What was the Jallianwala Bagh meeting about? Many may not recall the reason behind holding the rally in Jallianwala Bagh. Dr Kitchlew and Dr Satya Pal were two leading freedom fighters who had been arrested by the British Government under the ROWLATT Act. The rally in Jallianwala Bagh had been called to protest the arrest. Well known and well remembered in Amritsar, the successive, post independence Governments of India have, perhaps, all but forgotten them.
On April 10, 1919, Mr Kalinath Ray, the then editor of the Tribune wrote an editorial. This editorial led him to jail. The Tribune has run a serial on the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, on its 100th anniversary. This serial, along with a bit of other materials, has been compiled here for ease of reading.
Rowlatt Act was the initial trigger point. Its actual name was the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919. It gave unbridled powers to the then Government to detain people, control the press, arrest without warrant, detain without trial, hold secret trials. Accused were not to know the accuser and the evidence. Those convicted were required to deposit securities upon release, and were prohibited from taking part in any public activities.
Dr Kitchlew and Dr Satya Pal were arrested under this Act on the 10th of April, 1919. This led to widespread protests. The Tribune was unsparing in its criticism of the Rowlatt Act.
We are aware of the shooting and the casualties. But that was not all. It was just the beginning. The British ruthlessly and pointedly came after people voicing their feelings in writings, books and poetry.
A little known fact is that Gen Dyer was an alumnus of Bishop Cotton School, Simla. Though he spent just one year there, he qualifies as a “Cottonian”, much to the shame of alumni of the school.
The tragedy spawned new traditions and rituals.
Few will know about a family which bears its sorrows to today and will bear it forever-they gave up the tradition of wearing red wedding bangles, amongst Indians- a symbol of marriage and living husband. No lady in the house wears red bangles and none has worn them for the last 100 years.
First thing newly weds of Amin Chand’s descendants do is to go to bow at the well in the Jallianwala Bagh. Visit to Gurdwara comes later. Read their heart wrenching story here.
Kheer was the favourite sweet dish of Sh Hari Ram Behl. His wife made this for him, while he went to Jalianwala Bagh promising to return. He never made it. Since then, Bahl’s family does not celebrate any festival in the month of April, nor make kheer.
Another little known fact is that the famous Mohan Meakin Brewery was established by the father of Gen Dyer! It was known as Dyer Meakin Breweries even as late as 1966. The rum Old Monk was born here.
Sunder Singh was the son of Gian Singh-a famous fresco painter of those days. Sunder Singh was only 17 when Gen Dyer’s bullets got him on April 13, 1919. Read his fascinating story below.
British news papers and their Indian stooges reported the massacre of Jallianwalan as “dispersal of illegal uprising” The Tribune was one paper which stood out and the British had described it as a “local extremist”!
Was there a conspiracy?
V N DUTTA says it was a conspiracy to get a crowd which could then be massacred!
SASTHI CHARAN MUKHERJI
Sasthi Charan Mukherji was a Doctor from Bengal, who hapened to be present in the Jalian wala bagh on the day of the massacre. He was there by chance. He had come to Amritsar, looking for a suitable venue for holding a session of the Indian National Congress. A medical doctor by profession, he was close to Pt Madan Mohan Malviya and had participated in several movements, processions, events relating to the fight for independence. He was caught in the firing, survived and became a first hand witness to the gory events that followed.
He was terribly pained and moved and he pressed the Indian national Congress to purchase the land where the massacre occurred. The British wanted to construct a market upon the land. But Sasthi Charan Mukherji went from door to door , collected a princely sum of Rs 5.65 Lacs and bought that land in open auction. It was 1920.
The British tried to arrest and imprison him. Fortunately, it did not work out for them.Dr Mukherji became the first Secretary of Jallianwala Bagh Memorial. Even today, grand son of Dr Mukherji lives in a one room quareter within the Jalian wala bagh memorial and is its keeper.
A moving story of dedication and love for India-a man from distant Bengal and his successors settled in Punjab to look after the memorial.
This is an open ended article, being developed as I come across more material. The reader is requested to suggest relevant materials.