Remembering Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre In Kashmir

jallianwalla bagh massacre

In Voltaire‘s novel, the title character, Candide, on board, asks another character, an old sage, Martin: “Do you believe that men have always massacred one another as they do today..?” Martin tacitly concurring with Candide, says: “Do you believe that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they have found them?” ”Without doubt,” said Candide.

Without doubt, on fateful day of 13th April, 1919 Sunday, the “pigeons”, the innocent unarmed men, women & children, had gathered in walled Jallianwaala Bagh, Amritsar to celebrate annual Baishakhi festival. The “white hawk”, Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, or briefly General Dyer, leading British Indian soldiers, ordered them: “Fire”. The “white hawk” had found the “pigeons” to “eat” by shooting them to kill. The massacre according to official records left 379 people dead & 1100 injured. But unofficial reports put the number of dead & injured much higher. British historian, Brain James Bond, writes that the Jallianwaala Bagh massacre was turning point in the political history of India that paved way for Indian Independence & end of British rule in 1947.

Right from that tragic day till now, the people of the Indian subcontinent in general & the present Indians in particular, have been condemning British colonialists & its “Butcher of Amritsar” for what in modern terminology is called “crime against humanity”. Several movies & dramas in India & Britain have been made to depict the gravity of the horrendous crime that was committed against innocent human beings. Novels & poems have been written to portray the indignation that that crime against humanity has generated over one hundred years in the hearts & minds of the Indian people.

Before Hunter Commission that was appointed to inquire into the tragic happenings of 13th April, 1919 at Amritsar, General Dyer was asked why he had not dispersed the crowd without opening fire that took lives of hundreds of innocents. His reply was blunt: “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.” This confessional statement of General Dyer shows that the perpetrators of massacres always do it “intentionally”.

Every year on the day of Baishakhi the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre anniversary is held at Amritsar at the site of Jallianwalla Bagh to commemorate the dead.  The people from different walks of life come to pay respect to those who died in Jallianwalla Bagh massacre. The participants & speakers express their sadness & sorrow on the human tragedy. I well remember, in early 1990s, Farooq Abdullah, before resuming Chief-Minister-ship of the State in 1996, was once an invitee to one Jallianwalla Bagh massacre anniversary. In his speech, he while condemning the British Colonial barbarity that was unleashed through General Dyer against unarmed & defenseless people on 13th day of April, 1919, paid respects & tributes to the victims. His condemnation wasn’t, however, limited to General Dyer’s savagery. He extended it beyond the event to a non-event. He was recalling to his mind the story told by his father to him & Kashmiris since 1947. He said: “I recall how Patiala Sikh Jawans with broad chests & tall heights laid down their “Jawaniyanin” (youth), achieving “martyrdom”, while fighting “tribal raiders & looters” & rescuing Kashmiris against them in 1947…” These words of his till date resonate in my ears. The event was shown on Doordarshan TV channel. In his unique “emotional outbursts” he gets, often, “overexcited” in order to remain in the limelight.

Anyway, massacres are the worst happenings in human history. They haunt the minds of the people for centuries. Actually, the memories of massacres are passed down from generation to generation of the affected people as unforgettable legacy. When we go through the recorded accounts of massacres, we often find a lot of hatred for the perpetrators of such gruesome “crimes against humanity”. Sometimes, the massacres change the demography of a region even as, for example, the massacre of lakhs of unarmed Muslim civilian population of Jammu’s Hindu belts by armed RSS & other goons in 1947 reduced 61% Muslim population of Jammu division to 38%.

In Kashmir, several such tragic happenings of civilian killings have taken place. First on 13th July 1931 outside Central Jail Srinagar where three dozen unarmed civilian Muslims were massacred by Dogra soldiers. Then, from 1990 till date, a number of such massacres have been done to civilian population of Kashmir. The same are well documented & recorded which are available in public domain. For continuous killings in France during 16th to 18th century, Voltaire called France “the country of massacres”.  By analogy, Kashmir may be called “the country of massacres”. “Kashmir brutality [is] biggest blot on our democracy”, said Nobel laureate Dr. Amartya Sen. (India Today, 18-07-2016).

Kashmiris have had several times asked the authorities to permit them, at least, raise “just” a memorial at “martyrs‘arch graveyard” at Eidgah, Srinagar in remembrance of those buried there & fallen to the bullets of the government Forces. But it has not been allowed by the authorities so far. (KR dated 13-01-2018). In 2016 uprising alone, 127 Kashmiri Muslim civilians, overwhelmingly children, got killed by bullets, hundreds of children lost their vision by pellets, thousands got injured & incarcerated. (The Guardian dated 08-11-2016: India’s crackdown in Kashmir: Is this the world’s first mass blinding).

Every massacre, wherever & whenever taking place, is an ineffaceable blot on the face of human civilization especially the face of the perpetrators of this heinous “crime against humanity.”  Every massacre of innocents should fill every [human] heart with pain, tongue with condemnation, mind with hatred & eyes with tears. Human killings aren’t there to be celebrated by sick minds. There can’t be more vivid display of baser instinct of a man than when he derives sadistic pleasure, like a communal marauder, religious chauvinist, bloody-minded criminal, radicalized fanatic or thoughtless moron, on sufferings of others or making others suffer. Thus, when Jean le Rond d’ Alembert, French philosopher & mathematician told Voltaire that in the continuing killings in France those days, he had decided to laugh & enjoy his life, mock at State , church & people, Voltaire admonished & told him that “this is not a time for jesting; wit does not harmonize with massacres”.

M J Aslam author, academician, story-writer & columnist

Note: Views expressed are personal & not of the organisation, the author works for.


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