Timeline History

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also known as the Amritsar Massacre, was named after the Jallianwala Bagh (Garden) in Amritsar, where, on April 13, 1919, British Indian Army soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer opened fire on an unarmed gathering of men, women and children. Official sources place the casualties at 379. According to private sources, the number was over 1000, with more than 1200 wounded , and Civil Surgeon Dr Smith indicated that they were over 1800. The figures were never fully ascertained for political reasons

In the morning hours of April 10, 1919, a crowd that had been proceeding towards the residence of the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, an important city in the Punjab, a large province in the north-western part of the then undivided India, to demand the release of two popular leaders against whom deportation orders had been issued was fired upon by a military picket. Later in the day, several banks and other buildings, either housing government property or otherwise emblematic of British rule, were set on fire. There were also a number of incidents where Europeans men were attacked and, in some cases, killed. The infantry fired upon the crowd on several different occasions in the course of the day, and nearly twenty Indians were killed.
For the next two days the city of Amritsar was quiet, but violence continued in other parts of the Punjab. Railway lines were cut, telegraph posts destroyed, and government buildings burnt, and three Europeans were killed. By April 13th, the decision to place most of the Punjab under martial law had been taken.
On April 13, thousands of Punjabi Indians gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh in the heart of Amritsar, one of the major cultural, religious and commercial towns of Punjab state. The occasion was Baisakhi Day, a Punjabi religious day. A tradition had been established for Sikhs to gather in Amritsar to participate in the Baisakhi festival. Those coming from the rural areas of Amritsar District were unaware of the events in Amritsar as communications were inadequate in Punjab. Legally, the gathering in the Bagh was in violation of the prohibitory orders banning gatherings of five or more persons in the city, a term of martial law.

A band of 90 soldiers armed with rifles and kukris marched to the park accompanied by two armoured cars on which machine guns were mounted. The vehicles were unable to enter the Bagh through the narrow entrance.
The troops were commanded by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer who, immediately upon entering the Bagh and without the slightest warning to the crowd to disperse, ordered his troops to open fire, concentrating especially on the areas where the crowd was thickest. The firing started at 17:15 and lasted for about ten to fifteen minutes. The bagh, or garden, was bounded on all sides by brick walls and buildings and had only five narrow entrances, most of which were kept permanently locked. Since there was only one exit except for the one already manned by the troops, people desperately tried to climb the walls of the park. Most of the people jumped into a well inside the compound to escape from the bullets. A plaque in the monument says that 120 bodies were plucked out of the well alone.
After the firing was over, hundreds of people had been killed and thousands had been injured. Official estimates put the figures at 379 killed (337 men, 41 boys and a six week old baby) and 200 injured, though the actual figure was almost certainly much higher (see above); the wounded could not be moved from where they had fallen, as a curfew had been declared. Debate about the actual figures continues to this day.
Back in his headquarters Dyer reported to his superiors that he had been confronted by a revolutionary army, and had been obliged to teach a moral lesson to the Punjab.
In a telegram sent to Dyer, British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O'Dwyer wrote: "Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves." [3] Many Englishmen in India, as well as the British press, defended Dyer as the man who had saved British pride and honour. The Morning Post opened a fund for Dyer, and contributions poured in. An American woman donated 100 pounds, adding "I fear for the British women there now that Dyer has been dismissed."
O'Dwyer requested that martial law be imposed upon Amritsar and other areas; this was granted by the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, after the massacre.
Dyer was called to appear before the Hunter Commission, a commission of inquiry into the massacre that was ordered to convene by Secretary of State for India Edwin Montagu, in late 1919. Dyer admitted before the commission that he came to know about the meeting at the Jallianwala Bagh at 12:40 hours that day but took no steps to prevent it. He stated that he had gone to the Bagh with the deliberate intention of opening fire if he found a crowd assembled there.


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