Renovation of Jallianwala Bagh

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    In News 

    • Recently, the Prime Minister of India inaugurated four new galleries and opened the renovated Jallianwala bagh.

    About 

    • The well into which victims jumped when forces led by Reginald Dyer opened fire has been covered with a transparent barrier. The narrow entrance has been adorned with sculptures. 
      • A daily sound and light show explaining the events has been started.
    • The Rs-20-crore up-gradation project for the Jallianwala Bagh was sanctioned in 2019 under the National Implementation Committee to mark 100 years of the massacre. 
    • The project was carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India and NBCC and developed by Ahmedabad-based Vama Communications, which has in the past worked on the National Police Museum in Delhi and Mahatma Gandhi Museum in Rajkot.

    Criticism 

    • Historians said it was a “distortion of history” and the project had tried to “mystify and glamourise history”.
    • Most of the criticism is for retouching the narrow alley leading to the Bagh. 
      • The narrow lane — which was blocked by British soldiers making it impossible for anyone to escape from the Bagh on that horrific day — now has a shiny new floor.
    • The well should not have been covered and the changes were unnecessary and cosmetic in nature.

    Background of Jallianwala massacre 

    • Defence of India Act 
      • During World War I, British India contributed to the British war effort by providing men and resources.
    • Millions of Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while both the Indian administration and the princes sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition.
    • However, Bengal and Punjab remained sources of anti-colonial activities
    • Revolutionary attacks in Bengal, associated increasingly with disturbances in Punjab, were significant enough to nearly paralyse the regional Administration. 
    • Of these, a pan-Indian mutiny in the British Indian Army planned for February 1915 was the most prominent amongst a number of plots formulated between 1914 and 1917 by Indian nationalists in India, the United States and Germany.
    • The planned February mutiny was ultimately thwarted when British intelligence infiltrated the Ghadarite movement, arresting key figures.
      • Mutinies in smaller units and garrisons within India were also crushed.
    • In the scenario of the British war effort and the threat from the militant movement in India, the Defence of India Act 1915 was passed limiting civil and political liberties.
    • Michael O’Dwyer, then the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab was one of the strongest proponents of the act, in no small part due to the Ghadarite threat in the province.
    • The costs of the protracted war in money and manpower were great. 
      • High casualty rates in the war, increasing inflation after the end, compounded by heavy taxation, the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, and the disruption of trade during the war escalated human suffering in India. 
      • On the recommendations of the committee, the Rowlatt Act, an extension of the Defence of India Act 1915, was enforced in India to limit civil liberties
    • Rowlatt Act (Black Act) 
      • It was passed on March 10, 1919, authorizing the government to imprison or confine, without a trial, any person associated with seditious activities. This led to nationwide unrest.
      • Gandhi Ji initiated Satyagraha to protest against the Rowlatt Act.
      • On April 7, 1919, Gandhi published an article called Satyagrahi, describing ways to oppose the Rowlatt Act.
      • The British authorities discussed amongst themselves the actions to be taken against Gandhi and any other leaders who were participating in the Satyagraha.
      • Orders were issued to prohibit Gandhi from entering Punjab and to arrest him if he disobeyed the orde
      • Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr Satyapal, the two prominent leaders who were a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity, organised a peaceful protest against the Rowlatt Act in Amritsar.
    • The people, a majority of whom were Sikhs, had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi and also to condemn the arrest and deportation of two freedom fighters, Satya Pal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew.
      • On Colonel Dyer’s order: The soldiers opened fire. The firing went on for about 10 minutes.

    Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

    • The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, also known as the Amritsar massacre, took place on 13 April 1919, when Acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered troops of the British Indian Army to fire their rifles into a crowd of unarmed Indian civilians in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, Punjab, killing at least 379 people and injuring over 1,200
    • The crowd had assembled peacefully at the venue to condemn the arrest of two national leaders — Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew as they were a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity, organising a peaceful protest against the Rowlatt Act in Amritsar.

    Post Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

    • Two days after the massacre, Martial Law was clamped down on five districts – Lahore, Amritsar, Gujranwala, Gujarat and Lyallpore.
    • The declaration of Martial Law was to empower the Viceroy to direct immediate trial by court-martial of any person involved in the revolutionary activities.
      •  As the news of the massacre spread across the nation, Tagore renounced his Knighthood.
    • Punishment: The only punishment that Dyer, who was lauded for his actions by some in Britain but criticised by the others, had to face was being removed from his post and denied promotion. He was also barred from being deployed in India further.
    • While many, including Sir Winston Churchill, then secretary of war, condemned General Dyer’s actions, the House of the Lords lauded him and presented him with a sword having “Saviour of the Punjab” inscribed on it.
    •  Formation of Hunter Commission: On October 14, 1919, the Disorders Inquiry Committee was formed to inquire about the massacre. It later came to be known as the Hunter Commission.
    • The Hunter Commission was directed to announce their verdict on the justifiability, or otherwise, of the steps taken by the government. All the British officials involved in the administration during the disturbances in Amritsar were interrogated including General Dyer and Mr Irving.

     

    • Noncooperation Movement: The Jallianwalah Bagh massacre angered the Indian people and Mahatma Gandhi called the Non-cooperation Movement.

    Source: IE