Voices from Jallianwala Bagh
Saudiptendu Ray, Research Associate, VIF

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13, 1919, in Amritsar, Punjab, was a watershed moment between the era of moderate politics at the national level and the emergence of mass nationalist movements against British imperialism in India. On this day, the British troops, under the command of a Colonel, temporarily promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General [1] named Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, fired upon a peacefully gathered crowd in Jallianwala Bagh on the occasion of Baisakhi, killing more than a thousand. The crowd had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to protest against the Rowlatt Act and the arrest of independence activists Dr. Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew.

The British authorities portrayed the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as a violent response triggered by the mob killings of British bank officials and the assault on Miss Marcella Sherwood [2] on April 10, 1919, in Amritsar. But just hours before the mob-led violence, 20-25 unarmed Indians were shot and killed on a railway overbridge while they tried to reach the British Deputy Commissioner’s residence to register their protest.[3]

The show of brute force by the British government was not limited to Amritsar. The whole of undivided Punjab, more specifically Lahore, Gujranwala, Wazirabad, Lyallpur, Sheikhupura, etc., was in unrest against the British. There was a perceived threat amongst the British administration of a pan-Indian mutiny starting in Punjab, similar to the Revolt of 1857. Punjab contributed 3,55,000 soldiers to the British government’s war effort.[3] After World War I, the British government not only failed to stand by its promises but also disbanded the soldiers returning from various fronts in Europe. These disgruntled soldiers from Punjab returned home to unemployment. To complicate matters further, crop failure meant there were food shortages and skyrocketing prices.

The Indian narrative of the chain of events on 13th April, 1919, leading to the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh differed drastically from the British Government’s narrative and remained contestable, especially with reference to whether announcements banning any public meetings were duly carried out, deliberate lapses in relief work after the firing and further prohibiting local leaders from raising funds for the assistance of the casualties, censorship measures to curb the spread of the news of Punjab atrocities, intimidation to prevent reporting of atrocities, and the British Government’s released figures of casualties of the massacre, which miserly mentioned 379 killed and more than a 1,000 wounded.[5] The actual number of fatalities was more than 1,000 dead.[6]

The volunteers of the Indian National Congress in Punjab interviewed more than 1700 victims and witnesses of the massacre.[7] These witnesses encompassed the wounded, those who lost family members and those who took part in the relief activities after the shooting. The witnesses came from different socio-economic, religious and cultural backgrounds, like Mr. Girdhari Lal (Deputy Chairman, The Punjab Chambers of Commerce), Seth Gul Mohammad (Glassware Merchant), Lala Karam Chand (Assistant Accountant, Patiala State Bank), Lala Ramgopal (Confectioner), Wazir Ali (Teacher), Lala Ratan Chand (Student), Dr. Mani Ram (Dental Surgeon), Lala Harilal Saran (Broker, Messers. Donald Graham and Company) and Dr. Ishar Das Bhatia (Assistant Surgeon), to name a few. About 650 of the statements were included in the report (The Congress Punjab Enquiry, 1919–1920) submitted by M. K. Gandhi, C. R. Das, Abbas. S. Tayabji and M. R. Jayakar. Every statement admitted in the aforementioned report was verified by at least one of the four members and was accepted only after they were satisfied as to the bona fides of the witness.[8]

This article on the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre brings out the events of the fateful day through the voices (statements) of the people who were directly impacted by British brutality. It will paint a clear picture of the helplessness of the thousands of innocent Indians gathered at Jallianwala Bagh in front of a diabolical British officer representing the interests of the British Empire.

The British government’s Disorders Inquiry Committee, 1919-1920, stated that on the morning of the 13th April, General Dyer went through the city in company with the District Magistrate and some others and had a proclamation read out by the naib-tahsildar to the people who were summoned by beat of drum at a considerable number of places. [9]

Views of the people of Amritsar on the announcement of the proclamation and declaration of martial law before the massacre took place

Mr. Girdhari Lal, Deputy Chairman, The Punjab Chambers of Commerce, and Managing Director, The Amritsar Flour and General Mills Company Limited, Chatiwind Gate, Amritsar.

“I can say positively that no such proclamation was made in my side of the city nor any printed notices distributed or posted anywhere in the town.”
“…the government had not notified the introduction of Martial Law at all.”

Haji Mohammad Hussain, age 39, s/o Mian Ibrahim, Boot merchant, Katra Sher Singh, Amritsar.

“I did not hear any proclamation on my side prohibiting the holding of meetings, or announcing the introduction of Martial Law on the 13th of April.”

Dr. Bal Mukund, Sub Assistant Surgeon, age 41, Phambwala Bazar, Amritsar

“I did not hear of any proclamation of Martial Law or any announcement prohibiting the meetings, but I was told by a friend that Martial Law had been proclaimed.”

