UPSC MAINS 2019: JallianwalaBagh – 100 Years

JallianwalaBagh - 100 Years


Topic : JallianwalaBagh – 100 Years

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1: Modern History



JallianwalaBagh - 100 Years

The Year 2019 marks the Centenary of the JallianwalaBagh Massacre, also known as the Amritsar Massacre that occurred on April 13, 1919.



  • Since the beginning of the World War I, there had been an increasing resentment and civil unrest throughout the country especially in the states of West Bengal and Punjab.
  • It was due to the terrible repercussions of the war, like- inflation, and heavy taxation, a huge number of dead and wounded soldiers that contributed immensely in uniting the nation against the British Rule.
  • The worsening civil unrest led to the formation of Rowlatt Committee in 1919.
  • The Rowlatt Act was a legislative act that allowed certain political cases to be tried without the presence of a jury and permitted internment of suspects without any trial.
  • This is the time when Mahatma Gandhi came to light as a revolutionary. The Act resulted in furious protests throughout the country.
  • The unrest became worst, especially in Punjab.
  • There were demonstrations held at the residence of Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar to demand the release of two popular leaders of the Indian Independence Movement- Satya Pal and SaifuddinKitchlew.
  • There were violent protests that resulted in the burning of the Town Hall and Railway station, disruption of telegraphs and communication system.
  • It resulted in many deaths including a few deaths of the European government officials as well as civilians.
  • Due to all these activities, the city of Amritsar witnessed a few days of silence while other parts of Punjab suffered.
  • The British Government thus decided to place most of Punjab under Martial Law.
  • Restrictions were placed on the civil liberties that banned public gatherings and prohibited assembling of more people together.


Rowlatt Act:

  • The pre-war Indian nationalist sentiment was revived as moderate and extremist groups of the Indian National Congress ended their differences to unify.
  • In 1916, the Congress was successful in establishing the Lucknow Pact, a temporary alliance with the All-India Muslim League.
  • Rowlatt Act, an extension of the Defence of India Act 1915, was enforced in India to limit civil liberties.
  • The passage of the Rowlatt Act in 1919 precipitated large scale political unrest throughout India.
  • In India Gandhi’s call for protest against the Rowlatt Act achieved an unprecedented response of furious unrest and protests. The situation especially in Punjab was deteriorating rapidly, with disruptions of rail, telegraph and communication systems.
  • The movement was at its peak before the end of the first week of April.In Amritsar, over 5,000 people gathered at JallianwalaBagh.


The JallianwalaBagh:

  • The JallianwalaBagh, located close to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, derives its name from that of the family of the owner of this piece of land, SardarHimmat Singh, a noble in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), who originally came from the village of Jalla, now in Fatehgarh Sahib District of Punjab.
  • At that time, it was a garden or a garden house. In 1919, the site was an uneven and unoccupied space, an irregular quadrangle, indifferently walled, approximately 225 x 180 meters.
  • It was surrounded on all sides by houses and buildings and had few narrow entrances, most of which were kept locked. It had only one entry/exit leading from a narrow lane.



  • At 9:00 on the morning of 13 April, the traditional festival of Baisakhi, Colonel Reginald Dyer, the acting military commander for Amritsar, proceeded through the city with several city officials.
  • By mid-afternoon, thousands of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus had gathered in the JallianwalaBagh (garden) near the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.
  • Dyer sent an aeroplane to overfly the Bagh and estimate the size of the crowd that he reported was about 6,000, while the Hunter Commission estimates a crowd of 10,000 to 20,000 had assembled by the time of Dyer’s arrival.
  • The JallianwalaBagh was surrounded on all sides by houses and buildings and had few narrow entrances. Most of them were kept permanently locked. The main entrance was relatively wide, but was guarded heavily by the troops backed by the armoured vehicles.
  • Dyer—without warning the crowd to disperse—blocked the main exits. He ‘explained’ later that this act “was not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience. “
  • Dyer ordered his troops to begin shooting toward the densest sections of the crowd. Firing continued for approximately ten minutes. Cease-fire was ordered only when ammunition supplies were almost exhausted, after approximately 1,650 rounds were spent.
  • Many people died in stampedes at the narrow gates or by jumping into the solitary well on the compound to escape the shooting.


How many people died in JallianwalaBagh?

  • The number of deaths caused due to the firing had been a disputed issue till now.
  • While the official enquiry by the British informed about 379 deaths, the death toll was quoted to be around 1,000 by Congress.
  • There were about 120 dead bodies recovered from the well also.
  • Keeping in mind the significance of this place in the history of India, a trust was founded in 1920 to build a memorial site at JallianwalaBagh.
  • American architect, Benjamin Polk, built the memorial on site which was inaugurated by the then President of India, Rajendra Prasad on 13 April 1961.
  • The monument and the adjoining buildings exhibit the bullet marks on their walls and depict the excruciating pain that the people suffered that day.
  • The well that rescued numerous people from the bullets fired by the troops is also preserved in the compound of the park.



  • It was declared by the Government of India on 14th of October in 1919 to make a committee for inquiring the JallianwalaBagh Massacre in the state of Punjab.
  • This commission was later named as the Hunter Commission after the name of chairman, Lord William Hunter.
  • The committee was established aiming to investigate properly about all the cases happened recently in the Bombay, Punjab, and Delhi.
  • The Hunter Commission became unable to implement any disciplinary action as the actions of Dyer as were disregarded by his superiors.
  • After lots of efforts, he was found guilty and forced to get retired from the army before time in the month of July in 1920.
  • PanditMadan Mohan Malaviya had also raised his voice in the Central Legislative Council against the Dyer actions. According to his personal discovery, he claimed that more than 1,000 people were killed by the whole crowd of 15,000 to 20,000.
  • An annual session was held by the Indian National Congress in the month of December in 1919 at Amritsar and requested British Government that “take early steps to establish a fully responsible government in India by the principle of self-determination.”
  • The All India Sikh League was formed by the people of Sikh religion as their representative body for the political actions.
  • They had demanded to reform their Sikh shrines through the Gurdwara Reform movement during 1920-25. Some of the Sikh servicemen had resigned from their army service and adopted non-violence by the Akali movement leaders to constitute an anti-British terrorist group called as Babar Akalis.


The Denouement:

  • Udham Singh (26 December 1899 – 31 July 1940), a Punjabi revolutionary assassinated Michael O’ Dwyer, former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab on 13 March 1940 in Caxton Hall in London.
  • The assassination was in revenge for the JallianwallaBagh Massacre in Amritsar in 1919.
  • He was subsequently tried and convicted of murder and hanged in July 1940.
  • He is well known as Shaheed-i-AzamSardarUdham Singh. A district (Udham Singh Nagar) of Uttarakhand was named after him in October 1995.
  • In Udham Singh’s diaries for 1939 and 1940, he occasionally mis-spelt O’Dwyer’s surname as “O’Dyer”, leaving a possibility he may have confused O’Dwyer with the infamous Brig General Dyer.



On the 100th anniversary of the JallianwalaBagh massacre, all Indians need to pay their tributes to those wantonly killed by an egoist colonial British Army Officer, without any compassion for the dignity of human beings.

The indomitable spirit of all Indians who had fought the British Colonial Raj and ultimately gained Independence for us needs to be remembered and honoured, for they had sacrificed their lives for our freedom.


Sample Question:

‘JallianwalaBagh massacre was preceded by reign of terror by the British” justify the statement



Jallianwala Bagh - 100 Years