B.G. Horniman, well-known British Journalist who told the true story of Amritsar massacre 1919

Jallianwalla Bagh massacre ,Amritsar youtube.com

Benjamin Guy Horniman

 The Massacre at Amritsar, Punjab was a turning point in Indian history, for it  tolled the first death knell for the fall of British rule in India. It exposed their hypocrisy, arrogance and scant respect for other humans.   Under Gen. Reginald Dyer at the Jallianwala Bagh  the British military welcomed the  a huge  gathering of men, women and children  with a hail of bullets at the exit gates. Not knowing the imposition of Martial Law, people mostly Sikhs gathered at the Bagh to participate in the Baisakhi celebration (cultural and religious festival of Sikhs) and to convey their silent protest over the arrest and deportation of national leaders of Satya Pal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew. The bagh was a fully compounded public garden, covering 6 to 7 acres. On  Dyer's order, the gates were  closed except one . Machine guns  were paced at the entrance to fire on the crowd.  It is obvious it was a premeditated massacre, well planned before hand. When the military charged and  created panic, the crowd broke loose and ran toward the exit gate. The military fired on the escaping crowd at the gate, using .303 Lee–Enfield bolt-action rifles. Dyer had the firing kept going for  about ten minutes, until the ammunition supply was almost exhausted. In all  1,650 rounds had been fired (estimate based on empty cartridges gathered by the troops), The unofficial casualty figure is 1000 people plus, including children. But the British announced it was less than 400. The disgusting fact is  hundreds of wounded people were bled to die with no medical help around. Nor were the wounded people taken to the near-by hospital  for medical care. Both for the dead and wounded, it was hell, untold pain and mental agony.  Besides, in another incident, Gen. Dyer made the Indians crawl on their belly for a short distance for their purported  unruly demonstration, causing public nuisance; it was an act of utter humiliation and lack of  human dignity. 

Jallianwalla Bagh massacre  MensXP.com

The British Government tried to suppress information on the massacre, fearing pretty bad backlash across the continent. But, the news spread across  India and widespread outrage ensued;  The Raj  tried to misrepresent the facts to impress on the British public that the culprits were Indians and not the British army that acted in line with the law to quell the professed unruly mob.  Since  press censorship was imposed on the media  details of the massacre did not become known in Britain until December 1919.  B. G. Horniman (1873 to 1948; a native of Dove Court, Sussex County, England), being a conscientious journalist understood the seriousness of the situation and wanted the real culprits - both the Governor  Sir Michael Francis O' Dwyer  and military officer Gen. Reginald Dyer punished for their horrendous crime against innocent, unarmed people. Using various stratagems, despite the press censorship imposed by the British India government, he brought to light the real story of the massacre by managing  to smuggle out of India the  photographs of the actual incident and  its aftermath in the Labour Party's mouthpiece the Daily Herald. He proved it was a pre-mediated, well-planned and  unwanted military action against the people. The exposé on Amritsar massacre  by Horniman opened the Pandora's  box and unleashed 

Jallianwalla Bagh massacre  13 April 1919 Scroll.in

  a wave of shock, indignation and revulsion in the British public over the incidents and the Hunter Commission that had been enquiring into the massacre based on the information provided by the British authorities earlier.  
The British officials in India, upon knowing the leak, were furious and arrested Horniman for violating press censorship. They thought Horniman would be a threat to the colonial government and its flaws and pitfalls would be exposed by him with carping criticism. Horniman's bold and courageous decision taken at the right juncture  to print an unofficial, smuggled report on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in defiance of government censorship  created sensationalism and appealed to the conscience of the British officials and people in Britain on one hand, but, on the other hand,  it led to his  deportation to Britain  by the colonial government. His writings were, crisp but, sharp and scathing. His open rebuke and  attack against the race-conscious British rulers, their misrule and poor treatment of the public causing  untold miseries  drew the attention of the Indians and made him popular. No doubt Horniman and the news paper Bombay Chronicle created a legacy worthy of admiration.

Following the leak on the massacre, one  of his correspondents with Bombay Chronicle, Goverdhan Das, was jailed for three years  for his coverage on Amritsar incidents. This led to the closure of Chronicle temporarily. 

General-Reginald-Dyer hindustantimes.com

In England, Horniman's job became easier than ever before,  his journalistic crusade against the colonial government continued vigorously.  He authored British Administration and the Amritsar Massacre in 1920. Saddened by the  massacre of Jallianwala Bagh masterminded by  Gen. Dyer, he wrote touching articles such as ‘the Agony of Amritsar’, and “Amritsar and our Duty to India’ 

After the massacre of innocent people at the now infamous Jallianwalla Bagh in 1919 and the subsequent glorification of General Dyer by the then British Authorities and the public in Britain, it was Benjamin Guy Horniman, a British National and the then editor of the Bombay Chronicle [1913 - 1919] who vociferously pursued the truth much to the dislike of the British Government by getting to the bottom of the incident. Besides, he made the global media know the  true story backed up by photos taken at the bagh as to how the British officials in India tried to protect the ruthless man Gen. Dyer who pre-planned the massacre of innocent people  and purposely had let the wounded bleed to death.  Thus he  tore the ugly mask of the British authorities  and exposed their lack of remorse and ruthlessness. To save their face, the British lied about  cause of military action on the unharmed innocent people without giving any warning whatsoever.  The saviour of British women - Gen. Dyer was a mute spectator to this inhuman act. Even the Sicilian Mafiosi wont kill innocent people  unless they trespassed on their path. 

Undeterred, Horniman  returned to India a few years later and resumed the editorship of the Chronicle. In 1929 he started his own  newspaper, the Indian National Herald and its Weekly Herald. He left the Bombay Chronicle to start the Bombay Sentinel, an evening newspaper  for which he was an editor  from 1933 for 12 years. He was a well known advocate of Indian freedom and self-rule.
In 1941,  

Horniman, along with Russi Karanjia and Dinkar Nadkarni, founded the tabloid Blitz.

Role in India's freedom struggle:

Horniman served as vice president of the Home Rule League under Annie Beasant and called for the satyagraha campaign against the Rowlatt Act in 1919 through the Bombay Chronicle and at public meetings. When Gandhi formed the Satyagraha Sabha to launch a national campaign against the Rowlatt Act, Horniman was made its vice-president.

He died in 1948. The Indian government honored him by renaming the Elphinstone Circle to Horniman Circle. His memoirs, unfinished at the time of his death, were entitled Fifty Years of Journalism.



Kirpalani, S K (1993). Fifty Years With The British. Bombay: Orient Longman. p. 63. ISBN 9780863113369.