Lala Karam Chand, s/o Lala Brij Lal, age 29, in government service, Assistant Accountant, Patiala State Bank, Patiala (formerly, shopkeeper in Karmon Deori, Amritsar).

“On the 13th, also some people went round the city with a drum announcing the Jallianwala meeting and that Lala Kanhiyalal, who is a very famous and respected man, would be the president. I heard nothing on that day about the proclamation of Martial Law. I went about 4:30 pm with Lala Wassumal to the Jallianwala Bagh.”

Mr. Ram Saran Singh, age 30, s/o Pandit Than Singh, Qila Bhangian, Amritsar.

“I did not hear any proclamation about the prohibition of the meeting on the 13th.”

Lala Ramgopal, Delhiwala, aged 28-29, son of Lala Lachmi Narain, Confectioner, Bazar Karmon Deori, Amritsar.

“I did not hear of any proclamation declaring Martial Law, or prohibiting public meetings on that day.”

Moolchand, s/o Lala Mohanlal Khatri, age about 60, resident of Katra Ahluwalian, Amritsar.

“I did not see or hear of any announcement by beat of drum, or proclamation or notice that people were prohibited from attending public meetings, or that such meetings would be broken up by force. That was the reason why I went there with the boys and children of my family.”

Sardar Pratap Singh, s/o Bhai Man Singh, age 45, bookseller, resident of Bazar Mai Sewan, opposite clock tower, Amritsar.

“I did not hear any proclamation on the 13th, forbidding people to attend the public meetings nor did I hear any such proclamation had been made in the Bazar.”

Lala Jagan Nath, s/o Lala Arura Mal, caste Bhatia, age 26, Rewri seller, Karmon Deori, Amritsar.

“I did not hear any proclamation on that day about the enforcement of Martial Law nor did I see or read any proclamation or any notice whatever about Martial Law or prohibition of meetings.”

Nathi, s/o Bashashar Das, age 17 years, caste Khatri, Old market, Amritsar.

“On 13th April, (the Baisakhi Day) at about 4:30 pm I went to the Jallianwala Bagh to hear the lecture. I never heard any Dhandora (proclamation) that the meeting was prohibited, or that it would be dispersed by the use of arms.”

Sardar Ishar Singh, s/o Sardar Wosakha Singh, Jat, resident of Pathan Nangal, Tehsil Ajnala, district Amritsar.

“We did not hear any proclamation regarding the prohibition of public meetings.”

Lala Munshi Ram, s/o Lala Jawahir Mal, Khatri, Saraf, age 34, Katra Ghanayan, Amritsar.

“...after passing through Hall Bazar, Katra Ghanayan, Katra Sher Singh, Katra Jaimal Singh, Karmon Deori, Bazar Sabunian and Karta Ahluwalian. I passed through Guru Bazar and Chowk Pasian and many other places also, but I did not hear any beat of the drum, nor any proclamation, regarding Martial Law or the prohibition of meetings.”

Lala Harilal Saran, s/o Lala Behari Lal, Broker, Messrs. Donald Graham and Company, age 30 years, resident of Kucha Noorwala, Namak Mandi Amritsar.

“I heard not one word about the proclamation. There were no handbills or anything at all.”

Sardar Atma Singh, son of Sardar Natha Singh, Wine Merchant, age 39 years, New Court Road, Amritsar.

“On April 13, at about half past twelve in the noon, I was standing in the Hall Bazar square, when a procession of the military officials, with the Deputy Commissioner, came from the city Kotwali side. Mohammad Ashraf, Inspector of Police, was riding in front of them. The Deputy Commissioner and the General were in a motor-car and were followed by machine-guns, armoured cars and troops. After Inspector Mohammad Ashraf, came Sub-Inspector Abdullah and a Naib Tahsildar in a bambookat, proclaiming the Martial Law.”

Shaikh Abdul Karim, son of Shaikh Ali Mahomed, age 28 years, Assistant Manager, Roz Bazar Press, Hall Bazar, Amritsar.

“I am an Assistant Manager of the Roz Bazar Press, Amritsar. On the 13th April, 50 copies of a proclamation were printed in our hand press.”

Lala Manohar Lal, resident of Saraikala, District Rawalpindi

“On the 13th, the Baisakhi day, I came to know, when I went to the bazar, that a meeting would be held in the Jallianwala Bagh at 5 p.m. under the chairmanship of Lala Kanhiyalal, Pleader. I also heard Martial Law would be in force from 8 pm. I reached the Jallianwala Bagh at about 5 p.m.”

