Saturday, January 16, 2010
The Narrow Entrance to the Park
Imagine the following..........
A crowd of 15,000 to 20,000, gathered on a parcel of land surrounded by buildings. While there were several entrances to the area, most of them were kept locked.....on this day....only one way in and out....and although the largest of the entrances, it is rather narrow itself.
What had began as a peaceful, unarmed gathering to protest the recent arrests of two leaders in Amritsar; the result of the authority given to British Viceroy's by a recently passed law known as the Rowlett Act....ended in the massacre of many.
The year.....1919.....the perpetrator of this horrendous act...one Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry DYER.....hence the reason I used this spelling in the title of this blog entry.
I had the opportunity to learn about this tragic event on a recent visit to Amritsar after concluding our business for the day......we managed to fit this in to a rather busy schedule just before boarding our plane back to Delhi.
I used the word horrendous for a reason.....in the aftermath of the incident a formal Commission was convened and the then Brigadier-General was called to testify before the panel. The Official transcripts of the inquiry revealed the true atrocity of the event.....and Dyer, instead of being reprimanded for his actions was actually rewarded militarily for his shameless acts of murder.
Painting Depicting the Scene after the Massacre
General Dyer, while on the stand, revealed that he was aware that the gathering would be taking place and did not do anything to stop the event from happening...at 4:30pm, shortly after the meeting began, Dyer organized his men to block the only entrance into the area with vehicles and ordered his riflemen inside the area to form a "picket" and block the entrance.
Marker Designating the Site Where Dyer's Soldiers Stood While Firing on the Crowd
He stated that he would have used the machine guns, but they were mounted on armoured vehicles that could not make it through the narrow enclosure leading into the area.
Dyer gave the command for his men to start firing and the order to not stop firing until they ran out of ammunition......some 1600 + rounds of Mark VI ammunition.
Bullet Holes that Remain in Walls
DYER: "I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing, but they would have come back again and laughed,and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself"
The result of his "foolish arrogance" left many innocent dead. The Hunter Commission reported the official figures at 379 killed(337 men, 41 boys and a six-week-old baby)and 200 injured. The British expected people to come forward and report the casualties, but many Indian's did not due so in the aftermath for fear of being branded rebels and facing further consequences. The Indian Government conducted an investigation of their own an estimates were quite different....and are perhaps more accurate given the size and density of the crowd and the close-range of the riflemen. Statistics provided by the Indian Nation Congress put the casualties closer to 1000 and wounded at nearly 1500. Some were wounded and killed not by the bullets themselves, but as a result of trying to escape and being trampled to death. There is also a lone well on site in which over 100 bodies were later found...many whom drowned in an attempt to escape the hail of bullets being fired at them.
The Water Well used by Many to Escape the Hail of Bullets
During the inquiry, General Dyer was asked if he lended aid or had tended to the wounded in the aftermath.
DYER: "Certainly not. It was not my job. Hospitals were open and they could have gone there"
The Hunter Commission leniency towards Dyers acts paved the way for the Gandhi peace movement to gain momentum. The massacre ultimately became an important catalyst of the Indian Independence Movement.
Today....a beautiful park stands has been built to honor those who lost their lives...Jallianwala Bagh.....a visit to Amritsar would not be complete should you fail to make a visit to this very important site.
The Eternal Flame in the Park Honoring Those Who Lost Their Lives