India experienced a tragic day on April 13, 1919. Things began during World War I when the British deployed Indian soldiers to fight in the war on their behalf. 1.3 million Soldiers worked for them and approximately 60,000 Indian soldiers lost their lives in the war. Not only manpower, India also provided the British with resources and that too without revolting. However, there still existed areas like Punjab and Bengal where people revolted. Hence both these regions saw a huge amount of unrest accounting to the British torturing the people.
During World War I, India faced a huge amount of oppression in terms of lives being lost, economic blockage, inflation and what not. A pact named Lucknow pact was signed between Muslim League and Indian National Congress to divide a border between Punjab and present day Pakistan. Conditions worsened when the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford appointed a Sedition Committee on 10th of December 1917. The committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Justice Rowlatt and its task was to curb the revolutionary movement that had taken birth in our country. The terms of Rowlatt Act included conditions that made life difficult. People who were suspected of treason or politicians were detained without trial and without any warrant. Press’ freedom which already wasn’t there was completely taken away. This angered the people a lot.
On 30th March 1919, a Hartal took place in Delhi in resentment of the Rowlatt Act and torturing attitude of the British government. People of all religions came together to fight for the country. It was a meeting of over 50,000 people which was preceded over by Swami Shradhanand, who was the speaker of the Arya Samaj. The British were angered by such proceedings. But the people continued to show resentment.
On 13th April 1919, the day of Baisakhi, thousands of people gathered around in a garden named Jallianwala Bagh. It is located near Golden Temple in Amritsar. British could not tolerate this as it was against the rule to come together in gathering. On hearing this, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer could not tolerate it. He along with fifty soldiers arrived at the spot and commanded the soldiers to open fire until all the ammunition was exhausted. Unable to escape, many innocent people lost their lives. Many people jumped into the well which is located inside the garden and this well is now known as “martyrs well.” Many people were killed because of the stampede. It was a devastating sight. According to records, 379 people lost their lives and this figure can be higher too. General Dyer wanted to scare people in the whole of the province to prevent them from going against the rules the British had created.
On May 31, 1919, Rabindranath Tagore too protested against the wrongdoing and renounced his knighthood. Instead of taking some kind of action against him, General Dyer was applauded by his British counterparts. The Lieutenant Governor of Punjab wrote, “Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves.”
Today, Jallianwala Bagh has been converted into a museum and is open to the public to feel what atrocities were caused by this massacre.
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