These statements clearly suggest that most of the people at Jallianwala Bagh on the evening of April 13th, 1919, were unaware of the proclamation and the enforcement of Martial Law. The British government in the Disorders Inquiry Committee tried to downplay the fact that they did not read out the proclamation in different parts of Amritsar. There was no proper diffusion of information among the masses. The British in the Disorders Inquiry Committee tried to push the platter of blame on the victims by suggesting that many people, upon hearing this proclamation read, did not treat it seriously, but that remarks were made that it was a bluff and that the General would not fire and not to be afraid.[10]

Jallianwala Bagh was an open piece of waste land surrounded by the back walls of houses in an irregular quadrangle shape. The main entrance had a narrow passage on the northern side. There were a few trees in the Bagh on the southern and eastern sides, a dilapidated samadhi, or tomb, with a dome on the southern side, and a well and a stage on the eastern side. Apart from the main entrance, there were 4 or 5 very narrow openings. Reginald Dyer couldn’t bring in the armoured cars with machine guns inside the garden because the main entrance was too narrow.

Jallianwala Bagh minutes before the massacre

Mr. Girdhari Lal, Deputy Chairman, The Punjab Chambers of Commerce, and Managing Director, The Amritsar Flour and General Mills Company Limited, Chatiwind Gate, Amritsar.

“…I saw troops coming out of the garden (Ram Bagh) and passing in front of the Cambridge Hotel. First of all was a body of Baluchees, about 40 to 50, followed by Gurkhas, about the same number, and then, Baluchees again. Behind them were two motor-cars. In the first car, there were two or three European military officers whom I did not know. In the second car were Messrs. Rehill and Plomer, and then came one armoured car…”

“They were all looking towards the meeting from the roof of the house. I took binoculars from Mr. Sita Ram to see who was speaking. I saw Pandit Durga Das, and was just mentioning this fact to Mr. Sita Ram, when I saw Gurkhas, with rifles in their hands, rushing into the garden from the Queen’s Statue side, and form into two lines…”

Seth Gul Mohammad, s/o Seth Karim Bakhsh, glassware merchant, Hall Bazar, Amritsar

“The people who were seated, got up and were running away. Hans Raj then shouted, “Don’t be afraid, sit down. Government will never fire.” Some of them ran away, but good many of them again sat down. I hesitated a moment and then ran away.”

Lala Karam Chand, s/o Lala Brij Lal, age 29, in government service, Assistant Accountant, Patiala State Bank, Patiala (formerly, shopkeeper in Karmon Deori, Amritsar).

“On my way to the Bagh, when I was in Katra Ahluwalian, I saw an aeroplane. In the Bagh, there was a very large crowd, so big that people could not hear. There were many of those who could not hear, who were sitting on the grass and the children were playing about. I saw no sticks of any kind. It was Baisakhi festival and the shops were closed and there was nothing to do and when the lecture was announced, the people came there. Some people were sitting down playing cards. Some were coming, others were going. Many people had come from the country as far as from Peshawar and Rawalpindi, because of the Baisakhi fair. When I could hear nothing, Lala Wassumal said, “Come along, we can hear nothing.”

Moolchand, s/o Lala Mohanlal Khatri, age about 60, resident of Katra Ahluwalian, Amritsar.

“On the sight of the aeroplane, I wanted to leave the place with some other people and Hans Raj who was lecturing, said that it was doing its work and that we should continue our work. After this as funeral procession passed by and a number of people left to join it.”

“I then noticed some other men, who all appeared to belong to the police, slipping off from the place, and very soon after, the British soldiers and the Gurkhas came up. As I was not facing that way, I saw in that direction only once, and saw rifles on their shoulders. I had just turned my face when the firing was started. When they were running away.”

Sohan Lal, s/o Ram Kishan, Barber, age 35 years, Chowk, Phulanwala, Amritsar.

“I saw soldiers entering the garden through the main passage. As the people were getting up to run away, Hans Raj shouted to them not to do so. He said “The Government will never fire upon innocent men.”

Mian Abdul Aziz, aged 20, son of Mian Maula Bux, resident of Ghee Mandi, Hansli Street, Amritsar.

“On the 13th of April, I had gone to Jallianwala garden to attend the meeting. The soldiers entered it from the main entrance, and I, along with others, was going out of the garden at that time, by that very way. All of us were beaten with the butt-ends of their rifles, and pushed back into the garden.”

“…ran along the wall to the east of the entrance. We had to go some distance before we could escape through a small exit, which is situated near a timber stall there. When I reached near the stall, the first shot was fired. Having heard the sound of the firing, I ran fast…”

Lala Kishori Lal, age 27 years, s/o Pandit Ramji Lal Gaur, Lachmansar, Amritsar.

“We then saw a photograph of Dr. Saiffudin Kitchlew being placed on the chair. Then rose Dr. Gurbax Rai to address the audience which mostly consisted of Jats from the neighbouring villages who had come for the Baisakhi fair.”

