Jallianwallah Bagh


(April 13, 1919)

In 1919 the British government of India enacted the Rowlatt Acts, extending its World War I emergency powers to combat what it considered as subversive activities. At Amritsar, Punjab (Pa˝jab) district, about 10,000 demonstrators protesting these measures were confronted by troops commanded by Gen. R.E.H. Dyer. Dyer marched 50 armed soldiers into the Jallianwallah Bagh (Garden) that afternoon and ordered them to open fire on a protest meeting attended by some 10,000 unarmed men, women, and children without issuing a word of warning. It was a Sunday, and many neighboring peasants had come to Amritsar to celebrate a Hindu festival, gathering in the Bagh, which was a place for holding cattle fair and other festivities. Dyer kept his troops firing for about ten minutes, until they had shot 1650 rounds of ammunition into the terror-stricken crowd, which had no way of escaping the Bagh, since the soldiers spanned the only exit. About 400 civilians were killed and some 1200 wounded. They were left without medical attention by Dyer, who hastily removed his troops to the camp.

Dyer was relieved of his command, but he returned to England as a hero to many British admirers, who presented him with a collected purse of thousands of pounds and a jewelled sword inscribed "Saviour of the Punjab." The following year, Mahatma Gandhi launched his first Indian satyagraha ("clinging to the truth") campaign, India's response to the massacre in Jallianwallah Bagh.


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