Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (13 April 1919) Study Material


Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (13 April 1919) Study Material

The arrest of Dr. Kitchlu and Dr. Satyapal on 10 April 1919, under the Rowlatt Act in connection with the Satyagraha caused serious unrest in Punjab. Rioting started in Amritsar on 10 April 1919. The people of Amritsar took out processions to protest against the arrest. Police firing made it more violent and as result five Europeans were killed by the mob. A public meeting was held the next day, 13 April 1919, in a park called Jallianwala Bagh where thousands of people, including women and children, assemble. These protestors were unaware of a ban that had been imposed by the martial law administrators on public meetings. Before the meeting could start General O’ Dyer ordered indiscriminate heavy firing on the crowd and the people had no means of escape. Hundreds of men, women and children were killed and more than 1200 people wounded in the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy. The Hunter Commission was appointed to look into the situation of unrest after the incident.

Public Response to the Massacre

The massacre was a turning point in Indo-British relations and inspired the people to begin a more unrelenting fight for freedom. It sickened some in protest, Rabindranath Tagore returned the knighthood conferred on him. It gave strength to Gandhi’s mission, which ultimately led to the British leaving India.

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            On 13 March 1940, Sardar Uddham Singh, an Indian patriot from Punjab visited England. He shot down Michal O’ Dwyer, former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, while the latter was addressing a meeting in Cazton Hall, London. Uddham Singh was executed on 31 July 1940, in England. Uddham Singh’s ashes were brought hack to India after 34 years on 19 July 1974.


The Khilafat (The Caliphate)

            The Khilafat, as an institution did not have a stable past. Initially, it had migrated from Medina to Darmascus and from Damascus to Baghdad. It remained in Egypt for some time, and then it shifted to Turkey. The Indian Muslims had a strong sense of closeness to the world community of Islam. They had witnessed the fall in the political fortunes of Islam. They had seen how the European powers defeated the Muslim kingdoms and captured their lands one after the other. The Anglo-Russian convention held in 1908 had brought the status of Iran to just a dependency. Afghanistan was also reduced to a bone of contention between Russia and Britain. Ultimately, British established its control over Afghanistan.

Response of the Indian Muslims

            The Indian Muslims had a feeling that the European powers were waging a war against Islam across the world so that its power and influence could be ended. Till then, the Ottoman Empire was the only Muslim power that had maintained an impression of authority. The Indian Muslims wished to stop the last Islamic political authority from becoming extinct. The Sultans of Turkey had proclaimed themselves to be the caliphs of the Muslims all over the world. Before the fall of the Mughal Empire, Muslims of India had not acknowledged their claim. However, when there was no other Indian Muslim sovereign power left, the Muslims of India began to see the necessity of recognizing the Sultan of Turkey as their Caliph. Tipu Sultan also, who when first failed to gain recognition from the Mughals, had turned to the Sultan of Turkey to get recognition of a legal right to his throne.

Origin of the Khilafat Movement

            As a consequence of the World War I, the Ottoman Empire faced humiliation. Two brothers also known as the Ali Brothers, Maulana Muhammad Aliand Maulana Shaukat Ali, inspired the Muslims of South Asia and initiated an anti-British movement in 1920 popularly known as the Khilafat Movement. The movement wished the restoration of the Caliphate. The objectives of the movement were: (i) to restore the Turkish caliphate; (ii) to safeguard the holy shrines of the Muslims; and (iii) to preserve the unity of the Ottoman Empire. The European forces had played a prime role in cutting the authority of Turkey in Europe to Eastern Thrace, Constantinople and the straits in the Balkan Wars fought between 1912 and 1913. As an act of revenge, Turkey decided to join the Germans against the Allied forces. The Indian Muslims hailed the decision and showed their anti-British attitude more aggressively.

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British Response to the Khilafat Movement

            The Indian Muslims were unanimous in their support to the Caliph. Despite the fact that they were separated from Turkey by thousands of miles, they were resolute to support Turkey from India. The conditions of the Treaty of Serves declared in 1920, led to resentment among the Muslims. They felt that they had been cheated. In the month of June 1920, ninety prominent Muslim personalities wrote to Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy, declaring that they would start a non-cooperation movement against the government from August, it the conditions of the treaty with Turkey were not changed. This did not bring any positive results because the British Prime Minister Lloyd George was a bitter enemy of Turkey and also of the Indian Khilafat Movement, When the Indian Khilafat deputation reached England in 1920 to express views before the British Government, they were not treated properly.