Sardar Har Bhajan Singh, s/o Gandu Mal, age 38, manager of the factory of Bhai Gurmukh Singh Moti Ram, resident of Chowl Moni, Amritsar.

“The audience also included large number of Jats and Sikhs hailing from Peshawar and various other places, who had come to Amritsar to witness the Baisakhi festival.”

Lala Manohar Lal, resident of Saraikala, District Rawalpindi

“The first resolution was the Rowlatt Act be repealed and the second resolution was the firing on the 10th April be condemned, and sympathy be expressed with the relatives of the dead. When the resolution was put to the meeting, I saw an aeroplane hovering over the place. At the time, a funeral procession was passing by, and I saw many people leaving the meeting and joining it.”

Wazir Ali, age 35/36 years, s/o Ghulam Ali, teacher (Panda), Karta Dal Singh near Kaul Sir, resident of Chitta Katra, Lahori Gate, Amritsar.

“When I heard cries of “Agaye! Agaye!” I saw people running. I kept standing near the corner and looked in front and saw some soldiers standing near the main entrance…”

Before Reginald Dyer showed up at the northern gate of Jallianwala Bagh with his armed troops, many witnesses, like Lala Karam Chand, Moolchand and Lala Manohar Lal, had seen an aeroplane hover over the garden.[11] One can say that the aeroplane was used for surveillance by the authorities. But it is difficult to guess the exact orders given to the pilot flying the aeroplane over a gathering of over 10,000 people. Just two days later, on April 15, 1919, in Gujranwala, aeroplanes dropped bombs on utterly innocent people.[12] Kishan Singh, a 5th grade student, describes the scenes after bombs were dropped on the Khalsa Boarding House in Gujranwala: "We heard the noise of aeroplanes at about 3 p.m. when we saw that there were four aeroplanes. They remained hovering over the boarding house for about 10 minutes. We, as usual, came out to see. So did the boys, who were playing outside. Suddenly, a noise was heard, and a shell came down…" So, the British government didn’t hesitate to drop bombs on children in a school. Maybe the pilot flying the aeroplane over Amritsar two days earlier was told not to drop bombs if there weren’t enough children present amongst the thousands of people in Jallianwala Bagh.

Even when the British troops had lined up with their .303 Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles near the Queen’s Statue, some of the people kept shouting, “Don’t be afraid, sit down. Government will never fire upon innocent men.”

Jallianwala Bagh during the 10 minutes of firing:
Statements from the injured-

Lala Ratan Chand, son of Lala Gokal Chand, Caste Kapur, aged 17, student, Khalsa College, residing at Karmon Deori, Amritsar.

“As soon as the first firing ceased, I took the opportunity to run away towards the mud wall to the east. When I was jumping over the wall, the firing began again, and I got a bullet on my right forearm.”

Mian Mohammad Sharif, son of Mian Illahi Baskh, caste Kashmiri, aged 24, Katra Bhagh Singh, Amritsar.

“They directed their fire towards all those who were trying to escape. Those who ran towards the front walls were shot down dead, and very few escaped. I ran towards the left, where there was a ditch (hansli) I thought it was a way out of the garden but as I advanced along the hansli, I came in front of a wall where I received a bullet in the thigh. A fat man was trying to scale the wall. I climbed over him, jumped over the wall and escaped. Many tried to scale the wall, but were shot dead.”

Wazir Ali, age 35/36 years, s/o Ghulam Ali, teacher (Panda), Karta Dal Singh near Kaul Sir, resident of Chitta Katra, Lahori Gate, Amritsar.

“Near the place where I stood, I saw a large number of people killed and wounded. I was hurt in my right eye, the bullet passed near my right temple. I got another shot on my right chest and this bullet also passed. I was under treatment for about 25 days. My whole right eye had to be taken out.”

Seth Laxmi Chand, age 32, merchant, resident of Gali Lala Wali, Amritsar.

“I was startled to hear some people crying, “Woh Agaye! Woh Agaye!”, immediately afterwards I heard reports of firing. I ran towards the outlet by the side of the well. The passage there was blocked with about 150 corpses. I had to fall back. I then lay down on the ground, but received a shot on my right ankle. I lost all consciousness. On recovering my senses, I saw in front of me in the corner opposite the main entrance a heap of people, lying dead and wounded.”

Lala Guran Ditta, age 33 years, s/o Mula Mal Arora, Namak Mandi, Amritsar.

“When the firing began, I lay down on the ground to avoid being hit. Several shots passed over me. Then I saw about 20 soldiers firing in a kneeling position at those who were lying down. I was then hit twice, once on the leg above the left ankle and again on the right leg just below the knee.”

