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Explained: Jallianwala Bagh Massacre


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Rowlatt Act

Mains level : Causes, consequences and aftermath of the massacre

  • The upcoming 13th of April will mark centenary of the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre that shook entire nation.
  • It has often been said that Britain lost its empire the day when, a hundred years ago when this massacre took place.

Protesting the contentious Rowlatt Act

  • The act officially known as the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act, 1919 was passed in 1919 by the Imperial Legislative Council.
  • It had authorised the British government to arrest anybody suspected of terrorist activities.
  • It also authorised the government to detain such people arrested for up to 2 years without trial.
  • It empowered the police to search a place without a warrant. It also placed severe restrictions on the freedom of the press.
  • The primary intention colonial govt. was to repress the growing nationalist movement in the country.
  • The British were also afraid of a Ghadarite revolution in Punjab and the rest of the country.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

  • The massacre took place on 13 April 1919 when troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Col. Reginald Dyer fired rifles into a crowd of Indians.
  • The civilians had assembled for a peaceful protest to condemn the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew.
  • Dyer without warning ordered his troops to fire at the unarmed crowd which included children as well.
  • The indiscriminate firing went on for about 10 minutes which resulted in the deaths of at least 1000 people and injured more than 1500 people.


  • In protest against the massacre Rabindranath Tagore gave up his knighthood.
  • Gandhiji relinquished his title ‘Kaiser-e-hind’ bestowed on him by the British for his services during the Boer War in South Africa.
  • Michael O’Dwyer, the then Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, who had approved the actions of Dyer, was assassinated by Udham Singh in London in 1940 as revenge against the massacre.
  • The heroic treatment to Dyer’s heinous act again set a benchmark of colonial arrogance.

Hunter Commission

  • In October 1919 the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, ordered the formation of a committee of inquiry into the events in Punjab.
  • Referred to as the Disorders Inquiry Committee, it was later more widely known as the Hunter Commission (Not to be consfused with Hunter Education Commission).
  • Still there are long-standing demands in India that Britain should apologize for the massacre.
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