Jallianwalla Bagh massacre - some loathsome factors on Gen. Dyer's role

Butcher of Amritsar. Gen. Reginald Dyer, Discover Sikhism

 Above image: A temporary brigadier general, Dyer was responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar ( Punjab state). tagged as "The Butcher of Amritsar", Dyer was removed from duty; he was severely criticized both in Britain and India, but he became a celebrated hero among people with connections to the British Raj. He died on 24 July 1927 (aged 62), Long Ashton, Somerset, England.................

The world famous massacre of innocent people, including children and women at the Jallianwalla Bagh, Amritsar, Punjab  committed on April 13, 1919, by trigger-happy  Brigadier General Dyer on orders from Michael O'Dwyer, the Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab has been a subject of hot debate for decades. The British people dd not know the true story of this massacre. When the details were leaked out of Raj by some honest British journalists, the sympathetic British and the western countries were in a state of shock as Gen. Dyer trespassed the norms of human tolerance.  

Of innumerable factors, many  of them showed the British Raj's dark side in dealing with Indian people who wanted Free India.The Amritsar massacre, in fact, made the Indian people across India become united and it fastened the freedom movements. Gandhiji, along with  his close associates, was  quite upset over this grave massacre and had begun to hold his grip  more firmly than ever before on his mission to get India's freedom as early as possible.

The arrest of Dr. Satyapal, and Barrister Saifuddin Kitchlew freedom fighters and advocates of non-violent civil disobedience in the first week of April 1919 led to violent protests. The  death of a few people in the firing made the crowd become angry and agitated and their target was Europeans living in Amritsar.  The furious mob killed a few innocent  English bank employees and seriously wounded  Ms. Marcella Sherwood of a local Mission  Girls'  school. The rampaging mob assaulted her, pushed her down from the cycle on to the street and left her for dead. Fortunately, the locals saved her from near death. Critics say that Gen. Dyer could not brook the lousy treatment meted out to the English lady and wanted to take revenge on the Indians. Some other critics argue the Ms. Sherwood incidence was only an excuse and actually both Gen. Dyer and Lieut. Gen. O'Dwyer  were seriously concerned about the brewing rebellion in Punjab and  imminent  threat to the British Raj. They feared., if unchecked or not nipped in the bud, this might escalate  into a big mutiny similar to the Indian Rebellion of 1857 that emerged out of Meerut cantonment. No sane person would accept their justification of killing innocent people to save the image of the British and the honor and dignity of the British women.

The following loathsome and vile factors on Gen. Dyer's role in the massacre will draw the attention of right-minded  people :

The day the mass murder was committed by Dyer and his cronies, it was a religious holiday  for the Sikhs - Baisakhi Day. The gathering at the bagh,  about 20,000 people, were unharmed, innocent people;  it was a religious meeting, not a political one.  Around 5 pm the color of the bagh, in a jiff, turned red with blood oozing from the dead as well as seriously wounded people. 

Jallianwalla Bagh, bullet holes on the wall smaraka grantha

In the aftermath of indiscriminate shooting of the hurriedly  escaping  shell-shocked gathering at the  few exit gates with all other exit points in the Bagh purposely kept closed, the unofficial toll was more than 1000 (official figure was just 379). Dr. Smith, a British civil surgeon at Amritsar, indicated over 1,800 casualties as a result of firing deliberate denying of help to the wounded people who bled to death.

The premeditated firing  lasted for just 10 minutes till the army ran out of ammunition (1650 rounds had been fired at the people). Ge. Dyer's men used powerful  .303 Lee–Enfield rifles to kill the people. 

Bullet holes. JallianwallWikimedia Commons

The pathetic fact is the victims, including those that jumped into the wells there, had a miserable, painful death for no reason whatsoever. As the bullets were raining on the panic-stricken people running towards  the gates, there were big stampedes. In the melee many people got trampled under the feet of the rushing crowds and thus faced painful death. Their wailing and cry vented the air with no one around to help them. 

On purpose, there was neither first-aid available for the wounded people.  Nor were there ambulance van to take the injured to the hospital near by to save their lives. The victims' relatives were not allowed to help their loved ones. The severely wounded were left behind to bleed to death

Yet another factor was, there were no warning shots from the military before firing.

When the massacre was  being committed and the people fell down like birds hit by bullets, Gen. Dyer was watching the entire bizarre mass killing with glee with no feeling of remorse. That day he blackened the pride and spirit of British character of fairness in dealing with adversaries.   

Jallianwalla Bagh massacre April 1919 Add caption
The horrible fact is the powerful gun was  positioned near  the only  exit gate so that the soldiers could target the escaping people and make them fall  easily like six pins in the Bowling Ally. 

Following day - on the afternoon of 14 April 1919 after the massacre Gen. Dyer and the Commissioner of Lahore, unscrupulous as they were, used threatening language. Given below is the English translation of Dyer's Urdu message made on  targeting the local residents of Amritsar:

"You people know well that I am a Sepoy and soldier. Do you want war or peace? If you wish for a war, the Government is prepared for it, and if you want peace, then obey my orders and open all your shops; else I will shoot. For me the battlefield of France or Amritsar is the same. I am a military man and I will go straight. Neither shall I move to the right nor to the left. Speak up, if you want war? .................You people talk against the Government ..... talk sedition. I shall report all these. Obey my orders. ...... and observe peace............ You will have to report to me of the Badmash. I will shoot them. Obey my orders and open shops. Speak up if you want war? You have committed a bad act in killing the English. The revenge will be taken upon you and upon your children". ...........(vide  enWikepedia.org)

The most humiliating factor was Gen. Dyer's "Crawling Order" an act of vigilantism.  He wanted the Indians to crawl  as they would prostrate before the Hindu Goddess. A curfew was in place from 19 April until 25 April 1919. Gen. Dyer marked the spot in the street where Ms. Marcella was assaulted and  had day-time pickets placed on either side of the street. Any person crossing the picket lines from 6 am to 8 pm was made to crawl 180 meters on all fours  lying flat on his belly. Though the curfew was not in force at night, the residents were put to all kinds of difficulties because, the street was cl osed . The people could not access the street as there was no alley. Doctors were not allowed to attend the sicks, including children. So, the sick people were denied medical help.

To cap it all, the most nauseating and disgusting incident had happened. It was the support given by a section of Britons and a local Tory's pro-imperialistic  News Paper Morning Post  initiated a benefit fund which raised over £26,000 sterling. Before the enquiry committee, Ms. Marcella extolled the virtues of the Butcher of Amritsar and a  section of British ladies believed Dyer was not only saved British India but also the British women's honor. Gen. Dyer died in 1927 after a series of strokes.  The Hunter commission (1920 report) found his action unacceptable and Dyer was not remorseful. he was removed from the British military.However, Gen. Dyer was not given any serious punishment for his glaring breach of British military norms. He remained a Colonel till his death.

The (Liberal) Westminster Gazette gave a different  opinion: "No British action, during the whole course of our history in India, has struck a severer blow to Indian faith in British justice than the massacre at Amritsar."

The above discouraging factors changed the political perception of Indian leaders and their trust in Britain further nose dived and, now, they realized the only option they had was Poorna swaraj - complete independence from the British yoke and their oppressive rule and double game. This horrific incident  changed the course British Indian history