Bhai Ram Singh, age 40, s/o Bhai Attar Singh, trader, shop in Bazar Papranwala, Chowk Darbar Sahib, Amritsar.

“I ran towards the well, and tried to jump over the wall near the gate on the well side. My right arm was raised, and I got shot on the back of my right hand. I was in bed for about two months. My right hand from near my wrist had to be amputated entirely.”

Ghulam Mohamed, s/o Bassa, resident of Katra Karam Singh, Amritsar.

“I received two bullet injuries at Jallianwala Bagh. One on the cheek and the other on the right jaw. The bullet, I produce was extracted from my mouth (right lower jaw). The other injury is near the joint of the right arm and right shoulder.”

Abdul Ahad, age 60 years old, shawl maker, resident of Katra Karam Singh, Kucha Calcuttian, Amritsar.

“I remained squatting near a tree. People were running away and more shots were at the retreating crowd, at intervals of one or two minutes. I received four shots when the last firing took place, (has four marks below the waist one on the right buttock, another, on the inside of the thigh, third a little below it and a fourth close to the third).”

Hari Chand, s/o Devan Chand, Clerk Central Workshop, Amritsar Division, Arora caste, Amritsar.

“…a bullet hit me in the calf of my right leg.”

Lala Manohar Lal, resident of Saraikala, District Rawalpindi

“All of a sudden, armed Gurkha soldiers began to enter the Bagh through the main gate and the people began to run away on seeing them. No warning was given to the people to disperse. The soldiers fired on the people, when they were running away. I fell down while running, and was crushed under others. The firing went about on for about 12 minutes.”

“I had received one shot in the back of my leg below the knee. I could not move about for a month on account of this wound.”

Reginald Dyer did not give any warning to the crowd to disperse. He considered it unnecessary, as the crowd was in breach of his proclamation. [13]

Q.- When you got into the Bagh, what did you do?
Dyer- I opened fire.
Q.- At once?
Dyer- Immediately. I had thought about the matter and don't imagine it took me more than 30 seconds to make up my mind as to what my duty was?

Once the firing started, it continued for 10 long minutes. The fire was not used to disperse the crowd. Instead, it was directed towards those who were trying to escape. The soldiers were ordered to kill as many people as possible. Around 20 soldiers were firing from a kneeling position to target those who were lying down. A total of 1,650 rounds of ammunition were fired.[14] Reginald Dyer also admitted that if he could have brought the armoured cars into the Bagh, he would have opened fire with them as well. He stopped shooting because the ammunition had run out. [15]

Statements of the people who narrowly escaped injuries-

Lala Gian Chand, age 27, s/o Lala Raliaram Tahsildar, resident of Chowk Pasian, Kucha Mehar Bux, Amritsar

“Immediately, I heard shots fired. No warning was given. I ran towards the wall side and as the rush of the people was too great, I could not climb over the wall and sat down and dropped my face between my knees. People fell over me. After the firing of three successive volleys, I got up and with the greatest difficulty, leapt over the wall, head downwards. I could not see the people who were firing, which continued for about 10-15 minutes. I took shelter in a house in the lane. After the firing was over, I saw about 500 or 600 persons of all ages, including the dead and the wounded, lying about in the street, outside the Bagh.”

Seth Gul Mohammad, s/o Seth Karim Bakhsh, glassware merchant, Hall Bazar, Amritsar.

“….as I was running away, I heard the sound of firing and I saw many men falling down. Luckily, I escaped.”
Q.- Which way did you run out of the garden?
A.- I ran away by climbing over the wall near the well. I went straight home.”

Lala Karam Chand, s/o Lala Brij Lal, age 29, in government service, Assistant Accountant, Patiala State Bank, Patiala (formerly, shopkeeper in Karmon Deori, Amritsar).

“The soldiers came in and formed into a line at once and there was no warning given at all. They began to fire at once. I was near the Hansli passage when the firing began. The end of the passage was blocked by a wall as high as my chest, so people could not get out quickly, but only one by one. When I got into the passage, I saw that people were being shot down behind me. I tried to crunch down and saw that the trap door of the Hansli was broken. So, in the crush I managed to get down into it, one leg at a time. I got into the water up to my thigh at the place where the lid over it was broken. Three other men slipped in. After that, I remained under the Hansli. Then the breathing became difficult and I tried to get out. The firing had by this time ceased. When I got my hand into the hole, I found a Sikh getting water from the Hansli for the wounded. I asked him whether the soldiers had gone and he said, ‘Yes’.”

Mr. Ram Saran Singh, age 30, s/o Pandit Than Singh, Qila Bhangian, Amritsar.

