Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: Dyer and His Troops Fired till They Ran Out of Ammo

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The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also known as the Amritsar Massacre, occurred on April 13, 1919, in Amritsar, Punjab, India.

Representational image of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre:

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also known as the Amritsar Massacre, occurred on April 13, 1919, in Amritsar, Punjab, when British forces opened fire on a huge gathering of unarmed Indians in an open place known as the Jallianwala Bagh, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more.

It was the forerunner to Mahatma Gandhi’s complete devotion to the cause of Indian nationalism and independence from Britain, and it marked a turning point in India’s modern history in that it left a permanent scar on Indo-British relations.

During World War II (1914-18), the British government in India impose a number of oppressive emergency powers to suppress insurgent activities. By the end of the war, the Indians had high hopes that such restrictions would be relaxed and that India would be allowed more political sovereignty.

In fact, the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, which was submitted to the British Parliament in 1918, recommended limited local autonomy.

Instead, in early 1919, India’s government introduced the Rowlatt Acts, which basically reinforced the country’s restrictive wartime laws.

On April 13, at least 10,000 men, women, and children congregated in the Jallianwala Bagh, which was nearly fully surrounded by walls and had only one exit. It’s unclear how many demonstrators defied the restriction on public gatherings and how many people had come to the town from the surrounding area to celebrate Baisakhi

Dyer and his troops arrived and ceased the door behind them. The forces opened fire on the gathering without warning, unleashing hundreds of bullets until they ran out of ammo. It’s unclear how many people died in the carnage, but according to one official report, 379 people were murdered and nearly 1,200 were injured.

The troops retreated from the area as soon as they stopped shooting, leaving behind the dead and injured.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: Consequences

Following the shooting, Punjab declared martial law, which included public lashings and other humiliations. As reports of the shooting and subsequent British measures circulated across the subcontinent, Indian resentment mounted.

Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet and Nobel winner, abnegate the knighthood he had received in 1915.

Following the massacre, Gandhi initiated the first large-scale and continuous peaceful protest (satyagraha) campaign, the non-cooperation movement (1920–22), which propelled him to prominence in the Indian freedom movement.

Investigation

The incident was investigated by the Indian government (the Hunter Commission), which censured Dyer for his conduct and forced him to resign from the military in 1920. However, the incident elicited varied reactions in the United Kingdom.

In a speech to the House of Commons in 1920, Sir Winston Churchill, then-Secretary of State for War, denounced Dyer’s conduct, but the House of Lords commended him and presented him with a sword embossed with the inscription “Saviour of the Punjab.” 

Dyer’s admirers also raised funds and gave him a considerable sum of money. Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh site has been designated as a national monument.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: Dyer and His Troops Fired till They Ran Out of Ammo

In points: What happened on April 13, 1919

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: Dyer and His Troops Fired till They Ran Out of Ammo
  • The British had declared martial law, prohibiting public meetings. On the celebration of Baisakhi, a swarm of unarmed protestors and pilgrims gathered at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab.
  • The throng had gathered to peacefully protest the arrest of freedom activists Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew at the location.
  • Colonel Dyer arrived at the location with roughly 50 soldiers after learning of the gathering and instructed them to fire on everyone there.
  • Around 1,650 rounds of ammunition were shot during the course of around ten minutes of shooting.
  • The Jallianwala Bagh massacre claimed the lives of 379 individuals and injured 1,200 more, according to the British authorities. According to some records, approximately a thousand people were slain.
  • Indians were outraged at the massacre, and Mahatma Gandhi called for a non-cooperation movement that is considered to be the first powerful act of resistance from Indians against the British Raj.

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