13/4/1919 Bloodbath in Amritsar as the British shoot 1,500 Indians

Tensions have been mounting in India. Nationalists there had hoped that the country’s contribution to the British war effort would lead to it being granted self-government similar to that of South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However it has become apparent that the British have no intention of loosening their hold on the country. Indeed, they have maintained and strengthened wartime emergency measures restricting press freedom and political activity.

Gandhi, the nationalists’ leader, has called for strikes and civil disobedience against the colonial authorities. He has urged his followers to avoid all forms of violence against the British. The authorities have responded by arresting Gandhi and attempting to clamp down on nationalist activity, but this has led only to further unrest.

The Punjab province is especially tense. The city of Amritsar has already seen rioting, in which a number of Britons and Indians were killed (and in one shocking incident, a female British missionary beaten and stripped before being rescued by Indians).

The British determine to restore order in Amritsar. Michael O’Dwyer, the lieutenant governor of the Punjab, sends Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer to bring the natives to heel. Indians are forced to crawl along the street where the missionary was assaulted while policemen are given carte blanche to flog anyone they take a dislike to.
Today Dyer bans unauthorised persons from entering or leaving Amritsar. He also issues a proclamation banning all gatherings in the city of more than three people. And then he hears of a large gathering taking place in Jallianwala Bagh, a public square. Some of those present are taking part in a political rally, others are relaxing after religious ceremonies at the nearby Golden Temple.

Dyer decides to teach those gathered at Jallianwala Bagh a lesson. He leads 90 soldiers to the square and orders them to open fire, without issuing a warning or an order to disperse. The result is carnage, with the soldiers firing continuously for about ten minutes, Dyer himself directing fire to the densest sections of the crowd. The bloodbath only comes to a halt when Dyer’s men have run out of ammunition, at which point they leave.

At least 379 people are killed by Dyer’s men, including an infant, and 1,137 wounded.

images:

Amritsar, after the massacre (Guardian: The legacy of the Amritsar massacre lives on in India’s general elections)

Aftermath (Guardian: Amritsar, 100 years on, remains an atrocity Britain cannot be allowed to forget)

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