Offering funds to butcher of Jallianwala Bagh Gen. Dyer in England - an outright insult to Indians

 During the British rule the natives of India stoically suffered racial discrimination, exploitation and carping remarks. In the case of Indian elite, the highest posts offered to them  by the British  were of subaltern in nature. Their so called racial superiority and Britishness took precedence over  basics of human dignity and mutual respect. When it comes to  insults and insinuations, two persons come to my mind, the first one is Reginald Dyer and the other one is Winston Churchill, a conservative politician, ex PM of Britain and a hard-core racist. Dyer was certainly  a rogue but he was not alone. There were many disgusting characters like John Nicholson, Gen. Brig. James Neil of the  ‘Madras Fusiliers’(butcher of Allahabad),  Frederick Cooper, J.L. Cowan. These devils  in uniform committed  disproportionate violence in 1857 and after the 1872 Kuki Rebellion. In Punjab Governor  Sir Michael O’Dwyer  KCSI (28 April 1864 – 13 March 1940)  - later assassinated by Udham Singh in 1940,  was equally despotic and allowed Gen. Dyer  to shoot into the religious gathering  at the bagh. None of them was punished  and  was let out Scot-free. 

This post is about the military officer Dyer and his role in the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, India and why he was picked for special rewards back in London. .In the British India history Reginald Dyer  is marked out as the worst murderer of  people, a psychopath who went on a killing binge to prove his patriotic zeal for his country that was engaged in looting many colonies for a few centuries. Britain has countless rich aristocratic families who had built their fortunes on  slave trade and  by way of  hefty compensation from the British government after abolition of slavery centuries ago.  

raising funds for a British murderer

Gen Reginald Dyer of British India Army.

Top image: 1919, England.  Popular newspaper Morning Post based in London  making an appeal for contribution from public for the Dyer Funds. Particularly, women were active to  reward the killer of  several hundred innocent people.

Amritsar massacre, India April 1919

The horrible massacre of innocent people in the Jallianwala Bagh of Amritsar (13 April 1919) shook the entire nation and later the entire world.  It was masterminded by none other than Reginald Dyer, Brigadier General of British India Army with support from the then Governor of Punjab Province  Michael O' Dwyer.  Upon Dyer's orders to shoot into the crowd, his troops armed with .303 Lee–Enfield rifles, opened fire on a non-violent gathering of unarmed civilians, men, women, elderlies and children, They kept firing till the ammunition ran out in 10 minutes.  When the firing was on  Dyer is said to have said,  "check the  fire and direct it upon places where the crowd is thickest." When the troops  shot in the air he asked them, Fire low. What have you been brought for? The rifles were  deliberately stationed near the gates for easy target.  

.303 bolt-action British Lee_Enfield rifle, in.pinterest.com_

Above image: In the Amritsar massacre on 13 April 1919 .303 bolt action Lee Enfield rifles were used by Brig. Gen. Dyer's Indian troops...........................

Jallianwala Bagh, bullet marks, April 1919. news punjab

Amritsar. Punjab, India  the Bagh,

Above image:  Plan of Jallianwalla Bagh (park)  covering more than 6 acres of land. Reginald Dyer's troops   fired 1,650 rounds  from .303 Lee–Enfield bolt-action rifles into the thickest crowd of innocent people in about 10 minutes, stopping only when they ran out of ammunition. Dyer refused to allow  medical aid to the wounded and ambulance services, saying it was not his duty and left the scene of devastation..................................

The bagh (park) is on a plot  6 to 7 acres  and was walled on all sides, except for five entrances  one of which was big and the rest were narrow.  When the people fell on the ground like nine pins in the Bowling Alley during incessant firing , Brig. Gen.  Dyer without any sign of remorse was looking at the bloodied  and dying people with glee.   Dyer's men rained the bullets on the people fleeing through the gates. Later before  the enquiry commission  Dyer himself admitted that he fired on the people without prior warning. Neither ambulance services nor medical aids were  available to the victims of firing.  Lots of people were wantonly bled to  die painful death. Later before  the enquiry commission he admitted that he had his troops shot at the crowd with no warning at all.  Unofficial death was more than 1000 (official  casualty  figure was 360 plus).  More than twice the number of people were  injured badly. 

Amritsar massacre,

Not satisfied with the horrendous massacre in the bagh, Dyer was in rage when he heard a British lady (apparently a missionary worker) was manhandled by a rioting  mob a couple of days prior to Dyer's mass murder.   Punjab was reeling under unrest and rampage because  Indian nationalists were protesting against  seditious British policies .  What Dyer did  later was quite  nauseating.   He  designated the spot as sacred where Marcella Sherwood was assaulted. On either side of the closed street  daytime pickets were set. If anybody  venturing  out to use the road  between 6am and 8pm was made to crawl  200 yards on all fours, lying flat on their bellies. The order was not required at night due to a curfew.  The houses with  no back doors had suffered a lot besides swallowing intimidation. This ridiculous order was in force from  19 April until 25 April 1919. To Big Gen. Dyer  crawling on the floor by the natives on the sacred spot is like natives prostrating before the English lady as they do it in temple. Dyer's arrogance hit the abysmal depth. 

"Amritsar soon become enshrined in Indian national myth as a moment of unparalleled barbarity. Dyer had fired into a gentle and unarmed crowd of men, women and children from a combination of racism, aggression and revenge, so it was said, symptomatic of the bankruptcy of imperial rule"
                      ..........  Dr Nick Lloyd (The Telegraph 03 Jan 2014

NewishNews -

The enquiry commission never gave him any serious punishment except forceful resignation without pension benefits. Already shell-shocked Indian patriots and natives had yet another dose of insults.-something like rubbing salt on the bleeding wounds. Plans were afoot in England  to offer a reward to the butcher of Jallianwala Bagh for saving the modesty and dignity of an English woman  as if the Indian were nothing but savages just out of the stone age. 

