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Remembering Jallianwala Bagh martyrs: How British Raj toyed with the lives of Indians

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By Subir Ghosh

In just about a week’s time, the country should observe the 96th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. On the afternoon of April 13, 1919, some 10,000 or more unarmed men, women, and children gathered, along with Baishakhi pilgrims,in the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab to protest against the arrest of two leaders. An hour after the meeting began, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, the military commander of Amritsar, arrived with a group of sixty-five Gurkha and twenty-five Balochi soldiers into the Bagh. Fifty of them were armed with .303 Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles. Dyer had also brought two armored cars armed with machine guns; however, the vehicles were left outside, as they were unable to enter the Bagh through the narrow entrance.

The Jallianwala Bagh was surrounded on all sides by houses and buildings and had a few narrow entrances. Most of them were kept permanently locked. The main entrance was guarded heavily by the troops backed by the armoured vehicles. Dyer—without warning the crowd to disperse—blocked the main exits. On his orders, the army fired on the crowd for ten minutes, directing their bullets largely towards the few open gates through which people were trying to run out. Dyer ordered his troops to begin shooting toward the densest sections of the crowd. Firing continued for nearly ten minutes. Cease-fire was ordered only when ammunition supplies were almost exhausted, after approximately 1,650 rounds were spent. Many people died in stampedes at the narrow gates or by jumping into the solitary well on the compound to escape the shooting. A plaque placed at the site after independence states that 120 bodies were removed from the well.

Dyer explained later that this act “was not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience.”

Official sources gave a figure of 379 identified dead, with approximately 1,100 wounded. The casualty number estimated by the Indian National Congress was more than 1,500, with approximately 1,000 dead. Dyer was initially lauded by conservative forces in the empire, but in July 1920 he was censured and forced to retire by the House of Commons. He became a celebrated hero in Britain among most of the people connected to the British Raj, for example, the House of Lords. The poet Rabindranath Tagore, as a mark of protest, renounced his knighthood (the title Sir) that the British Government had conferred on him a few years back. Let us forgive but not forget.

True, Dyer met his nememsis in Udham Singh, the great martyr and revolutionary, in a London street in 1940.

(The writer is a Principal at Bharatiya Vidya Bhaban, Asutosh College of Communication and Management in Kolkata)

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  • Note- ten thousand strong crowd. One white English with sixty-five Gurkha and twenty-five Balochi. This is parallel to Sultan Mahmood’s expedition from Gazni (Afghanistan)to India as many as fifteen times and as far Gujrat. This shows total and absolute contempt for any kind of resistance capacity of Indians that gets back to antiquity. Is there any reason to believe that things have changed today. Sheer majority is of no significance since one single hyena is enough to disperse a flock of thousand sheep or one sickly ringmaster is capable of whipping fifty lions in a circus ring. The brutal fact is- the present day Anglophonic Education and training designed for the rich and little education for the poor are creating an equivalent of a flock of sheep who can be dispersed by a single hyena.

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  • Note- ten thousand strong crowd. One white English with sixty-five Gurkha and twenty-five Balochi. This is parallel to Sultan Mahmood’s expedition from Gazni (Afghanistan)to India as many as fifteen times and as far Gujrat. This shows total and absolute contempt for any kind of resistance capacity of Indians that gets back to antiquity. Is there any reason to believe that things have changed today. Sheer majority is of no significance since one single hyena is enough to disperse a flock of thousand sheep or one sickly ringmaster is capable of whipping fifty lions in a circus ring. The brutal fact is- the present day Anglophonic Education and training designed for the rich and little education for the poor are creating an equivalent of a flock of sheep who can be dispersed by a single hyena.

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Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

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“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

Hindu, Mosque
Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

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The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)