Skip to main content

Jallianwala massacre, resistance documents 'locked up' in National Archive boxes

By Shamsul Islam* 

India has turned into a grazing field for all kinds of religious bigots led by the Hindutva gang. Even PM of the country who took oath to uphold democratic-secular polity is identifying himself as a Hindu nationalist as if he is in office to serve the cause of Hindutva.
The RSS/BJP rulers are openly declaring their commitment to turn India into a Hindu state where Brahmanical Code of Manu which reduce women and Dalits to sub-human status would be the law of the land. For them India is Fatherland and Holyland for Hindus only.
It is to be noted that as per the Hindutva definition only those can be considered as Hindus who have Aryan blood, believe in casteism, are of fair colour and treat Sanskrit as a holy language. These are not Muslims and Christians only who are out of Hindu nation, even faiths such as Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism can survive only as sects of Hinduism.
However, this was not the scenario 103 years back when the British rulers perpetrated one of the worst massacres in the modern history; the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13, 1919. People of India subjugated by the most powerful imperialist power of the world, Britain, presented a heroic united resistance.
It is not hearsay but corroborated the contemporary narratives and retained in the archives of the colonial masters. These amazing documents were part of the British archives, established in 1891 at Calcutta which became National Archives of India after Independence. As a pleasant surprise these documents were made public to mark the 75th commemoration of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as part of an exhibition titled, 'Archives and Jallianwala Bagh: A Saga of Independence'.
Most documents, concerning the volatile period of the Indian freedom struggle, not only showed the Britishers brazenly flouting human rights-democratic norms, indulging in barbarism while suppressing the mass discontent but also brought to light hitherto hidden aspects of Indian people’s united heroic fight-back. The documents exhibited were both saddening and amazing.
It was immensely saddening to watch the 'civilized' British indulging in acts of unprecedented violence against Indians and amazing way the people of India, collectively and individually, belonging to different faiths and Castes, rose in revolt.
The shocking part has been that this treasure of visual and written narratives was put back in the boxes of the National Archives, never exhibited again. It was not taken out even during the centenary commemoration in 2019. It seems the rulers and managers do not want that coming generations should know about the barbarism of the colonial masters as well as united great heroic resistance of the people of India.

Barbarism of the British rulers

Photographs in the show recorded heart-wrenching scenes of the barbarity of the British rulers in coping with the unrest in Punjab during 1914-1919. Punjabis, specially Sikhs, tied on the wooden/metal frames being flogged or forced to crawl on their bellies on public roads, their naked body in full view of the public, filling all with shame and anger.
Punjab had become a military camp. The rulers aiming at crushing the self-esteem of patriotic Indians forced Indians to salute every Englishman/woman, not to ride cycles and forcibly pulling moustaches and beards. There is no doubt that such repression produced revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and his comrades.
The records narrated the story of newly married Rattan Devi had spent the night of April 13-14, 1919 by the side of her husband. Only, he was dead, lying amid the hundreds strewn all over the Bagh. The place was overflowing with blood, as she narrates in the chilling statement on display, and after removing the body of her husband to a comparatively dry place:
“I sat by his side… I found a bamboo stick which I kept in my hand to keep off dogs. I saw three men writhing in great pain and an injured boy, about 12 years old, entreated me not to leave the place, I told him that I would not go anywhere leaving the dead body of my husband. I asked him if he was feeling cold, if he wanted a wrapper I could spread it over him. He asked for water, but that could not be produced at that place…”
In this exhibition a stunning story from a Hindi daily, 'Abhiuday' (October 4, 1919) was included which narrated the story and photographs of two friends, 18 year old Abdul Karim and 17 year old Ramchander who came together from Lahore to attend meeting at the Bagh against Rowlatt Act. Both were martyred here. After the martyrdom of Abdul Karim when results of Punjab University [Lahore] came out it was found that he had passed the matriculate examination in the first class.

