified and unable to move because he was in such a shock. He was hit by a bullet in the leg so he somehow hobbled away to safety with tears flowing down his cheek. Right then he took a solemn vow to avenge this massacre and kill the General no matter how long it took him to do it. He made it his life’s only quest to fulfill what he vowed to do. He kept his promise but gave his own life to do it. He was hanged in England but Indira Gandhi asked for his bones to be returned to India that she personally received with 21 gun salute in Delhi.

Source : Google photo of Dyer who was the perpetrator of the massacre.

It took him more than 21 years to fulfill his promise when he reached England and shot dead the man called O’Dwyer who was the Lt. Governor of Punjab at the time of the massacre and who had told Dyer to teach the natives a lesson they would never forget. Gen. Dyer died in England earlier ( in 1927) due to some illness so he escaped the bullets meant for him. Dyer was seen as a hero in England where people collected huge amounts of money so that he could retire and live in comfort.

The Indian history is full of war and bloodshed , mass suicide by women in Rajasthan after the defeat of their soldiers in the hands of the Muslim armies , mass hangings of Indians from the trees in Meerut, Lucknow, Allahabad and many other places after the failed war of independence in 1857. There is the Residency in Lucknow where the Indian rebel army surrounded it and destroyed it with canon fire and guns killing all the British men , women and even children who had taken refuge there , such was their anger at the British . They killed hundreds of British and threw their bodies in a well in Kanpur that got filled by it but the price they paid for this failed attempt at the independence was very very high when the victorious British took revenge on them.

If you go to the Jalianwalabagh today, you will see the bullet marks on the walls and a memorial plaque and nothing more but if you close your eyes and meditate in total darkness , you may almost hear the shrieks and cries of agony of people even today. Some say that the place is haunted.

Now watch this video documentary in English on the massacre of JalianwalaBagh

Source : U tube video documentary on JalianwalaBagh massacre of 1919 April

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