Friday, April 13, 2012

Today in History: April 13, 1919: The Amritsar Massacre

Amntsar Memorial
In Amritsar, India's holy city of the Sikh religion, British and Gurkha troops massacred at least 379 unarmed demonstrators meeting at the Jallianwala Bagh, a city park. Most of those killed were Indian nationalists meeting to protest the British government's forced conscription of Indian soldiers and the heavy war tax imposed against the Indian people.

A few days earlier, in reaction to a recent escalation in protests, Amritsar was placed under martial law and handed over to British Brigadier General Reginald Dyer. Dyer was convinced that a major insurrection was at hand. He banned all meetings, and hearing a meeting of 15,000 to 20,000 people had assembled he marched his fifty riflemen to a raised bank and ordered them to shoot at the crowd which included men, women, and children. Dyer, who in a subsequent investigation admitted to ordering the attack for its "moral effect" on the people of the region, had his troops continue the murderous barrage until all their artillery ammunition was exhausted.

British authorities later removed Dyer from duty and forced him to retire, but he became a celebrated hero in Britain among people with connections to the British Raj. The massacre caused a reevaluation of the Army's role and the Army was retrained and developed new tactics such as crowd control. Historians consider the episode a decisive step towards the end of British rule in India.

The massacre stirred nationalist feelings across India and had a profound effect on one of the movement's leaders, Mohandas Gandhi. During World War I, Gandhi had actively supported the British in the hope of winning partial autonomy for India, but after the Amritsar Massacre he became convinced that India should accept nothing less than full independence. To achieve this end, Gandhi began organizing his first campaign of mass civil disobedience against Britain's oppressive rule.

Oh, by the way, today is Friday the 13th. I hope you have a happy and safe day. I, of course, am too intelligent to give in to silly superstitions -besides, I got my lucky coin out and have it in my pocket for protection....

Live Long and Prosper...

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