HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY
"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again."
- Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE. IT COST US A SOLDIER
Do not forget those sacrifices who gave us the freedom. Value it.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Lal Bahadur Shastri
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Dr. Rajendra Prasad
Gopal Krishna Gokhale
Lala Lajpat Rai
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
Subhas Chandra Bose
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Bipin Chandra Pal
Madan Lal Dhingra
Kartar Singh Sarabha
Freedom Fighters of Jallian Vala Bagh
Dr. Sarvepalli Radakrishan
Ram Prasad Bismil
Gopal Krishna Gokhale
And many more led their lives for India's Independence.
LET'S RECALL THE SACRIFICE
One of the most unforgetable and cruel incident in the history of freedom fight of India was the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre.
Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre which happened on April 13, 1919 was the day of 'Baisakhi' one of Punjab's largest religious festival. Fifty British Indian Army soldiers, under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, opened fire on an unarmed gathering of innocent men, women and children without any warning. The firing lasted for ten to fifteen minutes, until ammunition was running short. He ordered soldiers to reload magazines into their rifles several times over and over again and they were ordered to aim and shoot people in order to kill them and not just injure them. Official British sources placed the fatalities at 379, and with 1,100 wounded. Civil Surgeon Dr Smith indicated that there were 1,526 casualties.
On April 13, thousands of people gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh (garden) near the Golden Temple in Amritsar, on Baisakhi,
An hour after the meeting began as scheduled at 4:30pm, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer marched a group of sixty-five Gurkha and twenty-five Baluchi soldiers into the Bagh, fifty of whom were armed with rifles. Dyer had also brought two armoured cars armed with machine guns, however the vehicles were stationed outside the main gate as they were unable to enter the Bagh through the narrow entrance.
The Jallianwala Bagh was bounded on all sides by houses and buildings and had few narrow entrances, most of which were kept permanently locked. The main entrance was relatively wider, but was guarded by the troops backed by the armoured vehicles. General Dyer ordered troops to open fire without warning or any order to disperse, and to direct fire towards the densest sections of the crowd. He continued the firing, approximately 1,650 rounds in all, until ammunition was almost exhausted.
Apart from the many deaths directly from the firing, a number of deaths were caused by stampedes at the narrow gates as also people who sought shelter from the firing by jumping into the solitary well inside the compound. A plaque in the monument at the site, set up after independence, says that 120 bodies were plucked out of the well.
The wounded could not be moved from where they had fallen, as a curfew had been declared - many more died during the night.
The number of deaths caused by the firing is disputed. The official figure given by the British inquiry into the massacre is 379 deaths, however the methodology used in the inquiry is open to criticism. Officials were tasked with finding out who had been killed in July 1919, three months after the massacre, by inviting inhabitants of the city to volunteer information about those who had died. This information was likely incomplete due to fear that those who came forward would be identified as having been present at the meeting. Additionally, a senior civil servant in the Punjab interviewed by the members of the committee admitted that the actual figure could be higher.
Since the official figures were likely flawed considering the size of the crowd (15,000-20,000), close firing-range, number of rounds fired and period of firing, the Indian National Congress instituted a separate inquiry of its own, coming to conclusions that differed considerably from the Government's. The casualty figure quoted by the INC was more than 1,500, with roughly 1,000 killed. Despite the government's best efforts to suppress information of the massacre, news spread elsewhere in India and widespread outrage ensued; however, the details of the massacre did not become known in Britain until December 1919.
Back in his headquarters, General Dyer reported to his superiors that he had been "confronted by a revolutionary army".
In a telegram sent to Dyer, British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O'Dwyer wrote: "Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves."
O'Dwyer requested that martial law be imposed upon Amritsar and other areas; this was granted by the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, after the massacre.
Dyer was called to appear before the Hunter Commission, a commission of inquiry into the massacre that was ordered to convene by Secretary of State for India Edwin Montagu, in late 1919. Dyer admitted before the commission that he came to know about the meeting at the Jallianwala Bagh at 12:40 hours that day but took no steps to prevent it. He stated that he had gone to the Bagh with the deliberate intention of opening fire if he found a crowd assembled there.
- "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." — Dyer's response to the Hunter Commission Enquiry.
Dyer said he would have used his machine guns if he could have got them into the enclosure, but these were mounted on armoured cars. He said he did not stop firing when the crowd began to disperse because he thought it was his duty to keep firing until the crowd dispersed, and that a little firing would do no good. In fact he continued the firing till he ran out of ammunition.
He confessed that he did not take any steps to tend to the wounded after the firing. "Certainly not. It was not my job. Hospitals were open and they could have gone there," was his response.
On March, 13, 1940, at Caxton Hall in London, Udham Singh, an Indian revolutionary from Sunam who had witnessed the events in Amritsar and was himself wounded, shot and killed Michael O'Dwyer, the British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab at the time of the massacre, who had approved Dyer's action and was believed to be the chief planner. (Dyer himself had died in 1927.)
Singh had told the court at his trial:
- "I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under the British rule. I have protested against this, it was my duty. What a greater honour could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland?"
Singh was hanged for the murder on July 31, 1940. At that time, many, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, condemned the action of Udham as senseless. However, in 1952, Nehru (by then, Prime Minister) honored Udham Singh with the following statement which had appeared in the daily Partap: "I salute Shaheed-i-Azam Udham Singh with reverence who had kissed the noose so that we may be free." Following this recognition by the Prime Minister, Udham Singh received the title of Shaheed, a name given to someone who has attained martyrdom or done something heroic in the name of their country or religion.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY