Bharata under British occupation contributed enormously to Britain during World War-I by providing men, material and immeasurable sacrifices with the expectation of being conceded more freedom of self-government. Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires had collapsed, fledgling new nations were yawning to rise into sunshine and severely oppressed Bharatiya-s were craving for a new dawn of self-determination from British occupation, of course in their own country !! What came down as nasty surprises were Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms and the diabolical Rowlatt Act. Punjab and Bengal continued to be hotbeds of anti-colonial revolutionary activities virtually paralysing regional governance. Several revolutionary plots planned in Bharata, USA and Germany were brutally crushed. Smaller mutinies in garrisons too, were brutally crushed. Lt. Governor of Punjab Michael O’Dwyer was a strong proponent of those brutal laws with Bharatiya blood uppermost in his mind.
Months of March and April of 1919 observed intense anti-British strife in Punjab flames of which were stoked by the Rowlatt Act. People expressed their wrath against betrayal of Brutish-British regime quite vocally without indulging in violence whatsoever till then. It was only when two nationalist leaders Kitchlew and Satyapal were arrested while they were addressing protest rallies without any provocation that angry masses surged into streets towards Police HQ at Amritsar. In the commotion that followed, stone-pelting was retaliated by firing killing at least ten protestors. Riots followed with five Brits killed and a woman missionary attacked. Emergency contingent of troops that was despatched to restore ‘law and order’ (colonial term gifted by British-occupiers to present day Bharatiya bureaucracy) in Punjab was led by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer. To arrogantly assert his brutish authority by now in a peaceful Punjab, he arrested several innocents, no one could leave the town and banned any organised congregational activity. Entirely unaware of those restrictions, some 15,000 people from neighbouring towns / cities gathered in an enclosed ground with the only purpose of celebrating Baisakhi festival after having Darsana at the Svarna–Mandira. The ground was accessible only through narrow passageways ruling out the possibility of a quick escape to safety in case of an eventuality for a crowd. When Dyer learned about the congregation, he led the raid himself with a contingent armed with machine guns and heavy armoured vehicles. The British beast did not care to find out why they had gathered there, whether they were armed, what they were talking about, did not serve them any warning to disperse peacefully, blocked escape passages with armoured vehicles and ordered his troops to open firing till entire ammunition was exhausted. Precisely 1,650 rounds of ammunition were fired slaughtering 1,499 unarmed / men, women and children without even a preliminary warning, some 1,137 injured, then the British beast expressed his supreme satisfaction, not a single bullet was wasted !! He specifically instructed his Bharatiya troops to aim at their chests, faces of men and wombs of women. Entire carnage was conducted with a cold-blooded determination, dispassionately targeting those struggling to escape with absolutely no reprisal from the crowd at all.
Reginald Dyer betrayed absolutely no trace of remorse before Hunter Enquiry Commission appointed after a huge outcry (legacy of appointing such ‘Hoodwinking’ Commissions continued in post-1947 Bharata); declared his ‘right to shoot Indians into submission otherwise they would have laughed at him later’; admitted he specifically ordered to aim at the only exitway where density of crowd was maximum; ordered his troops not to offer any aid or help to crying / dying people and ordered entire Amritsar to stay off streets / roads for next 24 hours preventing anyone to offer even a glass of water to those wailing in agony, leave alone medical support. Details of how many died instantly and how many writhing in pain in next 24 hrs. are probably not available. Even otherwise, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer would not have allowed anyone to enumerate break-up of those figures. Brutish British attempted their best to hush up the extreme barbarity, then declared it a ‘grave error’. British House Of Commons condemned him but House Of Lords exonerated him with a handsome pension !! And to rub chilly in wounds, Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling admired him in his poem as ‘The Man Who Saved India’ !! Then British collected a huge amount of Sterling Pounds 26,317 through public donations that they gifted him with a ‘Sword Of Honour’ in public. And families of victims were compensated at the rate of Sterling Pound 37 per head of the dead and nothing for the injured !!
Irony of the monumental tragedy was that those were Bharatiya troops slaying natives for a British boss for no rhyme or reason !! It occurred to none of them to slightly divert barrel of his gun towards Dyer to shoot him instantly. (When we refuse to learn right lessons from history, the same history re-visits with a much louder bang and tremors. In this case too, we declined to learn right lessons and the same history re-visited us decades later when IPKF Forces were engaged in slaughtering Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka for their President Jayawardene on their land !!)
While entire nation became agitators, RN Tagore returned the Knighthood, MK Gandhi turned resolutely faithful to the idea of complete freedom by the dint of virtues of Truth and Ahimsa !!
In 1928, Conservative British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin calmly witnessed his Home Minister Sir William Hicks reading out the statement in Parliament, ‘…we conquered India as an outlet for the goods of Britain. We conquered India by the sword, and by the sword we shall hold it. I am not such a hypocrite as to say we hold India for the Indians. We went with a yardstick in one hand and a sword in the other, and with the latter we continue to hold them helpless while we force the former down their throats.’ And the entire savagery spanning almost two centuries by a handful of British-Beasts over natives of Bharata was justified as ‘Enlightened Despotism’ under the broad spectrum of ‘White man’s burden’ to civilise black, brown human beings, to discipline them and to proudly accept submission to the British Crown sodden in human blood.
They still often chant, ‘Long live the Crown’ !!