Air bombardments

But what really startles viewers is the hitherto unknown fact that the British government had, during the disturbances in 1919, used Royal Air force planes to bombard the interiors of Punjab. A top secret document-again, made public for the first time–was a Task 14.4.1919. It reads thus:
"Aero plane No. 4491 Type BO E-2.E. Squadron No. 31. Pilot captain Carbery. Hour at which flight started from Lahore: 14.20. Hour at which flight concluded: 16.45. [The details] 15.20: village two miles north west of Gujranwala (now in Pakistan)-dropped three bombs on party of natives 150 strong…50 rounds machine gun fired into village.
“15.30 Village one mile south of above-party of 50 natives outside village. Two bombs dropped…25 rounds machine gun fired into village. About 200 natives in fields near a building. One bomb dropped, 30 rounds MG fired into party who took over in house. 15.40: Gujranwala-Bombs dropped on large crowd of natives in south of town. 100 rounds MG fired into parties of natives in the streets. At
15.50 when machine left for Lahore no natives could be seen on the streets…”
Another highlight of the exhibition was the original hand-written note of Rabindra Nath Tagore’s letter to the viceroy renouncing his Knighthood to protest the repression in Punjab. It read:
“The time has come when badges of honors make our shame glaring in their incongruous context of humiliation, and I for me part wish to stand, shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.”
Another heartening document was the original facsimile of the resignation letter dated March 28, 1919 of MA Jinnah from the Imperial Legislative Assembly in protest against Jallianwala Bagh massacre and repression in Punjab. His letter openly blamed the British rulers for atrocities and passing Rowlatt Act. He wrote:
"A government that passes or sanctions such a law [Rowlatt Act] in times of peace forfeits its claim to be called a civilized government."
It is sad that Jinnah later joined the bandwagon of two-nation protagonists.
How much anger Rowlatt Act generated in every part of India could be gauged by the violent resistance in the Gujarat region generally considered to be docile and compliant. The displayed documents showed that in Gujarat within 2 days (11-12 April, 1919) protesting mobs burnt only in Ahmedabad and its vicinity offices of Collector, city judge, flag staff, Jail, main telegraph centre and 26 police stations.

