On Saturday 13th April, 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre were commemorated at the National Army Museum in presence of historian and author Kim Wagner, journalist Sathnam Sanghera, the Singh twins, and historians Amandeep Madra and Parmjit Singh. But the event also dispelled some myths surrounding the tragedy.
“One of the myths associated with the massacre is that some 120 bodies were recovered from the well but there weren't any bodies recovered,” said Kim Wagner, senior lecturer in British Imperial History at Queen Mary University of London.
According to certain historic sources, when Brigadier General Reginald Dyer had opened fire in the Bagh, some innocent civillians jumped into the well in panic to save themselves from the firing. This well, located inside the premises of the Jallianwala Bagh, stands testimony to 120 dead bodies were later recovered from the well. Some eyewitnesses had described one or two people falling in the well. But what affirmative evidence does Wagner rely upon to contradict history as is written?
“It was quite a high number of bodies which I had never heard about when I was gathering my primary sources. But when Motilal Nehru and Madan Mohan Malaviya go to inspect the site after the martial law is lifted, they think that they see something in the well but it was some clay and cloth,” said Wagner.
The event hosted two sets of panel discussions where historians, authors and journalists shed light on the history of the brutal massacre and its discussion in schools today.
“I first visited India in 1920 and our visit to the Punjab had a deep impact on us considering how little we were taught about it in our schools,” said the Singh twins.
Educated in Catholic schools, the Singh twins spoke about the problems associated with not teaching the oppressions of the British empire in schools. Chris Durlacher, who is an award winning documentary maker, and the director of the recent 'The Massacre That Shook the Empire' agreed about the problems associated with teaching about the colonial conquests as “British achievements”.
“There was some questioning around the incident but it was mostly around the benefits of these conquests and more importantly, there wasn't any sort of investigation around the morality of the Raj,” said the BAFTA awardee, Durlacher.
Durlacher first came to know about the story of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre after watching Richard Attenborough's 'Gandhi' where it was directed as a random two-minute sequence. But Durlacher's curious filmmaker's eye embarked on a mission to examine the 1919 massacre and it's legacy.
The event was followed by a book signing session where authors Amandeep Madra and Parmjit Singh signed copies of their latest book 'Eyewitnesses at Amritsar: A Visual History of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre'.