Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: The Darkest Day In Indian History
New Delhi: Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Jallianwala also spelled Jallianwalla, also called Massacre of Amritsar, still remains the ”darkest day” in the history of India even after more than 103 years of this horrific incident.
The incident took place on April 13, 1919, in which British troops fired on a large crowd of unarmed Indians in an open space known as the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in the Punjab region (now in Punjab state) of India, killing several hundred people and wounding many hundreds more. It marked a turning point in India’s modern history, in that it left a permanent scar on Indo-British relations and was the prelude to Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi’s full commitment to the cause of Indian nationalism and independence from Britain.
The 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre eventually became a key moment in the history of India’s independence movement, helping to consolidate the support and the push needed to break free from British rule.
Winston Churchill, one of Britain’s most famous prime ministers, called the 1919 massacre of Indian protesters “monstrous,” while Queen Elizabeth said it was “distressing.” Prime Minister David Cameron described it as “deeply shameful.”
General Dyer, the man behind the bloodshed, too defended his actions and wrote in a letter that he had attacked the crowd because they had gathered “in open rebellion against the British crown.” In response, PM Churchill expressed some sympathy for General Dyer, highlighting the “danger to Europeans throughout that province” during an address in Parliament.
More tragically, General Dyer was accorded a warm welcome upon his return to Britain and was presented with a jewelled sword with the inscription, “Saviour of Punjab.” He also never went to jail for his ”unpardonable” crimes. Back in India, top figures, including ‘Gurudev’ Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, strongly condemned the attack and renounced their British Knighthood and Kaiser-i-Hind medal respectively.
Decades later, India gained freedom from British rule which came with the price of a violent partition of the subcontinent in 1947. However, the lack of a formal apology remained an open wound throughout the decades between Independent India’s relations with Great Britain.
Though in 1997, Queen Elizabeth paid 30 seconds of silent homage at the Jallianwala Bagh, removing her shoes and laying marigolds at a pink granite memorial. Later, British PM David Cameron visited the Jallianwala Bagh in 2013 and voiced his regret over the incident, which is largely seen as a ”shameful scar on British India history.”
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