Resistance literature banned

On display were the copies of voluminous literature, poetry, prose and plays which were written and circulated against the British barbarism which are banned. This treasure again depicted the united and all pervasive character of the resistance. It is not possible to discuss even a fraction of it while also noting that the exhibition must have displayed a fraction of the banned literature available in the Archives. 
Some of the important banned books were 'Bagh-e-Jallian', a lyrical play in Hindi authored by Ram Saroop Gupta, 'Jallianwala Bagh;, a long poem in Gurmukhi penned by Firoziddin Sharf, 'Punjab kaa Hatyakand', a full- fledged play in Urdu, and 'Jallianwala Bagh', a long Gujarati play. The last two were by unknown authors in order to avoid identification by the repressive regime.
Some of the representative lyrics read:
“Zulm Dyer ne kiya thaa rang jamane ke liye,
Hind walon ko museebat maen phansane ke liye.”
[Dyer indulged in repression in order to terrorize, inflict disaster on the people of India.]
“Khoon se Punjab ke Dyer kee likhee diary,
roo-baroo rakh dee mere tabiyat jalane ke liye."
[Dyer wrote his diary with the blood of Punjabis, presented to Indians in order to humiliate them.]
“Bagh-e-Jallian maen shahidon kee baney gar yaadgaar,
Jayenge aashiq-e-watan aansoo bahane ke liye."
[Memorial for martyrs will be erected at Jallianwala Bagh, so that lovers of Mother India will go there to weep for them.]
"Hum ujadte haen tau ujdaen, watan aabaad rahe,
murr mitey haen hum ke aab watan azad rahe.
Watan kee khatir jo apnee jaan diya karte haen,
marte naheen haen who hamesha ke liye jiya karte haen."
[We do not fear our destruction, let the country live. Those who lay down their lives for (the liberation) of the nation, they never die but live for ever.]
British rulers overlooked martyrs, rulers of independent India too remained/remains indifferent.
These documents make shocking revelations about the reprehensible attitude of the foreign rules towards victims of its perpetrated massacre at Jallianwala Bagh.
In June 1919 the home department came out with the statement which described the British causalities but kept mum on the count of Indian deaths forwarding an idiotic argument that whatever number would be made public by the British government would not be acceptable to Indians!
However, when government repression in Punjab drew world-wide condemnation, the British government appointed a commission of enquiry for investigating violence in Punjab on October 14, 1919, headed by a jurist from Scotland, Hunter. It came to be known as Hunter Commission. It came to the conclusion that at Jallianwala Bagh 381 Indians, including males, females and even a 6 month old baby were killed by the General Dyer's force.
This count was highly disputable as the unidentified bodies (of the people who were not Punjabis but were in Amritsar as it was a famous business/religious centre where people from other states also constantly came in search of livelihood) were disposed off.
Shockingly, even after Independence of the country nothing changed for the surviving members of the martyrs and grievously injured. They remained discarded. In India where persons who were behind bars during Emergency (1975-77) for less than a month, receive INR 10,000 and less than 2 months as INR 20,000 as family pension!
The demand of the families of the martyrs that at least they should be entitled for pension and railway concession have not been accepted. Disgusted, the Jallianwala Bagh Shaheed Parivar Samiti wrote a letter to the British PM that England should compensate their loss! It only shows the helplessness and hopelessness of the families of the martyrs but surely shamelessness and spinelessness of the Indian rulers too.
Udham Singh, who avenged Jallianwala massacre
This exhibition displayed a telegram that went out on April 16 1940. That was the date of Udham Singh’s trial in London. It read:
“We understand that during the trial the accused intends to pose as a martyr and indulge in heroics. We would be glad if steps are taken to secure that press in England do not report substantially and that Reuters only carry as brief and unsensational a summary as possible.”
This telegram from the Governor General in New Delhi to the Secretary of State for India at London clearly showed that the Britishers, glorified as great believers in the fair-play and rule of law and democracy, were masters in manipulating the fourth estate.
For more than 47 years this telegram remained a secret document in the British intelligence files and kept hidden by the free India's governments also till 1994. There were other amazing documents displayed in 1994 which pieced together, the complete story of Udham Singh which was so far known only in tidbits. Narrating the reason for killing Michael O’Dyer, the Lt Governor of Punjab at the time of massacre, he said:
“I did it because…he deserved it. He…wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country.”
He continued:
"I do not care about sentence of death…I am dying for a purpose…We are suffering from the British Empire…I am proud to die to free my native land and I hope that when I am gone…in my place will come thousands of my countrymen to drive you dirty dogs out; to free my country…you will be cleansed out of India. And your British imperialism will be smashed…I have nothing against the English people at all…I have great sympathy with the workers of England. I am against the imperialist government. Down with British imperialism!"
If documents on joint struggle are made accessible, they might help quell communal, casteist and sectarian agenda of BJP-RSS
These words of Mohammad Singh Azad rang out through a London courtroom on March 13, 1940 where he was produced immediately after killing Michael O’Dyer, the Lt Governor of Punjab, and the architect of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Mohammad Singh Azad was none other than Udham Singh. Born in a Dalit Sikh family and brought up in an orphanage, Udham Singh, a 20-year old youth was present in Amritsar on the fateful bloody Baisakhi day of 1919. 
So deep was the hatred that he vowed not to rest until he had avenged the killing of the innocent hundreds. He achieved his target 21 years later. And ‘Mohammad Singh Azad -- the name he adopted-underscored the fact that the overthrow of the British rule – was impossible without the unity was impossible without the unity of the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh populace of the land.
It was 83 years ago (July 31, 1940) Udham Singh died on the gallows in the Pentonville prison of London. Through the documents so far prohibited we also got to know that before reaching London he had been to Mesopotamia, Kenya, Uganda, USA and USSR, all in quest of Indian revolutionaries and ammunitions. It was on reaching the English shores that he took the alias of Mohammad Singh Azad. He even attempted to organize fellow English laborers.
Udham Singh's choice of the name as Mohammad Singh Azad was not a fluke. He chose it to underline the cardinal fact that India could be liberated only by collective and united efforts of all Indians. He stated that whoever refused to call him as Mohammad Singh Azad would not be his friend. There is a reasonable apprehension that if Udham Singh returns to India with this name today he may be lynched.
It is sad that some communal elements have added ‘Ram’ before Mohammad Singh Azad believing ‘Azad’ an Urdu word could not be a name of a Hindu! The list of martyrs only underlines the multi-religious and multi-caste character of the anti-British freedom struggle.
The Hunter Commission list of martyrs makes it clear that the protest meeting at Jallianwala Bagh held in protest against Rowlatt Act and arrests of renowned Congress leaders, Dr. Satyapal and Saifuddin Kitchlew (whose son Toufique Kitchlew, an author died in penury) was attended by men, youth, women of all religions and Castes.
According to the list there were 381 died due to the firing of the British army under the command of Brigadier General Reginald Dyre. His invading force mainly consisted of Nepali Gurkhas, Baluch Regiment (manned by Punjabi Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs), the 54th Sikhs and the 59th Sind Rifles soldiers making it clear that the British ruled India with the help of the Indian stooges.
Out of 381 martyrs, 222 were Hindus, 96 Sikhs and 63 Muslims. Another significant aspect of this gathering, which reflected in the list of martyrs too, was that if on the one hand businessmen, lawyers, journalists, literary persons, government employees, intellectuals were present, on the other hand large number of audience belonged to the professions like ironsmith, weavers, barbers, helpers, daily-wage earner, carpet knitters, masons, cobblers and safai karamcharis. Many women were also present. 
This reality once again underlined the fact that before the appearance of protagonists of Hindu and Muslim separatism, Indian freedom struggle was a united movement over-riding religious and Caste divisions. It was a true anti-colonial movement for an inclusive India.
It is sad that such narratives of joint struggle and joint martyrdom of Indian people lie hidden in the dark rooms of the National Archives. If only these are made accessible to the younger generation, they might quell many of the communal, casteist and sectarian agendas running in the country.
On the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 2019 the hypocrisy of the Indian rulers was to be seen and believed. Instead of upholding the great legacy of Jallianwala Bagh martyrs who laid down their lives opposing the draconian Rowlatt Act, they brought in terror laws and citizenship laws which were not passed even by the British masters. 
The Hindutva rulers of India shamelessly have gone far ahead the colonial masters in putting India under Iron Heel which even the British rulers did not try.
---
*Formerly with Delhi University, click here for some some of Prof Islam's writings and video interviews/debates. Twitter: @shamsforjustice

