Posted by: Boopalan Jayaraman | February 16, 2010

World Events – Amritsar Massacre

The Punjabis were quick to take to heart the lessons that revolution is a dangerous thing.

– Sir Michael O’Dwyer, in his book, India as I Knew It, 1925

Teach a lesson to the bloody browns!

What would you call yourself if you enjoy gunning down several lives, the so-called-enemies who try to attack you with deadly weapons, in a PlayStation or xBox? Cruel? Not quite so. But what would you call men who exhibit the same kind of excitement while gunning down people – real people with skin, blood, flesh, bones, life, relations and dreams? Since the formation of mankind, such animals always existed in history.

It was a period when India – a jewel in the crown of British kingdom – as called by the British, but was not quite treated so, had been seeking self-administration instead of a foreign rule.

On one April 13, an army officer, known by the name Brigadier Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, who was earlier commended for his work and was made a Companion of the Order of Bath [fourth most military senior], was trying to get a machine gun mounted on armored cars into a ground to meet ‘a revolutionary army’ (to say in his own words). He ultimately failed in moving the armored car via the relatively narrow entrance, and decided to march in only with his soldiers, 90 in headcount.

Brigadier Reginald Dyer was infamous for his orders and punishments during his command in Punjab. A few days back, an Englishwoman, a missionary [Miss Marcella Sherwood, if you are interested in the name] had reported of molestation in a street. Brigadier had then ordered in response, that whoever wished to cross the street during daytime should crawl by four on their bellies, its total length of around 140 meters. The order humiliated Indians and people gradually stopped using the street. Whoever lived in the street could not go out without climbing down from roofs at the other side of the house. No Doctor or Supplier was allowed into the street. He also authorized public whipping of Indians who came within the length of Lathi of English Policemen.

A mass of people, count varying from 5000 to 10000, who were unarmed and that included women and children, had gathered into a ground to protest by means of a public meeting the extraordinary measures by British such as Rowlatt act. Brigadier and Lieutenant Governor of Punjab firmly believed that there were signs of another revolt against British rule, and had earlier banned any gatherings. The ground was surrounded by houses and buildings, and had very few narrow entrances most of which were permanently locked. The remaining one was the entrance which Brigadier was marching in through.

As soon as he entered with his troops, Brigadier ordered his soldiers to fire at the mass gathering, without issuing any warning. Heavy casualties resulted since the firing was directed towards the thickest part of the gathering. Crowd was so thick that a bullet can penetrate into two or three bodies. People ran to the sides being desperate to escape and the firing was turned to the sides. Men, women, children, and animals which had gathered there, fell prey to the hungry mouths of the guns. Firing was continued till approximately 1400 rounds until they ran out of ammunition. Some of the people jumped into a well in the ground to escape the firing. [Later a total of 120 bodies were recovered from the well]. Stampede caused losses of many lives.

General Dyer, later reported his superiors that he was encountered by ‘a revolutionary army’ and decided to fire. He accepted that he had wanted to teach the people a lesson so that they would not rise against British rule. He also added that he would have used machine guns if it had been possible to move them inside. He did not take any steps to give aids the injured people on the ground, but responded “Certainly it was not my job. Hospitals were open, they could have gone there.

Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer [who is quoted at the beginning of this post] agreed with the actions of General Dyer and wrote to him “Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves”.

Indians were undoubtedly outraged by this incident, while most of the white population in India overlooked it. Some hailed General Dyer as “Saviour of Punjab” and applauded his suppression of another revolt. Following the pressure, British administration had put Dyer in the inactive list and reverted back his rank to Colonel.  A British newspaper – the Morning Post – started a sympathy fund for Dyer and collected over £ 30000. An American woman donated 100 pounds and said – “I fear for the British women there now that Dyer has been dismissed.

The event paved the way for Gandhi’s famous Non-Cooperation movement and also remained a motivation for a number of revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh. The event, which was otherwise known as “Jallianwala Bagh Massacre”, remained an important tragic event in Indian history that evoked thoughts on freedom nationwide.

In 1925, Sir Michael O’Dwyer wrote in his book – the quote in the beginning of the post – that Punjabis quickly learnt the lesson from this incident. After 15 years, in 1940, he was assassinated in response to the massacre by Udham Singh – a Punjabi.

Gandhi the-great-soul, after the incident, said “the impossible men of India shall rise and liberate their Motherland”.

I believe, the above statement still holds true to this very moment.

~ BJ ~

References:,, Gandhi – movie.



  1. How can any sense full animal can do these acts…. incidents like this and partition makes heart heavy ….. Nice Post boo….

    • vaithee,

      thanks. After a long time, I receive your comment! 🙂

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