The Moplah Uprising

            In the month of August 1921, reasant riots broke out in Nilambur, Kerala. The Moplah peasants rebelled against the oppressive policies of their Hindu landlords. The landlords worked in alliance with the British. The landlords re-distributed the lands of the peasants. This increased the suffering of the Moplahs, and rose in revolt. There started a pitched battle between the British regiment and the Moplahs. The Moplahs killed many Europeans. More than four thousand Moplahs were killed in the action and thousands were injured and then, the infamous Moplah train tragedy occurred. Nearly hundred prisoners, cramped in a closed and airtight goods van, were being transported by rail. When the door of the wagon was opened, sixty six Moplahs were found dead because of suffocation and the remaining were on the brink of collapse. This led to Hindu-Muslim communal clashes, especially in Multan and Bengal in the month of September, 1922. The Sanghattan and Shuddi movements were launched as a result of these communal rioting. They were directed against the Muslims and aimed at the revival of Hinduism.

Decline of the Khilafat Movement

            Along with other factors, the arrest of the Ali brothers in Septemebt 1921 was an important factor responsible for the decline of the Khilafat movement. After the Chaura-Chauri incident, Gandhi also withdrew his support from the movement. He had been a staunch supporter of the movement earlier. In the year 1924, Turks under the leadership of Mustafa Kamal were trying to consolidate their position in Turkey. They declared the end of the Khilafat. It was a big shock for the members of the Indian Khilafat movement, who had been supporting Turkey and the Khilafat. Slowly, the interest of the people in the movement died down and people associated with the movement started developing new interests.

Significance of the Khilafat Movement

            The Lucknow Pact indicated that it was the Hindus and the Muslims belonging to the English educated middle-class, could reach at an amicable settlement on political and constitutional issues related to them. This unity peaked during the Khilafat and the non-cooperation movements. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad also guided the movement. Gandhi and the Indian National Congress wholeheartedly supported the movement and paved the way for Hindu-Muslim unity. It became an important countrywide popular movement. No doubt that the Khilafat movement failed to achieve its goals, it led to political awakening of the large masses of Muslims. It was during the days of the movement that representatives of the Indian Muslims had a chance of meeting eminent personalities from other Muslims countries.

Moplah Rebellion: I

A large number of people in Kerala were influenced by the Gandhian movement. They joined the Satyagraha campaign in large numbers. The non-cooperation movement was at its peak during this period of time. Gandhiji toured Malabar in 1921, giving more momentum to the movement. Khilafat Committees were established in large numbers and the sense of brotherhood between the Hindus and Muslims, through the efforts in Congress-Khilafat Committees, was realy a noticeable feature of the non-cooperation movement initially. The pace of spreading of the Khilafat agitation particularly in the Eranca and Valluvanad taluks alarmed the administration. A stunned administrative system imposed prohibitory orders in the both the taluks. Gatherings of people were banned and many were imprisoned. A tragic event then took place, known as the Moplah Rebellion or the Malabar Rebellion of 1921. The police tried to arrest the secretary of the Khilafat Committee of Pokotturin Eranad allegedly for having stolen a pistal.

Moplah Rebellion: II

A mob of 2,000 Moplahs from the neighbourhood obstructed the police. The following day, a police looking for the Khilafat rebels entered the renowned Mambaram mosque at Tirurangadi. They took some records and took into their custody some Khilafat volunteers. A rumour spread that the mosque had been defiled by the police. Hundreds of agitated Moplahs gathered on Tirurangadi and encircled the local police station. The police Violence stretched over Eranad and Valluvanad taluks and the neighbouring areas for more than 2 months. The Congress leaders tried to curb the violence but could not succeed. During the later stages, because of the rumour of Hindus having helped the police or sought police help, there were events of atrocities committed on the Hindus. This damaged the realtions between the two communities. In the meantime, British and Gorkha regiments were sent to the area. Martial law was imposed. A number of repressive measures followed, and by the month of November, the rebellion was practically flattened. Many voluntary agencies carried out relief operations for almost 6 months with the active support from Gandhi.

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