Ninety-eight years ago, one of the bloodiest actions of British rule was the calculated massacre of close to 2,000 innocent Indians at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar (Punjab). The firing was ordered by an officer of the British colonial power, General Dyer. While the official figure for lives lost was 1,526 the actual figure was reportedly much higher.

Jallianwala Bagh well
Martyrs’ well at Jallianwala Bagh,120 people jumped Into the well and died while trying to escape bullets of General Dyer’s army. Image courtesy of Twitter account @IndiaHistoypic

On April 13 ─ the day of Baisakhi festival ─ a meeting was called in the afternoon at the Jallianwala Bagh, a ground enclosed on all sides. Thousands of people, many of whom had come from surrounding villages to the fairs in Amritsar and were unaware of the ban order, gathered in the meeting. Suddenly Dyer appeared there with troops and without any warning to the people, ordered firing on the completely peaceful and defenceless crowd. The fusillade continued till Dyer’s ammunition ran out.

Rabindra Nath Tagore in his letter renouncing his knighthood after this massacre wrote:

… The disproportionate severity of the punishments inflicted upon the unfortunate people and the methods of carrying them out, we are convinced, are without parallel in the history of civilised governments, barring some conspicuous exceptions, recent and remote. Considering that such treatment has been meted out to a population, disarmed and resourceless, by a power which has the most terribly efficient organisation for destruction of human lives, we must strongly assert that it can claim no political expediency, far less moral justification. …

Today, we have indulged ourselves into so much of day-to-day crap and modern problems of life that we have simply forgotten the sacrifices of our brave freedom-fighters because of whom we are able to enjoy our freedom. It’s sad that we haven’t yet learned from our mistakes and we wait for someone to sacrifice his life, his family, his comforts, his future for the people of our country to come together.

They did not die so that we can remember them twice a year. They died so that they could scar our hearts and make us strong and show us what must be done. They died to give us the courage to do what everyone was scared of. They showed us that death is not the end. It’s the future we must fight to protect and even die for, if it demands.

Unfortunately, we still did not learn from our mistakes. We still wait for someone to suffer or die in protest against the injustice. This makes me wonder is this the freedom, and is this the independence they died for? Our ancestors were way more brave, patriotic and focussed than we can ever be.

It’s still not too late to wake up, remember their sacrifices and work for the freedom they dreamt of and handed down to us. We must treasure it and not abuse it.

Well, this is my thought for all of us, but what is important is what we think about it and what we do about it.