Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden in Amritsar famous for one of the most tragic yet landmark events in the history of India. This is where the Amritsar Massacre of 1919 took place. This massacre exposed the inhuman approach of the British when the British troop cold-bloodedly open fire into an unarmed crowd without any warning by General Dyer which had assembled at enclosed park for the public meeting that was banned.
On 13th April people gathered there to protest against the arrest of the two nationalist leaders, Satya Pal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew. Suddenly, a British military officer, General Dyer, entered the park with his troops. Without even giving a warning to the people to disperse, he ordered his troops fired at the unarmed crowd for ten minutes and when their ammunition was exhausted, they left. In those ten minutes, according to the estimates of the congress, about a thousand persons were killed and about 2000 wounded. The bullet marks can be still seen on the walls of the Jallianwala Bagh which is now a national memorial. The massacre had been a calculated act and Dyer declared with pride that he had done it to produce ‘moral effect’ on the people and that he had made up his mind that he would shoot down all men if they were going to continue the meeting. He had no regrets. He went to England and some Englishmen collected money to honour him. Others were shocked at this act of brutality and demanded an enquiry. A British newspaper called it as one of the bloody massacres of modern history.
About 21 years later, on 13 March 1940, Udham Singh, an Indian revolutionary, shot Michael O’Dwyer dead who was the Lt. Governor of Punjab at the time of the Jalliawala Bagh massacre. The massacre aroused the fury of the Indian people and the government replied with further brutalities. People in Punjab were made to crawl on the streets. They were put in open cages and flogged. Newspapers were banned and their editors put behind the bars or deported. A reign of terror, like the one that followed the suppression of the revolt of 1857, was let loose.
Rabindranath Tagore, who had been knighted by the British, renounced his knighthood. In his letter to the viceroy, he declared: “The time has come when the badges of honour make our shame glaring in their incongruous context of humiliation and I for my part wish to stand shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen, who for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer a degradation not fit for human beings”. The massacre marked a turning point in the history of the struggle for freedom.
In December 1919, the congress session was held at Amritsar. It was attended by a large number of people, including peasants. It was clear that the brutalities had only added fuel to the fire and made the people’s determination stronger to fight for their freedom and against oppression.