“I saw some Gurkhas and Europeans standing with rifles in their hands, near the main entrance. I cannot say how many there were in all. When the first volley was fired, Hans Raj again shouted, “These are blank shots.” On the second volley people began to fall down. I was about to run also, when a Sikh, presumably a retired military man, told me to lie flat to save myself. I did so near the platform. I kept on there for about 15 or 20 minutes, and I was unconscious of everything around me. When I got up, I saw persons wounded lying on all sides of me, and my clothes were full of blood.”

Lala Ramgopal, Delhiwala, aged 28-29, Confectioner, Bazar Karmon Deori, Amritsar.

“…as soon as the soldiers began to fire, I ran away with great difficulty, as I had to go over many dead and wounded persons to climb over the eastern wall near the well. My clothes were full of blood and my dhoti slipped off when I was climbing.”

Lala Bhagwandas, son of Lala Ramchand, aged 30, resident of Gali Ramanand, shop Purani Kanak Mandi, Jallianwala Katra, Amritsar.

“They fired immediately, and I fled towards Lala Dholan Das’s house. Between the Samadh and Lala Dholan Das’s house, I lay flat on the ground for a few minutes, and then I jumped over the Katcha (mud) wall near Lala Dholan Das’s house. Many people jumping near me were hit and fell.”

Sohan Lal, s/o Ram Kishan, Barber, age 35 years, Chowk, Phulanwala, Amritsar.

“…. suddenly at that time the firing began and the people began to run in all directions. There was utter confusion. I also ran and came out of the garden through a passage near the well. I saw, many people had already fallen. Luckily, I escaped.”

Moolchand, s/o Lala Mohanlal Khatri, age about 60, resident of Katra Ahluwalian, Amritsar.

“When they were running, I saw them being fired upon and hit. They were falling on one another, running in all directions and the shots were seen coming from all directions.”

Lala Kishori Lal, age 27 years, s/o Pandit Ramji Lal Gaur, Lachmansar, Amritsar.

“I had not run a few paces when a bullet whistling a few inches above my head. Again, when the second volley was being fired another passed just in front of my face. Then I fell down with fear.”

Sardar Har Bhajan Singh, s/o Gandu Mal, age 38, manager of the factory of Bhai Gurmukh Singh Moti Ram, resident of Chowl Moni, Amritsar.

“As I ran, the firing began, and when near the gate, I saw hundreds of persons dropping on the ground. I saw heap of corpses near the exit. I then jumped over the wall with the aid of two persons unknown to me.”

Dr. Mani Ram, Dental surgeon, age 38 years near Clock Tower, Amritsar.

“I could escape very easily as I was just near the entrance, close to Lala Dholan Das’s house. I took shelter in a stable nearby, and peeped through an opening through an opening in the wall when the people heard the sound of the bullets, some of the lay down where they were, and others tried to run away, but were killed or wounded. The firing was too close and continuous to allow anyone to escape and the soldiers continued firing in the direction in which the crowd was running. There were shot intervals in the firing, when those who were lying on the ground tried to get on their feet, but were at once fired upon.”

Lala Bodh Raj, age 29, s/o Lala Shambu Nath, Khatri, Mori Ganj, Amritsar, firm of Shambu Nath & Sons, Proprietor of Chemical Works Islamabad, Amritsar.

“Some people began to run away from the meeting at the very sight of the soldiers, even before they had fired. I was also one of them, and ran towards the Samadh and hid myself behind it towards the wall opposite to the firing party. I saw people falling down wounded. When I was at a distance of about 15 yards from the wall I lay down and began to crawl. I reached the corner between the wall and the Burj Mewa Singh, and then jumped over the wall.”

Nathi, s/o Bashashar Das, age 17 years, caste Khatri, Old market, Amritsar.

“I hid myself in an opening in the trunk of a tree, and waited there till the first firing was over and before the second firing began, I ran towards the Sultanwind Gate, after climbing and jumping over a wall.”

“I saw many men running and falling in the well in confusion.”

Lala Harilal Saran, s/o Lala Behari Lal, Broker, Messers. Donald Graham and Company, age 30 years, resident of Kucha Noorwala, Namak Mandi Amritsar.

“About 15 minutes after the aeroplane had passed over, the Gurkhas troops came running in. There were about 50 soldiers as soon as I saw them, I urged on Gopal Singh to run away. Just as we were running away, they at once fired. Many were running at that time. An old man near me was shot in the head. I saw it was no use running and fell flat. I could see, by moving my head that those who were trying to get over the wall were shot and were falling back. The blood of the people who had been shot covered me.”

Pratap Singh, s/o Sardar Mehar Singh, age 33 years employed in the form of Messrs. Kahn Sing Mohan Singh, Perfumers, Karmon Deori, Amritsar.

