April 13, 1919 in the Jallianwala Bag Massacre

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Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden in Amritsar near Golden Temple in the Panjab state of India , and houses a memorial of national importance, established in 1951 by the Government of India, to commemorate the massacre of peaceful celebrators including unarmed women and children by British occupying forces, on the occasion of the Punjabi New Year on April 13, 1919 in the Jallianwala Bag Massacre . Colonial rule of  British Government  sources identified 379 fatalities and estimated about 1100 wounded. Civil Surgeon Dr. Smith indicated that there were 1,526 casualties . The true figures of fatalities are unknown, but are likely to be many times higher than the official figure of 379.

The 6.5-acre (26,000 m2) garden site of the massacre is located in the vicinity of Golden Temple  complex, the holiest shrine of Sikhism.

The memorial is managed by the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, which was established as per the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act passed by the Government of India in 1951.

On 11 April, Brigadier General R.E.H. O’ Dyer  arrived from Jalandhar Cantonment, and virtually occupied the town as civil administration under Miles Irving, the Deputy Commissioner, had come to standstill. On Sunday, 13 April 1919, Dyer was convinced of a major insurrection and he banned all meetings; however, this notice was not widely disseminated. That was the day of Baisakhi, the main Sikh festival, and many villagers had gathered in the Bagh. On hearing that a meeting had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, Dyer went with fifty Gurkha riflemen to a raised bank and ordered them to shoot at the crowd. Dyer continued the firing for about ten minutes, until the ammunition supply was almost exhausted; Dyer stated that 1,650 rounds had been fired, a number which seems to have been derived by counting empty cartridge cases picked up by the troops. Official British Indian sources gave a figure of 379 identified dead, with approximately 1,100 wounded. The casualty number estimated by the Indian National Congress was more than 1,500, with approximately 1,000 dead.

During World War I (1914–18) the British government of India enacted a series of repressive emergency powers that were intended to combat subversive activities. By the war’s end, expectations were high among the Indian populace that those measures would be eased and that India would be given more political autonomy. The Mantagu Chelmsford Report,  presented to the British Parliament  in 1918, did in fact recommend limited local self-government. Instead, however, the government of India passed what became known as the Rowlatt Acts in early 1919, which essentially extended the repressive wartime measures.

The acts were met by widespread anger and discontent among Indians, notably in the Punjab region. Gandhi in early April called for a one-day general strike throughout the country. In Amritsar  the news that prominent Indian leaders had been arrested and banished from that city sparked violent protests on April 10, in which soldiers fired upon civilians, buildings were looted and burned, and angry mobs killed several foreign nationals and severely beat a Christian missionary. A force of several dozen troops commanded by Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer was given the task of restoring order. Among the measures taken was a ban on public gatherings

On the afternoon of April 13, a crowd of at least 10,000 men, women, and children gathered in an open space known as the Jallianwalla Bagh, which was nearly completely enclosed by walls and had only one exit. It is not clear how many people there were protesters who were defying the ban on public meetings and how many had come to the city from the surrounding region to celebrate Baisakhi, a spring festival. Dyer and his soldiers arrived and sealed off the exit. Without warning, the troops opened fire on the crowd, reportedly shooting hundreds of rounds until they ran out of ammunition. It is not certain how many died in the bloodbath, but, according to one official report, an estimated 379 people were killed, and about 1,200 more were wounded. After they ceased firing, the troops immediately withdrew from the place, leaving behind the dead and wounded.

The government of India ordered an investigation of the incident (the Hunter Commission), which in 1920 censured Dyer for his actions and ordered him to resign from the military. Reaction in Britain to the massacre was mixed, however. Many condemned Dyer’s actions—including Winston Churchill , then secretary of war, in a speech to the House of Commons  in 1920—but the  House of Lords  praised Dyer and gave him a sword inscribed with the motto “Saviour of the Punjab.” In addition, a large fund was raised by Dyer’s sympathizers and presented to him. The Jallianwalla Bagh site in Amritsar is now a national monument.

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