Sunday, 11 April 2010

Rememebering Khooni Baisakhi of Jallianwala Bagh Amritsar-13th April 1919

Magazine section of Punjabi Tribune today moved me so much that my eyes got moistened.Had my eyes shed tears literally also, I would not have felt ashamed, rather it would have given me the feeling that my sensitivities have not yet been turned into stone by the onslaught of crudest consumerist society being built in the name of new liberal economy by neo colonial and imperialist powers of the world.Since Varinder Walia became editor of 'Punjabi tribune' few months ago, he has brought radical and pleasant changes into the contents of this daily from Tribune group.Today's four page magazine section ifs focused on the most oppressive tragedy of British colonial regime of nearly 200 years(1757-1947) in India, also of Pakistan and Bangla Desh of today.
It was on 13th April, 1919,Baisakhi day that General Dyer has killed hundreds of people from Amritsar and surrounding areas,who have gathered to listen and protest against Rowlatt Act, an oppressive legislation being enacted by British colonial regime of that time.It all started from with the 'Sedition Committee' report prepared under Rowlatt itself and published in 1918, which listed the revolutionary(terrorist in British terms) nationalist movements of the country at that time.Starting from killing of cruel British officer Rand in Pune, after the outbreak of plague in 1897, the report has listed Bengal division and revolutionary activities of Anushilan and Jugantar in Bengal, Ghadar party in Punjab etc. and recommended strict laws,accordingly Rowlat act was prepared.Nationalist movement resisted throughout country and in Punjab, after strike of 30th March,when Mahatma Gandhi was not allowed to enter Punjab, situation became explosive.British deceitfully arrested Dr. Saifudin Kitchlew and Dr. Satya Pal on 10th April,invited to his office by then Deputy Commissioner for discussion,leaders of the movement. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, showing exemplary unity, drank water from same glasses and took food together and gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, adjoining Golden Temple on 13th April,1919.It has a narrow gate even today and area is congested residential area.When Hans raj, an activist was addressing, around 5 p.m. in the evening, Gen. Dyer, who has encircled the Bagh from all sides and closed the only exit gate ordered fire straight on the bodies of people.One can imagine the scene. British Government of the day with Punjab governor O'Dwyer at that time, itself first admitted of 291 deaths, later in Hunter commission inquiry in London admitted more than 300 killings.Despite hue and cry all over the world,Hunter Commission gave no punishment to Dyer, however he got afflicted with so many diseases that he did not survive beyond 1927 and died on 23rd July that year, as per his family, he died of 'heart break'.Nigel Collett, his biographer, gave the title of his biography-'The Butcher of Amritsar'-General Reginald Dyer,this was published in India by Rupa in 2005.
Congress party, which instituted its own enquiry committee on this ghastly massacre, could start functioning only in Novemebr 1919 and as per its voluminous report in two parts, republished by National Book Trust and Nehru memorial Museum and Library New Delhi, assesses more than one thousand deaths.Sewa samiti Amritsar of that time insisted that they had cremated more than 500 bodies, the substantial number of Muslims and Sikhs remained outside its count.Now Govt. of India has assigned ICHR to have the count of deaths.Punjab Govt and some others have got names of more than 400 persons on record.Raja Ram in his Punjab University Chandigarh publication has listed 381 names in 1969 first edition of his book. Ram Singh Majitha has listed 406 names of martyrs in his Punjabi language publication in 1988,this includes 200 plus Hindu names,80 plus Muslim names and 120 plus Sikh names, including two women.One can very well imagine that how Punjabi society in 1919 was integrated at religious level, later developments have made it disintegrate, leading to its tragic division, against the wishes of common people.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre was seen by Udham Singh, who was 15 or 16 years at that time and was in an orphanage in Amritsar, it is he, who avenged the massacre in 1940,full 21 years later in London, by shooting Micheal O'Dwyer, Governor of Punjab in 1919.The hated Dyer was already dead in 1927.Udham Singh was executed on 31st July 1940 in London.Jallianawala Bagh was also visited by 12 year old Bhagat Singh, who was a student at Lahore in those days and he brought the blood stained earth from the Bagh, which is still preserved in Bhagat Singh memorial museum at Nawanshehar, now called Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar in east Punjab.
In today's Punjabi tribune magazine, full booklet of long poem written by famous Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh at that time under the title-'Khooni Baisakhi' has been reproduced.This was perhaps first Punjabi publication, which was proscribed by British government at that time. I wish that 'Sanjh'. 'Pancham' or other Punjabi journals in Pakistan transliterate in Persian script and publish it there.It is really moving poem.
in a seminar on Dr.Ambedkar, held in Lahore by Sir Ganga Ram foundation on 13th April 2007, I had started my address by saying that ' as the earth of Lahore is pious for me or other Indians, because it has the executions of Bhagat Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha and so many other revolutionaries in its jail, now demolished, so is Amritsar pious for Pakistanis, as the blood of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs was shed together here on 13th April 1919'.Audience got so emotional that so many people hugged me after the programme was over.Now every incident of police brutality in India is called-'another Jallianawala bagh', such is the symbolic value of that place.India, Pakistan and Bangla desh should commemorate Jallianawala Bagh every year jointly, as it is part of their joint tradition of struggle for freedom, as was 1857 revolt, which unfortunately has been commemorated separately by all three in its 150th anniversary in 2007.
I am posting an album of Jallianwala Bagh separatel

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