“My son and I lay down at full length. Those who had war experience, shouted out, “lie down flat.” When the firing ceased, men who were lying flat got up and began to run. I ran also. When the men began to run, the shots began again. I lay down flat with my son. Then, for the second time, the shots ceased. Men began to run again and I ran and got to the other side of the platform and fell flat there. There were quite a heap of bodies and I was protected from the bullets by them. Then the firing was over, I got up and saw bodies on all sides, and went towards the back of the garden. The bodies were so thick in the passage, that I could not find my way out. I had my son with me and men were rushing over the dead bodies. I took my son also over the dead bodies. In my opinion, there must have been nearly 2000 dead bodies in the garden.”

Lala Budh Mal, son of Lala Gulab Mal, age 40 years, Choudhri of Kanak Mandi Purani, House in Kanak Mandi Purani, Amritsar.

“I was sitting near the northern wall close to the well and the platform. At about 5-15 p.m., I heard cries of, “Look! There are soldiers.” I at once dropped over the wall which was very near me, and then immediately, I heard sounds of firing.”

Pratap Singh, aged 30, son of Gurdit Singh Ramgarhia, Carpenter, resident of Taran Taran.

“There were approximately 50 Gurkhas and some five or six Europeans and one Inspector of Police and also Sub-Inspector Mit Singh. There were about 15 thousand men present in the garden. The soldiers began to fire at once. No warning was given. The first volley was fired high. On this, one officer reprimanded the Gurkhas. With a revolver pointed at them, he abused them in filthy language and said, “Why are you firing so high? Fire low; for what else have you been brought here?” or words to the effect. After this, the firing was continued on the people, especially, aimed towards the entrances wherefrom people were going out.”

As the main entrance was blocked by the British troops, people started running towards the 4-5 narrow exit points on the sides. The bullets were directed towards the people herding near the gates. The dead bodies started piling up near the exit points. A large number of people were protected from the bullets by the pile of dead bodies. Many of the wounded, who managed to run from the garden, succumbed to injuries on the way and lay dead in the streets.

Mr. Girdhari Lal witnessed the massacre from the roof of a nearby house: “The firing continued incessantly for about 10 to 15 minutes at least, without any perceptible break. I saw hundreds of persons killed on the spot. In the Bagh there were about 12 to 15 thousand persons and they consisted of many villagers, who had come to Amritsar to see the Baisakhi fair. Quick firing guns were used, the worst part of the whole thing was, that the firing was directed towards the gates through which the people were running out. There were small outlets, four or five in all, and bullets actually rained over the people at all these gates. Shots were also fired into the thick of the meeting. There was not a corner left of the garden facing the firing line, where people did not die in large numbers. Many got trampled under the feet of the rushing crowd and thus lost their lives. Blood was pouring in profusion. Even those who lay flat on the ground were shot…”

Immediate aftermath of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre-

Mr. Girdhari Lal, Deputy Chairman, The Punjab Chambers of Commerce, and Managing Director, The Amritsar Flour and General Mills Company Limited, Chatiwind Gate, Amritsar.

“No arrangements were made by the authorities to look after the dead and wounded.”

“There were heaps of them at different places, and people were turning over dead bodies to recognize their relations or friends. The dead bodies were of grown-up people and young boys also. At or near the gates the number was very large, and bodies were scattered in large numbers all over the garden. Some had their heads cut open, others had eyeshot, and nose, chest, arms, or legs shattered. It was a fearful and ghastly sight. I noticed one or two buffaloes were also killed on the ground. I think there must have been over one thousand dead bodies in the garden then.”

“I saw people were hurrying up, and many had to leave their dead and wounded, because they were afraid of being fired upon again after 8 p.m. Many among the wounded, who managed to run away from the garden, succumbed on their way to the injuries received, and lay dead in the streets.”

Lala Atmaram, s/o Lalsukh Dial, Broker by profession, Katra Jallianwala, Burj Meva Singh, Amritsar.

“I passed by the Bagh at about 6 p.m. that day, and looked over the wall between Lala Dholan Das’s house and the Burj. I noticed heaps of bodies lying about, most of the bodies were near the exits.”

“In the course of the night, I heard the wounded in the Bagh mourning and crying for water. I dared not to leave my house to render any help because of the curfew order, which prohibited people from going out into the streets after 8 pm. I noticed some people with lanterns moving about amongst the dead bodies.”

Khushal Singh, age 33 s/o Lala Kanshi Ram Ahluwalian, Auctioneer and Commission agent, Resident of Katra Jallianwala, Kucha Kammooan, Amritsar.

“Shortly after the firing ceased, I went into the garden from the gate close to my baithak. This passage was full of dead bodies. In the gali alone there were over 50 dead bodies. Inside the garden this gate about 125 dead bodies were lying. I went round the whole garden. There must have been at least 2000 killed or wounded all over the garden. The largest number was towards the Burj of Mewa Sing. Many were scattered over the place where the meeting was held. Nuvi gali was full of dead bodies. There were small children and young boys among the dead.”

