Details of massacre emerge

20 December 2019

December 19th, 1919.

AS LONG ago as April last the Amritsar riots, of which we are only now learning the facts, occurred. The immediate cause of them was the arrest of two leading agitators, who were sent off into the hills for confinement. Finding that matters were becoming dangerous, General Dyer proclaimed martial law and ordered that there should be no public meetings, and that everyone should stay indoors throughout the nights. In spite of the proclamation a mob of some 30,000 natives is said to have assembled, making it necessary for the General to decide instantly whether to overlook this revolt against authority or to take the sternest measures. It is important to bear in mind that he was aware that Lahore and Jellundur were also rioting, and that the trouble in Amritsar was part of a concerted plot. The only support he had was, according to some witnesses, a handful of Punjab Mohammedans and Ghurkhas, and the situation looked desperate. He ordered his men to fire on the crowd, some two hundred of whom were killed, and the riot was quelled. Opinion is divided on General Dyer’s conduct. Some think he was the saviour of the Punjab; others, like the Westminster Gazette, demand that he shall be recalled and that the Imperial Government shall solemnly repudiate the massacre. This is to pronounce sentence over him before the inquiry into the case is concluded. Our contemporary compares the affair to “the episodes of the early German occupation of Belgium”. It is difficult to see the parallel, for the Germans vastly outnumbered the defenders of Belgium, and General Dyer’s scanty troops were faced with overwhelming odds.

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