The Bloody Baisakhi

The Turning Point in the collective struggle of Undivided India

  • General Reginald O'Dyer marched a squad of soldiers into the Jallianwala Bagh, a large enclosed public park in the holy city of Amritsar, and opened fire without warning on an innocent crowd including Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims gathered to hear political speeches, leaving 379 dead (unofficial figures put the toll nearer 1,000) unarmed people in an enclosed park adjoining the Golden Temple in Amritsar. To many in India, including Gandhi and Nehru, O'Dyer's action proved the moral bankruptcy of the British Empire. A bitter debate followed the shootings, the worst atrocity perpetrated by the British in the twentieth century, was a decisive turning point in India's march to Independence. Reports at the time said Dyer, after the massacre, had made Indians crawl along a street where two Englishwomen had been attacked, and ordered others to be whipped. O'Dyer Bungalow next to the Hanging chambers at Fort Gobindgarh still exists as a grim reminder of The Butcher of Amritsar. That's a bit exaggerated: Prince Philips remarked on number of massacred in Jallianwala Bagh , O'Dyer's son told me In the golden jubilee year of India's Independence(1997), Minutes after Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip stood in silence at the Flame of Liberty, the Duke of Edinburgh reached a plaque recording the events of the 1919 massacre. To the assertion that 2,000 people were killed by Gen O'Dyer's troops, (The precise text is: This place is saturated with the blood of about two thousand Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who were martyred in a non-violent struggle. It goes on to describe the events of that day.) That's a bit exaggerated, Philip asserted, It must include the wounded. Asked Philip how he had come to this conclusion. I was told about the killings by General Dyer's son, said the Duke, I'd met him while I was in the Navy. The fact that it was the only pointed aspect that took his focus, caused deep offence. Perhaps more important of all, the staggering arrogance that Prince Philip displayed in citing his source of information on the tragedy, made clear the lack of integrity in the wreath-laying ceremony for the martyrs of Jallianwala bagh. Mann's Nana honors O'Dyer Simranjit Singh Mann's (President of political party Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar))- "nana" (maternal grandfather) Aroor Singh then head priest of Golden Temple had honored General O'Dyer at Akal Takht after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He however says he sought unconditional apology for the act.