One of the darkest hours of the British Colonial rule in India was 100 years ago on this day when British troops fired on thousands of people in what we now call the Jallianwala Massacre.
Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer was tasked with ensuring order, and imposed measures including a ban on public gatherings after the Rowlett Act which allowed incarceration without trial. This act led to widespread protests and feuds resulting in people being arrested and banished.
It was the festival of Baisakhi which is a highly celebrated festival in India. On April 13, 1919, nearly 10,000 people gathered at Jallianwala Bagh. The ground was surrounded by high walls and had only one exit. Some estimates put the crowd at 20,000. The crowd included men, women, children and pilgrims.
Jallianwala Bagh was once a garden but in 1919 the place was uneven and unoccupied, an irregular quadrangle, indifferently walled and used as a dumping ground.
Dyer reached the spot with dozens of soldiers, sealed of the exit and ordered his soldiers to fire on the unarmed crowd without warning until they ran out of ammunition. When people found they couldn’t escape, many jumped into an open well that was there.
Reportedly Dyer later said that the firing was meant to be a punishment for disobedience and not to disperse the meeting.
Dyer was later dubbed ‘The Butcher of Amritsar’, removed from command into enforced retirement. He died in 1927.
Jallianwala Bagh was declared as a memorial of national importance in 1951 by the Government of India.