Amritsar – Jallianwala Bagh, Part of the Complicated History of the Sikhs and India

Good morning,
Well I guess it’s afternoon back home.  It’s 1:15 a.m. here in Amritsar and the street dogs are going wild with barking at a drunk (or maybe stoned) man who is wandering down the middle of the street picking at himself so… you know… I’m up.

Which means we’ll be early with our next post about Jallianwala Bagh.  This is an absolutely beautiful park near the Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple) in Amritsar.  It’s very popular, busy each time that I’ve been in it.  And it is also the site of great tragedy, when British Troops, led by Brigadier General R.E.H. Dyer, opened fired on non-violent protesters and people celebrating the Punjabi New Year on April 13, 1919.  More than 300 were killed by official numbers but the number is really likely much higher.

A curfew had been declared as well as a dictate prohibiting more than two adults from gathering together in the same place.  Sounds rather ridiculous to me… the non-violent protesters were protesting the arrest of two of their leaders, outside of the curfew and in violation of the anti-gathering dictate, which was not disseminated very well.

There were not very many places where the crowd could have escaped, only a few narrow openings.  Dyer ordered his troops to fire on the crowd without discriminating between protester and pilgrim (not that focusing would have made this more excusable) for 10 full minutes, letting off thousands of rounds.  Thousands, into a crowd unable to defend itself in any way against the troops.
To enter the park you have to walk through a very narrow alleyway – the one the troops used to enter the area (which was a where a well was located at the time).  You can see the bullet holes in many of the walls still.  You can see the well head, where many jumped in rather than be shot to death by the soldiers.  It is incredibly deep as all wells in this area seem to be.  Incredibly deep.  There would have been no surviving the fall and there would have been a few seconds of falling before death…

The massacre and the initial praise of Dyer in London afterward sparked outrage among the nation of India and was the beginning of the end of British Rule over the sub-continent, giving rise to the Anti-Cooperation Movement that would come in 1920 – 22.

This would not be the first time that Amritsar saw a massacre of so many innocent lives and, sadly, it would not be the last.  Partition and the 1984 attack on the Golden Temple and the 1984 Sikh Genocide program would be still to come.

The memorial is beautiful but I could not bring myself to take photographs of the bullet holes and of the well, knowing that human beings breathed their last against the walls and deep in the well.  The impact of that was just too overwhelming and, despite the fact that this is a public memorial, I felt a very personal sense of mourning.  It felt almost disrespectful of what happened here.  I’m sorry if that disappoints anyone.

You have to leave the park through either the same narrow alleyway in which you entered or through a little museum type area where photograph is prohibited and which gives you a summary of what happened that day.

Michael O’Dwyer was later assassinated by Udham Singh Ji for his role in what happened in relation to the massacre.  It is said that when Udham was a young boy, he was an eyewitness to the massacre, clinging to a wall and narrowly surviving himself.  Udham Singh was hung for having assassinated O’Dwyer.  By the time Udham Singh Ji was hung, the British Empire would have only a few years more in India.

To continue with the 1 major/1 minor theme of these posts, I am providing some pics of animals I have been sharing my life with.  There is a rather odd looking cow eating garbage on the street, a colourfully decorated horse pulling a cart, a green lizard who was a little camera shy and momma street dog, feeding her five pups.

Animals are everywhere in India, including in the street.  You quickly get used to the fact that in very urban areas, farm animals, wild animals and feral animals are just something you will encounter.  Just the way it is.

Y’all still waiting for pictures of the Golden Temple?  Chill.  They’re coming… soon.  But the next post will be about Maharaja Ranjit Singh…  you met him earlier.  Yes, you did.  He is the subject of the mounted statue in Company Bagh that we saw earlier.  Interesting man was Ranjit Singh.

Until then,
Peace and love all
Preet

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