It was not a bagh till then but a plot of wasteland and an irregular quadrangle surrounded by houses, owned by several people.
They were only the innocent, joyful and unaware people and not to forget ‘alive’ till then.
But everything changed that day, the day of Baisakhi for which those innocent people gathered in an enclosed garden, not Jallianwala Bagh till then, completely unaware of the proclamation by the British Government or I’d rather say Brutish government.
To know about the proclamation, one needs to know what happened in Amritsar in those months. Between March and April amidst various freedom fights, Indians rallied across Punjab to protest the Rowlatt Acts but it was a Gandhian way of non-violent protest. In response to this, two nationalist leaders, Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr Satyapal were arrested by the government. If this had not happened we wouldn’t have been talking about the massacre which completed its century and still haunts the people across Amritsar.
Brigadier General Reginald Dyer issued a proclamation that forbade people to leave the city without a pass or to even gather in groups.
But those 15000 lives were unaware and innocent.
One Six Five Zero, the numbers which are hard to forget, 1650 bullets were fired at those 15000 people. One can only imagine and read. Dyer ordered his troops to open fire from some 150 yards away, and the garden which now became the Jallianwala Bagh was overflowed with the screams of unarmed non-violent men, women and children.
This horrible day of April 13, 1919, is now remembered as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre that changed the lives of the people and had a massive impact in the hearts of millions of people. Everything changed in ten minutes. Around 379 people were killed and 1137 were injured, their only fault was that they forgot for once that they were living under the colonial rule of Brutish Raj (the term Shashi Tharoor often use), that the country is not the same peaceful area, that they couldn’t celebrate, they forgot it all and it risked their lives to the point that one cannot begin to imagine.
“No other punishment in the name of law and order had similar casualties”, said the historian A.J.P. Taylor.
One can easily count the wounds and the number of casualties from 1650 bullets fired on the order of one brutal man but one can never fathom the wounds in the hearts of the people who weren’t present there but their people were.
The massacre made so many nationalists and turned the loyalists into nationalists and Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood to the king.
There is not a single account of the identities of the people who lost their lives. There are only numbers, 13, 1919, 1650, 379. Let’s not remember it by the numbers but by the image of men, women and children laughing and peacefully celebrating Baisakhi.