One of the darkest chapters in the British Rule was the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of hundreds of innocent Indians who had assembled to protest against the Rowlatt Act/hear the speeches of the freedom fighter leaders. This was on 13th April 1919.
The Rowlatt Bill, which curtailed the rights of the Indian people and enabled the government to impose stringent punishments was strongly opposed by the Congress and the freedom movement. Mahatma Gandhi called for observance of protest strike and disobedience movement against the same. It was also decided to observe 30th March 1919 as protest day by fasting, hartal etc. Five people died in the firing by police in Delhi on that day. Protesting against this, countrywide demonstrations were held participated by thousands all over the country. The entire country was in a protest move.
In Punjab, the situation was more tense. Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr. Satyapal, who were organising the 1919 All India Session of the Congress in Punjab were arrested and taken away to some secret place. The people who started protesting were fired upon and some were killed.
A big public meeting was organised to protest the atrocities of the British on 13th April 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. More than 20,000 gathered in the place to hear the leaders. When the meeting started and leaders started speaking, all of a sudden, General Dyer came there with about 150 troops both British and Indian. Immediately,without any warning, he ordered fire against the people gathered there. It is recorded that 1600 rounds were fired and was stopped only when they ran out of ammunition.
It was terrible. Hundreds of people were killed on the spot and thousands were seriously wounded many of whom died later. There was no warning before the firing or at least the people did not know. And even if known, there was no way to disperse. The maidan was surrounded by walls/ houses and there was only a narrow path to go out through which even a vehicle could not pass. According to Government there were 400 killed and more than 1000 wounded. But this is far less than the actual casualty. General Dyer later told arrogantly that he wanted the people to be punished for defying the law. The British cut the water and power supply in the whole of Amritsar. People were fogged for coming out in to the streets. A terror was let loose.
The entire country rose in anger. Protest actions continued for days together. Revolutionary activities increased against the British. General Dyer who returned to England was shot dead by Udham Singh, a youth from Punjab who went to England to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
101 years have passed since this brutal massacre of the Indian people. We have got freedom. Every year on 13th April, the day is observed at Jallianwala Bagh, where a martyrs column is erected in memory of those killed, with massive participation, speeches, homage to the martyrs etc.
I had the privilege to attend and pay my respectful homage to the martyrs there, about 10 years back. All over Punjab and many centres in India, the day is observed as Jallianwala Bagh Martyrs Day. The day was celebrated with all solemnity with participation of hundreds of people. I was given a chance to speak in the meeting held afterwards by the CITU state committee near the spot.
We all pay our respectful homage to those martyrs who have sacrificed everything at the altar of the freedom of the country. They will always be an inspiration in our future struggles and advance march.
( The Photo given above is the Martyrs Memorial erected at Jallianwala Bagh. The well in which many fell and died, the walls on all sides of the maidan with bullet shots etc. can be clearly seen even now.)