A Sikh-era field in Amritsar, East Punjab, India, where British forces opened fire on an unarmed crowd on April 13, 1919. The reason for this massacre was the enactment of the controversial Rowlatt Act on March 21, 1919, through which the freedom of Indians was taken away. The Act was being opposed by demonstrations and hartals across the country and Amritsar was also in a state of rebellion.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, also known as the Amritsar Massacre, took place on April 13, 1919, when a peaceful protest was suddenly opened fire by the British Indian Army on the orders of General Dyer. The demonstration also included those involved in the Baisakhi fair, which had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh in Punjab’s Amritsar district. These people participated in the Baisakhi festival which is a festival of cultural and religious significance for Punjabis. The visitors to the Baisakhi fair had come from outside the city and were not aware that martial law was in force in the city.
At 15:15 General Dyer arrived there with fifty soldiers and two armored vehicles and without any warning ordered to open fire on the crowd. This order was obeyed and hundreds lost their lives within minutes.
The area of this ground was 6 to 7 acres and it had five gates. On Dyer’s orders, the sepoys opened fire on the crowd for ten minutes and most of the bullets were aimed at people coming out of those same gates. The British government put the number of dead at 379 and the number of injured at 1,200. Other sources put the total death toll at over 1,000. This massacre shook the entire country and they lost faith in British rule. After a flawed initial investigation, Dyer’s comments in the House of Lords fueled the fire and the Non-Cooperation Movement began.
Activities before the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
On Sunday, April 13, 1919, when Dyer came to know about the agitators, he banned all gatherings, but the people did not listen to him. As the day of Baisakhi holds religious significance for Sikhism, people from nearby villages gather on the ground.
When Dyer came to know about the crowd in the ground, he immediately took fifty Gurkha soldiers with him and posted them on an elevated position at the edge of the garden, and ordered them to fire on the crowd. The gunfire lasted for about ten minutes until the bullets were almost over.
Dyer said that a total of 1650 bullets were fired. This number may have been derived from counting the empty cartridges of bullets collected by the jawans. According to British Indian officials, 379 were declared dead and around 1,100 were injured. According to the Indian National Congress, the death toll was estimated at 1,000, and the number of injured was around 1,500.