More than 90 years after the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre occurred on April 13, 1919, the wounds still remain open with blood-curdling memories; especially for the pre-independence generation. The unwarranted killings of hundreds of men, women and children, in cold blood at Amritsar, by a group of British soldiers, was described by Mahatma Gandhi as having shaken the foundations of the British Empire.
The massacre was ordered by General R.E.H. Dyer on the day of Baisakhi, one of the largest festivals of Punjab, where an estimated 15 to 20 thousand revellers of all religions had gathered to commemorate the day that Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Panth in 1699. Surrounded by houses and buildings, the Jallianwala Bagh had very narrow entrances, most of which were locked at all times. The relatively wider main entrance was guarded by troops, which opened fire without warning, and continued to fire until the ammunition was exhausted. The troops had received orders to shoot at the densest section of the crowd.
Apart from the hundreds who died of direct shooting, there were several who lost their lives in stampedes at the narrow gates and many died jumping into the solitary well inside the bagh, to escape firing. It is unimaginable what the casualties would have been had the armored vehicles armed with machine guns, brought by General Dyer, been able to get past the narrow entrances to the bagh.
The firing that lasted for about 6 minutes, left destruction and devastation behind, with over 1000 innocent people including children losing their lives and left thousands of other injured and scarred.
Back in his headquarters, General Dyer reported that he had been confronted by a revolutionary army. However, the massacre evoked feelings of deep anguish and anger amongst people and catalysed the freedom movement in Punjab. This, later paved way for Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement against the British in 1920.