Jallianwalla Bagh is a public garden in Amritsar, in the province of Punjab, where thousands of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs had gathered for the celebration of the traditional festival Vaisakhi. Vaisakhi is an ancient harvest festival celebrated across Northern India, especially in the region of Punjab. It is a peaceful and convivial festival, which has a significant meaning for the aforementioned religious groups. However, on the 13th of April, 1919, during the annual celebration, gunfire occurred, and many people who came to feast were shot.
The meeting began at 4:30 p.m., as it was previously scheduled. About an hour later, Brigadier-General Dyer arrived at Bagh, accompanied by 65 Gurkha and 25 Baluchi soldiers. 50 of the general’s soldiers were carrying rifles; two armored cars with machine guns had been brought along with the general as well, though they could not pass the narrow entrance of Bagh and were parked outside. Bagh was surrounded by a number of houses; many of the narrow entrances to the park were kept closed for most of the time. The main entrance was wide, and it was heavily guarded by the soldiers and armored vehicles.
Dyer blocked the main exits to the garden without warning. Then, he announced he was going to “punish the Indians for disobedience” (Collett, 2006). As people in the garden became aware of the impending doom, they took to their heels. Most of them ran to the gateway looking for an exit. At the same moment, Dyer ordered his troops to open fire and shoot into the crowd. Many men, women, and children died in the stampedes near the gates, as people tried to get out of the slaughter. Some people jumped into the well in the garden to escape gunfire, and died there.
A plaque near the monument was installed in the garden after India regained independence, stating that at least 120 bodies were pulled out of that well. People also tried to climb up the wall, which stood five feet tall at some places and still higher at other places. They were shot immediately as they clambered up. It is said that firing continued up to 10 minutes. Only after around approximately 1,650 bullets were fired, the gunfire stopped.
According to British officials, the number of fatalities was around 379 casualties, and about 1,000 more people were wounded (Lapping, 1985). However, many researchers believe the death figure was much more than was stated. The flame ignited at the Jallianwalla Bagh by General Dyer can be considered one of the major triggers in India’s struggle for freedom, which ended with its independence on the 15th of August, 1947.
1. Collett, N. (2006). The Butcher of Amritsar: General Reginald Dyer. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, pp 255-258.
2. Lapping, B. (1985). End of Empire. London: Guild Publishing, p. 38.
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