Comments

TRENDING

'Halt Covid-19 vaccination drive': Indian doctors join campaign across 36 nations

By Rosamma Thomas*  A group of Spanish doctors first got together to call for a halt to the Covid-19 vaccinations, and doctors from other countries too later joined them – there are now over 12,000 doctors from India, Portugal, Canada, Hungary, South Africa, Israel and a host of other nations who have issued a call to halt vaccinations. On September 10, a group of Indian doctors came together to address the press over a webinar to explain why they thought the vaccination drive should end forthwith. Dr Amitav Banerjee, who after a career as an epidemiologist in the Indian Army now teaches at a private medical college in Pune, said there was no longer a medical emergency. Children are at low risk of infection, and there is good reason to halt vaccination and conduct proper research, given the high number of adverse events. There is a sudden and poorly explained spike in the number of young and healthy people dying. While it may be impossible to attribute deaths entirely to the vaccinatio

Did Mother Teresa trivialise poverty? 'You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you'

By Harsh Thakor*  The world commemorated the 25th death anniversary of Mother Teresa on September 5. Whatever her flaws, she rendered service to humanity in regions almost untranscended, resembling the relentless spirit of the waves of an ocean. Irrespective of community or religion, she offered her service. Even those not drawn by sainthood revere the role of Mother Teresa. For 68 years, she had worked selflessly and tirelessly in India and elsewhere in the world, taught the destitute, healed the sick, fed and clothed the poor, cared for abandoned children, housed lepers and those afflicted with HIV/AIDS and offered dignity in death to desolate persons abandoned by family and society. Mother Teresa was born in Skopje in 1910 to an Albanian family as AnjezĂ« Gonxhe Bojaxhiu. She became wedded to religious vows at an early age and moved to India to join the missionary work of the Catholic Church. Heartshaken by the misery faced by the Indian masses, in 1950 she set up her own

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

Regional parties, anti-Congress progressives, civil society groups 'joining' Bharat Jodo

By Harshavardhan Purandare, Sandeep Pandey*  The Congress party declared Bharat Chhodo (Quit India) movement against the British regime in 1942. The Congress party has now launched a movement Bharat Jodo (Connecting and Uniting India) against the Modi regime in 2022. Indian people have had a journey of 80 years since Mahatma Gandhi gave that Quit India call to the British and we have to agree that we stand most divided in our modern history when Rahul Gandhi is giving this Bharat Jodo call to the nation. And back then, Congress was a thriving idealistic political movement against the British rulers and now it is an ever weakening political organization electorally defeated several times. However, it is India at stake, not just the Congress party. That is why so many regional political parties, civil society organizations, traditional anti-Congress progressive forces like socialists and communists, intellectuals and civil servants have declared their support and are proactively partici

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Excess to cheetah in Kuno to increase 'woes' of local people, 'disturb' wildlife balance

Bharat Dogra*  The release of eight cheetahs into the Kuno National Park ( Madhya Pradesh) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17, although accompanied by a media blitz, has raised several questions. The animals were flown from Namibia to Gwalior and from there they were taken to the release site in a helicopter. Official sources have stated that this is the first time a large carnivorous species has been moved across continents for establishing a new population. This first release will be followed by others under this project. However, precisely for this reason, it is important to be cautious because if such translocations have been generally avoided in the past, there may have been reasons for this and at the same time we do not have much learning experiences from the past. The Cheetah became extinct in India in 1952, although this very fast moving animal is still remembered in the folklore of many areas. Hence the first impulse is to say that trying to introduce and revive

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer