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For God and Country

Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh

Dr. Satyapal, a medical doctor and Dr. Saiffuddin Kitchlew, a lawyer, were prominent and influential leaders in the Punjab. On 10th April 1919, the government, apprehending trouble in Amritsar in the wake of the agitation against the infamous Rowlatt Act, arrested both of them and spirited them out of the city to a hill-station some hundred miles away.
When news of the arrest spread, people came out into the streets of Amritsar to protest. Soon there was a crowd of over 50,000 people screaming: "Where is Satyapal? Where is Kitchlew?"
When the crowd began to pelt the police and soldiers with stones, the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, Miles Irving and his assistant, became jittery and gave the order to fire. Four people died and several were injured as a result of the firing. The dead and the injured were carried through the streets of Amritsar by their comrades and the sight made the people's blood boil. They forgot Satyapal and Kitchlew and Gandhi and his message of non-violence and went berserk. The telegraph exchange was burnt down, offices and banks owned by Europeans were attacked and torched and a few Britons were battered to death. A missionary named Marcia Sherwood who looked after 5 local schools for girls, had the misfortune to run into a gang of rioters and was severely beaten. She would have been killed if some Hindu shopkeepers had not dragged her into one of their homes and hidden her there.
Amritsar was in the command area of Brigadier-General Reginald 'Rex' Dyer, a seasoned soldier who had distinguished himself in the campaign against tribesmen on the Baluchistan-Persian border.
On receiving orders to proceed to Amritsar, he set out from Jullundur on the evening of 11 April and arrived in the city that same night. Deputy Commissioner Irving was relieved to see him and lost no time in handing over control of the burning city to him.
The following day, Dyer went through Amritsar with a formidable show of force. A column of British and Indian soldiers marched ahead of his car which was followed by a police van and two armoured cars. The procession stopped at several places to enable the town crier to inform the people that a night curfew would come into effect from 8 p.m. every day and that meetings and processions had been banned. These announcements were greeted with catcalls. At one place the General was jeered and people spat on the ground to show their contempt.

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