Rowlatt Act

Rowlatt act was passed in the year 1919. This act was mainly passed to restrict people’s freedom. According to this act any person could be arrested and imprison without any warrant. The accused was denied to know the reasons for his arrests and in camera trial was permitted in certain cases. The accused was not given any chance to prove his/her innocence. Those convicted had to deposit huge amount to get released and were banned from participating in any activities. This act was an extension of emergency measures that was taken during First World War. This act was passed based on the recommendations of the Rowlatt committee which was headed by Sidney Rowlatt. Rowlatt also controlled the press and news papers. This act was branded as a black act. Gandhi was very unhappy with the act he launched anti Rowlatt satyagraha. Gandhi called upon all his fellow Indian citizens to observe 6th April 1919 as a day of hartal, fasting and prayer. Various Satyagraha Sabhas were organised at different places. Gandhiji’s non violent strikes and demonstrations received huge response from across India. Fearing this mass movement could lead to independence, Britishers arrested several local leaders including Mahatma Gandhi. The protest became very strong in Punjab; army was called upon to handle the situation. On 13th April 1919 people had gathered to celebrate Baisakhi when Jallianwala Bagh Massacre happened.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: One of the saddest part of India’s history for struggle for independence where 1000’s of unarmed men and women were killed. These people were assembled near Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate the Sikh’s most important festival Baisakhi. Baisakhi is a harvest festival celebrated by the Sikhs and also the beginning of Khalsa Srijan Divas which marks the birth of Khalsa in the year 1699. On this auspicious day many people from all over place had gathered to celebrate but unfortunately it turned out to be a graveyard.

During the First World War (1914-1918) the British India helped the British by providing arms ammunitions and Indian soldiers. Many small kids were forced to take up the job of solider and were made to fight in different far of countries.  Due to the supply of food cloth during war there was severe shortage of supply of food and cloth in India. At the same time there was unrest in Bengal and Punjab. The British government did not wanted a repeat of 1857, hence they ordered prohibitory orders in Punjab. Meetings in group were banned. On April 9th the Governor of Punjab Mr Dwyer decided to arrest  two prominent leaders Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr Satya Pal and also imposed ban on the entry of Ghandi into Punjab. This led to strong protests all over Punjab. On 10th april 1919 there were protests all over for the release of there leaders. On the same days banks, school and colleges were shut fearing the escalation of the protests. Many government buildings were set on fire.

On 13th April it was Sunday and 1000’s of people from near by villages had gathered to celebrate Baisakhi, at that time General Dyer, the military commander of Amritsar blocked the park’s narrow exit and ordered indiscriminate shooting on people. Around 50 Gurkha Riflemen kept on firing for 10-15minutes by reloading there guns. People were screaming for help but soldiers mercilessly shooting on them. Apart from shooting many people were killed due to stampede as the park had a narrow exit. According to official release around 370 people were killed and 1200 wounded but according to other sourced around 1000 people were killed and 1500 injured. The injured was not given food or any medical attention, they were left to die. This stunned the nation. Rabindranath Tagore renounced his Knighthood in protest. The British declared martial law in Punjab. Protestors were humiliated and were sentenced to imprisonment, deportation or death. Dyer who was initially applauded by the British but later in the year 1920 Winston Churchill debated in the House of Commons criticising Dyer’s action. He told that firing on unarmed people was a wrong and punishable action. After Winston Churchill debate, Dyer was removed.

Jalianwala Bagh is now a pilgrimage place. Soon after the massacre a committee was set up this was headed by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. A memorial has been built in the name of the dead persons. Later in the year 1940, Udham Singh an activists from Sunam who witnessed the whole action of Jallianwala Bagh killed Micheal O’Dwyer at Coxton Hall, London. He was later on hanged to death on 31st July 1940. Udham Singh received the title Saheed and later attained martyrdom. Muslims also were angered by the British as it imposed humiliating terms on the ruler of Turkey and Caliph of Islam. Thus Muslims started the Khilafat movement in the year 1919

General Dwyer was confronted from his superiors to give explanation for his horrific act. General Dwyer in his statement supported his action saying he had been confronted by a revolutionary army. His action was supported by the superiors. General Dwyer requested for imposition of martial law in Punjab. Lord Chelmsford accepted the proposal and imposed martial law in Amritsar and other parts of Punjab. Later on October 14th 1919, a commission was set up to inquire about the incident. It was headed by Lord Hunter. The commission did not penalise General Dwyer as Dwyer’s action was accepted by various superior leaders.  But he was later found guilty of mistaken notion of duty hence was relieved of his command.

Consequently Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in protest against the British. Gandhiji condemned the action. Even to this day there is a long standing demand from India to British for an apology for the horrific incident.