26 January, 2021

Myth Under A Microscope

A new history of Jallianwala Bagh gives due emphasis on the suffocatingly hostile nationalist backcloth and the lack of pre-meditation on both sides

Myth Under A Microscope

A century on, after several popular and scholarly books, it’s hard to say something entirely original about the Jallianwala massacre. But Wagner succeeds in pulling together the threads and presenting all the evidence. He even presents evidence counter to his own ideological craze for deeming the massacre symptomatic of British oppression, rather than exceptional.

To his credit, Wagner eschews any squ­eamishness in describing anti-Eur­opean rioting in the Punjab and elsewhere during the days leading up to Jallianwala. Although Mahatma Gan­­dhi had iss­ued a call for peaceful satyagraha, the response was anything but non-violent. A poster on the clock tower next to the Golden Temple called on people to be prepared to ‘die and kill’. There are graphic descriptions of Indian crowds pelting security forces with brickbats and frightening police horses. The British in Amritsar found themselves fending off ‘a determined attempt to rush the Civil Lines’, where most of them lived.

Wagner doesn’t shrink from detailing...



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