General Dyer was hardly remorseful for Jallianwala massacre
Queen Elizabeth will visit Jallianwalla Bagh next month. Another look at the controversy.
"It was a horrible duty to perform.
But I think it was a merciful thing. I thought I should shoot
well and shoot straight so that I or anybody else would not have had
to shoot again.''
The words of Brigadier General Reginald Dyer himself --
the perpetrator of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which left 379 dead and 1,500
injured in 1919.
Deposing before the Hunter commission inquiring into the shooting,
General Dyer said his action was meant to punish the people if they
disobeyed his orders. He thought from a military point of view,
such an action would create a good impression in Punjab.
However, what was more damning was his statement, ''I think it quite possible
that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing but they would
have come back again and laughed, and I would have made, what I
consider, a fool of myself.''
He contended that martial law existed de facto in Amritsar at
that time although only demonstrations had been forbidden. He also
claimed that his military column had stopped at every important
point to announce that all meetings have been banned which were accompanied by
the beating of drums.
However, when questioned with the help of a map of the city,
General Dyer was forced to admit that important localities had been
omitted, and a large number of people would not have known about the
He confessed he did not take any steps to attend to
the wounded after the firing. ''Certainly not. It
was not my job. Hospitals were open and they could have gone
there,'' came his pathetic response.
However, the misery suffered by the people was reflected
in Rattan Devi's account. She was forced to keep a nightlong vigil,
armed with a bamboo stick to protect her husband's body from
jackals and vultures. Curfew with shoot-at-sight orders had been
imposed from 2000 hours that night.
Rattan Devi stated, ''I saw three men writhing in great pain and a
boy of about 12. I could not leave the place. The boy asked
me for water but there was no water in that place...At
2 am, a jat who was lying entangled on the wall asked me to
raise his leg. I went up to him and took hold of his clothes drenched
in blood and raised him up. Heaps of bodies lay there, a number of
them innocent children. I shall never forget the sight. I spent the
night crying and watching..."