New Delhi, May 8, 2019-
Mahatma Gandhi’s maiden visit to the Punjab in the aftermath of Jallianwala Bagh massacre changed him from an “Empire loyalist” to the “implacable opponent” of the British rule, contends a book published on the occasion of the centenary anniversary of the incident.
The book named ‘Martyrdom to Freedom’, which is edited by Rajesh Ramachandran, Editor of Tribune, has several chapters written by scholars, historians, and a former diplomat.
In one of the chapters, historian Ramachandra Guha says Gandhi was shaken after officials behind the massacre were not punished despite him recommending that “both General (Reginald) Dyer, the Butcher of Amritsar, and the Lieutenant Governor at that time, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, be relieved from ‘any responsible office under the crown'”.
However, the Viceroy euphemized Brigadier General Dyer’s action and gave O’Dwyer a “resounding” certificate of character.
“This whitewashing of egregious behaviour of the Punjab government put as enormous strain on Gandhi’s once fervent faith in British justice,” Guha writes.
It forced him Gandhi to launch a fresh movement of protest and he believed that British could be made to yield under the pressure of non- violent struggle.
“Before 1919, Gandhi had never visited the Punjab. But what he did and saw in the province that year changed him forever. On the political front, it transformed him from an Empire loyalist to an implacable opponent of British rule,” Guha contends.
He says Gandhi was very keen to travel to Punjab in the wake of “politically conscious” province becoming centre of Ghadar movement and its past record of active participation in Swadeshi movement in 1905-07.
Gandhi left then Bombay for Delhi on April 8, 1919, from where he hoped to proceed to the Punjab. However, he was stopped by the police so he returned to Ahmedabad.
“When news of Gandhi’s arrest reached Amritsar on the 10th (April), a large and angry crowd collected on the streets. British banks were set on fire and three bank managers murdered…The violence continued through 10th and 11th,” the writer says.
The city was placed under de facto martial law and the charge was given to Dyer.
On April 13, Dyer ordered to open fire on the crowd that was gathered at Jallianwala Bagh as a part of Baisakhi celebration.
After denying several requests, the authorities permitted Gandhi to visit Punjab in October.
He left for Lahore on October 22, 1919. Two days later he reached Lahore and then went to Amritsar after a week. (Agency)