Jallianwala Bagh

In the Amritsar massacre, or Jallianwala Bagh massacre, (1919), several hundred unarmed Indian protesters were slain by British troops in this incident. The Rowlatt Acts, established in 1919 by the British government of India, extended its World War I emergency powers to fight subversive activity. On April 13, a large crowd assembled at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab, to protest the measures; forces opened fire, killing 379 people and injuring over 1,200 more. The tragedy left an indelible mark on India-Britain relations and served as a precursor to Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation agitation of 1920–22.

Amritsar massacre

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also known as the Massacre of Amritsar, occurred on April 13, 1919. When British forces opened fire on a huge gathering of unarmed Indians in an open space known as the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab province (now Punjab state) of India, killing hundreds of people and injuring many more.

The Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden in Amritsar, Punjab, India, that holds a national memorial created by the Indian government in 1951 to remember the massacre. The slaughter took place on a 6.5-acre (26,000-square-meter) garden near the Golden Temple complex, Sikhism’s holiest temple.

It was a watershed moment in contemporary Indian history, as it left an indelible impression on Indo-British relations and signaled Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi’s full dedication to the cause of Indian nationalism and independence from Britain.

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The British government of India implemented a number of oppressive emergency powers during World War I (1914–18) in order to fight insurgent activity.

By the end of the war, the Indian people had high hopes that such restrictions would be relaxed and that India would be granted greater political autonomy.

Jallianwala bagh Massacre

In reality, the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, submitted to the British Parliament in 1918, recommended limited municipal autonomy. Rather, in early 1919, the Indian government introduced the Rowlatt Acts, which essentially extended the repressive wartime restrictions.

Indians, particularly in the Punjab region, were outraged and dissatisfied by the conduct. In early April, Gandhi called for a nationwide one-day mass strike.

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The news that leading Indian leaders had been arrested and expelled from the city sparked violent protests in Amritsar on April 10, during which soldiers opened fire on civilians, buildings were looted and burned, and angry mobs killed several foreign nationals and severely abused a Christian missionary.

Jallianwala bagh Garden

The mission of restoring order was assigned to a force of several dozen troops led by Brig. Gen. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer. One of the measures adopted was a prohibition on public gatherings.


On April 13, at least 10,000 men, women, and children congregated in the Jallianwala Bagh, which was nearly entirely encircled by walls and had only one exit.

It is unclear how many demonstrators defied the restriction on public gatherings and how many people had traveled from the surrounding region to celebrate Baisakhi, a spring festival.

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Dyer and his troops arrived and blocked the exit. The forces opened fire on the gathering without warning, firing hundreds of rounds until they ran out of bullets, according to reports.

The exact number of individuals murdered and injured in the slaughter is unknown, although according to one official source, 379 people were killed and 1,200 more were injured.

According to Civil Surgeon Dr. Smith, there were 1,526 casualties. The exact death toll is unclear, although it is extremely likely to be much greater than the official total of 379.

The troops fled from the area as soon as they stopped firing, leaving the dead and wounded behind.

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Following the shooting, the Punjab declared martial law, which included public floggings and other humiliations.
As news of the shooting and subsequent British actions circulated across the subcontinent, Indian fury increased.

Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet and Nobel winner, resigned the knighthood he had received in 1915.
At first, Gandhi was hesitant to act, but his first large-scale and prolonged peaceful protest (satyagraha) campaign, the noncooperation movement (1920–22), propelled him to prominence in the Indian nationalist fight.

Jallianwala bagh Gallery

The incident was investigated by the Indian government (the Hunter Commission), which censured Dyer for his actions and forced him to resign from the military in 1920. The incident elicited diverse reactions in the United Kingdom.

In a speech to the House of Commons in 1920, Sir Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War, denounced Dyer’s actions, but the House of Lords commended him and presented him with a sword embossed with the inscription “Saviour of the Punjab.” Dyer’s sympathizers also raised and presented him with a considerable sum of money. Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh site has been designated as a national monument.

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Because the official statistics for the size of the gathering (15,000–20,000), the number of shots fired, and the duration of the shooting were clearly skewed, the Indian National Congress launched its own investigation, with findings that differed significantly from the British government’s so-called probe.

The number of casualties reported by the Congress was over 1,500, with almost 1,000 people dead. The British government attempted to conceal the massacre’s specifics, but word leaked across India, causing great indignation; the massacre’s facts were not revealed in Britain until December 1919.

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