Doctors who treated the wounded after the massacre-

Dr. Ishar Das Bhatia, age 26, Assistant Surgeon, Chowk Karmon Deori, Amritsar

“I again heard the sound of firing, and soon after, large numbers of wounded were brought to my place. I attended to these wounded with the help of some friends. We treated over a hundred men, some of whom died at my house.”

Dr. Kidar Nath Bhandari, L.M.S., Senior Assistant Surgeon (Retired), Hall Gate, Amritsar.

“On the evening of the 13th April, some persons came to me and said that their relatives had been wounded at Jallianwala garden and that they wanted me to attend on them. I went and attended on some three or four cases. On my return, I found more persons wanting me to attend on some more wounded, but I refused to go with them as it had been proclaimed that persons found outdoors after 8 pm would be arrested. I did not wish to take that risk. Thus, they were deprived of my assistance.”

Statements of people who lost their family members in the massacre-

Lala Karam Chand- s/o Lala Brij Lal, age 29, in government service, Assistant Accountant, Patiala State Bank, Patiala (formerly, shopkeeper in Karmon Deori, Amritsar).

“Then, as I was going back again, I met my father (Lala Brij Lal) and my brother (Lala Gyan Chand) and they told me that my elder brother, (Daulat Ram) was missing. Then we went to seek for him by way of Bazar Jallianwala. I met many wounded men and children and there were the dead also in Bazar Burj Mewa Singh. Then we went into the garden again. There were heaps of dead piled one upon another, and people were carrying them away. We searched and searched and at the wall facing the main entrance, we found his body. He was on the further side of the wall. His legs were covered with bricks, and a shot had gone through his mouth.”

Mr. Ram Saran Singh- Age 30, s/o Pandit Than Singh, Qila Bhangian, Amritsar.

“When I reached home, I learnt that my sister’s husband had not returned. I changed my clothes, and went back into the garden again. I saw about 1000 persons lying scattered all over the garden, including sadhus, Nihang Sikhs. There were a large number of these near the entrance to the Bagh, including many young boys. There were dead bodies in the adjacent lanes also. I turned over many dead bodies but could not trace by brother-in- law.”

“Early in the morning on 14th, I again went to the garden with three or four other persons. I saw people removing dead bodies even then. I found my relatives dead body in the Hansli amongst other corpses. He had three bullets. One on the forehead, the other on the side and, the third one on the back.”

This is how the people of Amritsar celebrated Baisakhi. A festival celebrating the fresh harvest and the beginning of the new year was turned into a blood bath. The next morning, the people of Amritsar woke to the stench of the decaying bodies and the smell of the constantly burning pyres. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre reflects the callous disregard for human life and the brutal clampdown on peaceful protest. The indiscriminate firing on unarmed civilians, including women and children, showcased the inexcusable lengths to which the British Empire would go to maintain control. The British authorities also failed to hold Reginald Dyer accountable for his actions. The Morning Post, a conservative British newspaper, raised 26,000 pounds to support Reginald Dyer once he was removed from his military position.[16] This underscores the deep-seated injustice and oppression inherent in British colonial rule.

References

[1]The London Gazette (Supplement), 14 March 1916, p. 2902.
[2]Kumar, Mayank. “The Crawling Order: A Sign of Imperial British Atrocities.” The Sunday Guardian, April 16, 2022.
[3] The Congress Punjab Inquiry, 1919-1920, p.49-50.
[4]The Congress Punjab Inquiry, 1919-1920, p.4
[5] Disorders Inquiry Committee, 1919-1920, Report, p. 44-45.
[6] Nayar, Mandira,and Vijaya Pushkarna.“Jallianwala Bagh @100: Descendants of martyrs remember their loss.” The Week, April 13, 2019.
[7] The Congress Punjab Inquiry, 1919-1920, p.1.
[8]The Congress Punjab Inquiry, 1919-1920, p.1.
[9]Disorders Inquiry Committee, 1919-1920, Report, p. 43.
[10]Disorders Inquiry Committee, 1919-1920, Report, p. 43.
[11] The Congress Punjab Inquiry, 1919-1920, p. 54.
[12]The Congress Punjab Inquiry, 1919-1920, p. 107
[13]Disorders Inquiry Committee, 1919-1920, Report, p. 44
[14]The Congress Punjab Inquiry, 1919-1920, p.56.
[15] The Congress Punjab Inquiry, 1919-1920, p.56.
[16] Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: When a British newspaper collected 26,000 pounds for General Dyer, India Today, April 13, 2019.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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