B. G. Horniman, British journalist first exposed to the world the horrors of ''Jallianwala Bagh Massacre'', 1919

British journalist Benjamin Guy Horniman exposed Jallianwala Bagh killing

Above image: In his book ‘Amritsar and Our Duty to India,’ (1920), he called out the ‘Dyerarchy’ of General Dyer in Punjab, a word that he used for the atrocities committed under Gen Dyer................

As part of history of India's freedom struggle many of us in the school studied the bizarre incident of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre  that took place in the city of Amritsar, Punjab  on  April 13, 1919 and how this  dreadful and blood chilling  shooting incident without any prior warning resulted in the death of  roughly 900 to 1000 unarmed people (the official casualty figure was about 370). 

Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, PJ.log.studyiq.com

How many of you know the  following facts of Amritsar massacre?:

 01 Lots of injured people in the shooting were bled to death with no medical aid and no ambulance service whatsoever. They were not allowed inside the park _Bagh. 

02. The incident took place in an enclosed park about 6 acres spread with all gates  closed with one or two open.  Powerful rifles were placed in front of the gate to shoot at the fleeing people.

 04.  The man who committed the  mass murder and mayhem was Brig. Gen. Dyer with official orders from the Gov. of Punjab Sir Michael Francis O' Dwyer. 

05.  It was  a well-planned premediated military action against  innocent people gathered in the Bagh on festival day and both the army officer and the governor knew about its aftermath and repercussions.  

06.  In another mortifying  incident, Gen. Dyer made  Indians living in a particular street in Amritsar crawl on their belly for a short distance for their purported  unruly behavior, causing public nuisance, particularly to a British woman, a church worker. 

07. The British India Government tried to suppress media reports on the massacre, fearing pretty bad backlash across the continent. 

08. To  save their face and degrading act, the Raj  came up with a blatant lie to convince  the British public that the culprits were Indians and  the British army had to  resort firing  within the law to quell the unruly mob.  

09. Since  press censorship was imposed on the media  details of the massacre did not become known in Britain immediately in April 1919. 

Horniman exposed the Jallianwala Bagh killing. indiatimes.com

At the Bagh  Dyer  asked the soldiers to focus on the thick crowd, so that they could get more. This itself is a testimony to their premeditated military action. 

Do you know how the hypocrisy and arrogance of the Raj was exposed to the public? 

In the colonial period there were many honest  journalists who never  hesitated to report the atrocities and excesses of  the Raj.  Back in England praising Gen. Dyer and giving reward  by  a section of the  British  society made   Benjamin Guy Horniman (1873 to 1948), a British National and the then editor of the Bombay Chronicle (1913 - 1919)  was an unbiased and honest  journalist and  decided  to get to the bottom of the mass killing  and single mindedly  wanted both  Gov. Michael O 'Dwyer and  Gen. Reginald Dyer punished for their disgraceful crime against humanity. 

Having worked  with Portsmouth Evening Mail,  The Statesman newspaper in Calcutta (Kolkata) as its New Editor in 1906, Horniman  in 1913 had joined the Bombay Chronicle on request from legendary  Pherozeshah Mehta, an Indian National Congress leader. He  became an active advocate of media freedom and rights. To  him it media was  the 4th pillar in a democracy, a sort of watch dog;  other pillars being the executive, the legislature and judiciary,

Undismayed  by press censorship and gag orders being in force, Horniman was able to sneak out  details and  photos of the massacre to expose the mass slaughter to the world.  They were published in the Daily Herald, London. When a section of the British and politicians got the details a few days later they were aghast. Horniman  unequivocally proved  it was a premeditated  military action against the people  by Dyer and  Gov Michael.  The exposé on Amritsar massacre  by Horniman  got the seven evils out of the  Pandora's box. .

A section of the English society was shocked  and highly critical of the Crown's unjust rule  in India.  A commission of enquiry - the Hunter Commission  gave a final report in May 1920  and the Indians were not happy with their conclusion. Gen Dyer was just  demoted and not punished. It  was purely based on the information provided by the British authorities earlier.

The British India government  got angry with Horniman  for the leak and for  violating press censorship in  force. He was a threat to the irresponsible administration, their visible flaws, police brutality and army excesses, they felt. So he was deported to England.   His tirade against  a repressive crown administration won him laurels and made the Indians not to trust wily British Bobs. The freedom fighters became more resolute to get the British out of India and the protests began spreading like summer bush fire. 

 Horniman's expose  gave the freedom fighters  a chance to toll  the first death knell for the downfall of British rule in India.  Their ruthlessness, and atrocities became global news.  The leak on the massacre  led to the closure of Chronicle temporarily. ''His was a very unbiased account because he was British and had nothing to gain from reporting what he saw as the truth,” according to  author Kishwar Desai 

Undeterred, Horniman  returned to India a few years later and  till his death he remained a renowned advocate of Indian freedom and self-rule, while working as a journalist. He wrote :  British Administration and the Amritsar Massacre in 1920,  ‘the Agony of Amritsar’, and “Amritsar and our Duty to India.’ He was the Vice-President of the Home Rule League founded in September 1916 by Dr Annie Besant, and was also the Vice-President of a nationwide ‘Satyagraha Sabha’ led by Mahatma Gandhi. He was highly  critical of  the Rowlatt Act which finally was withdrawn. He died in Bombay on October 16, 1948. For his high quality journalism advocacy of press freedom  and  political activism Bombay's  famous Elphinstone Garden was named as as ‘Horniman Garden. We owe a debt of gratitude to this great gentleman who fought against his country by supporting our freedom struggle.

 “It is impossible to believe that the people of England could ever be persuaded that a British General was justified in, or could be excused for, marching up to a great crowd of unarmed and wholly defenceless people and, without a word of warning or order to disperse, shooting them down until his ammunition was exhausted and then leaving them without medical aid.” ..........Horniman