A century on, the colonial policies that led to the killing of 1,000 Hindus and Muslims are playing out in a dangerously polarised election
On 13 April 1919, the day of the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi, British soldiers fired indiscriminately on unarmed men, women and children attending a peaceful public meeting in a walled park called Jallianwala Bagh, in Amritsar, Punjab. An estimated 1,000 people were killed and many more injured as they were shot in cold blood, even as they tried to escape.
In the years that have followed, those British politicians who have spoken of the massacre at all have portrayed it as a “monstrous” exception to the otherwise benign rule of the British Raj – arrogantly dismissing Britain’s long and bloody record of colonial repression in India. British descriptions of colonial history are rife with such convenient denials and reframings. Even that pivotal conflict India’s first war of independence, which started in 1857 and lasted two and a half years, was dubbed “the mutiny” and is still described as such in British history books.