Gov. of Punjab, British India Sir Michel O' Dwyer

Above image: Punjab governor Michel O' Dwyer. On 21 April 1919, in Dyer's defense,   Gov. O Dwyer stated to Viceroy Chelmsford "the Amritsar business cleared the air, and if there was to be holocaust anywhere, and one regrets that there should be, it was best at Amritsar." However many historians argue, the Cork-educated administrator O' Dwyer  earned infamy as  a belligerent apologist for Gen. Dyer. The governor did not order shooting. His accountability  was exposed in his approval of  Dyers action  and his ordering of   resorting  to aerial bombing and machine gunning of  men, women and children  at Gujranwalla (now in Pakistan) to restore peace. To Irish natives against the British rule and accomplices of British imperialism  like  O' Dwyer never thought of  themselves  to be Irish. ...........................

At this juncture we must recall  the the munificence of  Morning Post newspaper, a conservative British right-wing and  pro-Imperialistic newspaper, which later merged with the Daily Telegraph.   The  celebrated news paper made an appeal for generous donation  from the public to raise funds for the noble soul Reginald Dyer, the hero of Jallianwala Bagh and the savior of honor of British women.   A Lady's committee with 13 members was specially constituted to present "the Savior of the Punjab with the sword of honor and a purse." The English ladies  appreciated Gen. Dyer for saving the modesty of a solitary British nun from the rampaging Indians.  On July 8, 1920, Ultimately  General Dyer Fund’  got  about £26,000 through the efforts of the news paper to be presented to him  on his return to Britain the same year. It is alleged that jungle story writer  Kipling had started the fund, though there never has been any evidence of the same''.  His contribution was 10 pounds? 

The ‘Morning Post’ had supported Dyer’s action on the ground that he “did his duty, regardless of consequences”. “On General Dyer’s judgment, and his judgment alone, the future of the Punjab, and it may well be of India, was placed, and fearlessly he did his duty. His worst enemies cannot say that the result of his action was revolution; on the contrary, revolution gaining ground on every side was crushed''.

The English Newspaper misled the British by showing India in bad color.  "It started with an article, titled 'The Man Who Saved India', which was written just days after Dyer was removed from his post by the British authorities in July, 1920," according to the book, 'Jallianwala Bagh'.   An impression was created that the lives of lots of English men and women  working in India had to rely upon  duty-bound men like Dyer General Dyer  who would come to their rescue.  taking steps  to redress the callous and cynical wrong  that had been committed there."

Not  knowing the truth behind the massacre (innocent Punjabis were celebrating Baisakhi festival in the bagh), the British media lacking  transparency misled the British people in England elsewhere  by not voicing Indian natives aspiration for free India. They distorted the real story to save the neck of Gen. Dyer and the Crown administration. Instead, taking advantage of the print media  they cleverly turned the table on the natives by justifying their action. The scandalous and outrageous massacre at Jallianwalla Bagh did not get due attention in the British media  it deserved.   Publically, Ms. Marcella Sherwood later defended General Dyer, glorifying  him "as the 'Saviour' of the Punjab.'' She meant honorable British ladies like her were saved by Gen. Dyer, a perfect gentleman in British uniform. Quite satisfied Dyer   wrote a letter of thanks  to the donors  which was subsequently published in the Morning Post.

''The ‘Morning Post’ had supported Dyer’s action on the ground that he “did his duty, regardless of consequences”. “On General Dyer’s judgment, and his judgment alone, the future of the Punjab, and it may well be of India, was placed, and fearlessly he did his duty. His worst enemies cannot say that the result of his action was revolution; on the contrary, revolution gaining ground on every side was crushed,” it wrote in the same issue.  The news item says that the men and women who have contributed to the fund have shown their approval of Dyer’s action''.

Times of India

Above image: The Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who is as much known for his aristocracy as for his infamous gaffes added new one on his last visit (1997) to the bagh at Amritsar. His query of death toll got the attention of the Indian media. Two thousand?  It wasn't, was it," he questioned, as he passed by a plaque that read  “This place is saturated with the blood of about two thousand Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims who were martyred in a non-violent struggle.''  He further stated, "That's wrong. I was in the Navy with Dyer's son. That's a bit exaggerated it must include the wounded," he is reported to have said.   As of today either  the British government or the Royal British family members have  made  any official  statement expressing atonement for the atrocities committed by them during the colonial rule.................................. 

When Dyer was buried in 1927, Kipling sent a wreath with the inscription: “He did his duty as he saw it.” British Historian Wagner says it is clear that Kipling was supportive of Dyer, but there is simply no evidence that he played an active role in defending and celebrating Dyer, as has been claimed. 

In an unprecedented gesture, the head of Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said "sorry" in his personal capacity and "in the name of Christ" for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which took place in 1919 at Amritsar in Punjab.

"I can't speak for the British Government as I am not an official of the British Government. But I can speak in the name of Christ," Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Webley said at the scene of the mass killing at Amritsar

 Winston Churchill reacting the massacre in Punjab said, '' I feel myself in the strongest sympathy, but I do not think it is in the interests of the British Empire or of the British Army for us to take a load of that sort for all time on our backs. We have to make it absolutely clear, some way or another, that this is not the British way of doing business," 

Former PM David Cameron on  visit to Jallianwala Bagh in the recent past was later quoted saying that "it will not be the right thing to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologize for”

Derek Sayer, "British Reaction to the Amritsar Massacre 1919–1920," Past & Present, May 1991, Issue 131, pp 130–164 Brain Bond, "Amritsar 1919," History Today, Sept 1963, Vol. 13 Issue 10, pp 666–676