Thursday 29 October 2020

Jallianwala: 6 minutes to sunset, 100 years ago, and now

- Posted on 13 April 2019

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, April 13: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has asserted that the BJP-led government will make the sedition law so stronger-so stringent that even the very thought of the provision would “send shivers down the spine”.

According to the media report, he was addressing election rally at Gandhidham in Gujarat yesterday and the provocation was the promise made by the Congress to revoke this colonial legislation that was enacted to keep slave India subjugated.

Rajnath Singh made this statement on the eve of 100th anniversary of Jallianwala massacre in Amritsar on April 13, 1919 when troops of British India commanded by Colonel R E H Dyer opened unprovoked fire on a gathering that had been called to protest against Rowlatt Act that was more stringent than the existing sedition law.

Although no exact count of the killing is available, around 500 people are estimated to have been killed in that worst ever carnage within 8 minutes beginning what roughly is said to be six minutes to sunset. The injured were denied medical aid.

India was never the same after April the 13, 1919.

That was the period when Veer  Damodar Savarkar, the architect of Hindutva, the magna carta for the BJP, had already submitted apology letters from Cellular jail in Andaman, the Kala Pani..

The problem is that even 70 years after Independence, rulers in India continues to suffer from the hangover of that long period of slavery that date backs to pre-British period with Sikh Empire being the exception in the North. The issue here is not that of this particular statement attributed to Rajnath Singh.

The people in Punjab were subjected to laws worse than sedition  in Independent India. People suffered in jails for years without trial. Notorious TADA is just one example.

The leaders cutting across political parties and the centre and the state governments today performed the ritual of paying obeisance to the martyrs of Jallianwala that is next to the Golden Temple complex.

There is very vital dimension to Jallianwala. It was peoples’ movement and the gathering at Jallianwala Bagh was not commanded by any towering leader. They were ordinary men and women who had gathered to lodge their protest against the British atrocities. They were Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, the secular India. They were the people of Punjab undivided by religious, caste or clan identities.

For the British rulers, they were violating the sedition laws and had to be taught a lesson.

It is in this context that the statement of Rajnath Singh has been referred to here.

Did hundreds of people sacrifice their lives so that they could continue to be government with the same colonial mentality to which they were subjected to under the British rule?

People like Shaheed Bhagat Singh laid down the map for free India that was to be non-exploitative and pro-people.

He too was part of what can be termed as the struggle of Jallianwala.

Has that attitude of the rulers of treating people as slaves changed much?

Restoring dignity of people rather than treating them as slaves and subjecting them to more stringent sedition laws should be the real tribute to the Martyrs of Jallianwala on this 100th anniversary.

Before pressing UK for apology for this crime against inhumanity, India should provide free space for freedom of thought and expression.

Let India be a peoples’ democracy in true sense of the term rather than the ruling elite, feeling scared of the people, moving around under heavy state security.

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