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michaeldr

Amritsar massacre - 100 years ago today

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michaeldr
voltaire60

 It is a moot point  as to whether Amritsar stood alone and a point that cannot be dealt with within the confines of what constitutes "Great War" on this Forum. (eg Golden Temple and Amritsar at a later date would clearly be classed as "political", though it is of interest by comparison as showing what happens when state force meets resistance). Growing violence well before the Great War had  made Bengal especially close,if not into, insurgency. How the British Army/Indian Army dealt with this by political and military "police" actions frames what happened at Amritsar in 1919. And after?   eg The Malabar Rebellion in the early 1920s. British rule was not peaceful-nor were its predecessors and successors. But I do think it is unreasonable to take Amritsar 1919 as a sole aberration. 

   In a wider context, what the Great War did was crank up the level of "acceptable" violence in the societies of all states involved.  And that level of violence tends to be difficult to put to bed afterwards. One cannot simply switch off violence as if it were a tap. What I would like to see more of is an exercise in comparative history- say, Amritsar, Freikorps in Germany and the Anglo-Irish troubles of 1919-1922. A one-off  slagging of Dyer does not do justice to a much meatier topic that should be within the bounds on this Forum.- Just how do you turn off the violence after a formal state of war has ended?

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michaeldr
57 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

Just how do you turn off the violence after a formal state of war has ended?

A very good point V60,

and when do you deploy an army unit, as opposed to a civilian police force

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Maureene

There are a number of online books about the Massacre at Amritsar, see the FIBIS Fibiwik page 

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Massacre_at_Amritsar#Historical_books_online 

including

 

Punjab disturbances, April 1919; compiled from the Civil and military gazette 1919 Archive.org

 

Army. Disturbances in the Punjab. Statement by Brig.-General R E H Dyer Presented to Parliament HMSO 1920. HathiTrust Digital Library

 

India As I Knew It, 1885–1925 by Sir Michael Francis O’Dwyer 1925 Archive.org mirror version, originally from Digital Library of India. In 1885 the author was posted to Shahpur in the Punjab and retired as lieutenant-governor of the Punjab in 1919. His actions during 1919 were controversial.

 

Cheers

Maureen

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Uncle George
6 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 

   In a wider context, what the Great War did was crank up the level of "acceptable" violence in the societies of all states involved.  And that level of violence tends to be difficult to put to bed afterwards. One cannot simply switch off violence as if it were a tap. What I would like to see more of is an exercise in comparative history- say, Amritsar, Freikorps in Germany and the Anglo-Irish troubles of 1919-1922. A one-off  slagging of Dyer does not do justice to a much meatier topic that should be within the bounds on this Forum.- Just how do you turn off the violence after a formal state of war has ended?

 

5 hours ago, michaeldr said:

A very good point V60,

 

This is the theme of the excellent ‘The Vanquished - Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923’ (2016) by Robert Gerwarth.

 

https://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/2045

 

“Gerwarth’s principal purpose in this book, then, is to provide a single, concise, one-volume overview of the myriad conflicts that made up the half-decade of warfare that engulfed parts of Europe after November 1918. Indeed, the entire study is essentially underpinned by the argument that all of these post-1918 conflicts, whether their origins lay in ethnic and territorial dispute or revolutionary convulsion, whether they occurred in the frozen wastes of Siberia or on the streets of Barcelona, can ultimately be grouped together and understood as a single spasm of continental violence that lasted for half a decade after 1918, with the Bolshevik Revolution and defeat of the Central Powers as their twin points of origin.”

Edited by Uncle George

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Martin Bennitt

The depiction of the massacre in the museum at the Red Fort in Delhi

 

Cheers Martin B

Amritsar.jpg

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Ron Clifton
7 hours ago, michaeldr said:

and when do you deploy an army unit, as opposed to a civilian police force

There was (is) normally a procedure for this, involving at least one magistrate, and when he/they consider that the police can no longer contain an insurrection, they formally request the army to take over responsibility. The procedure is discussed at length in the Manual of Military Law - Chapter XIV if I recall correctly. In the Great War period the Army's expert in these matters was Sir Nevil Macready, who served as Adjutant-General in France and later at the War Office. After the war he became Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

 

Ron

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Keith Woodland

Which unit provided the troops who actually did the shootings? The Channel 4 programme I watched last night uses a clip from The film Ghandi and this appeared to show Indian soldiers and Ghurkas firing. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought it was Koyli that were involved. Also was General Dyer actually with the troops, very unlikely in a modern situation I would have thought.

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Steven Broomfield

It was Indian troops; a mixture of Sikhs, Gurkhas and Muslim soldiers, I believe, and Dywer was there.

 

It was an appalling act, but one which has to be set in the context of the times. There had been a lot of disturbance in the Punjab following the war (not helped by the government's crass handling of the Montagu declaration), and there had been several white residents of Aritsar murdered in the days leading to the massacre. Additionally, a white woman (a nurse) had been stripped and sexually assaulted. All these were things which - understandably, pehaps, given that the Mutiny was still within living memory for some people - led to a state of extreme tension.

 

It should also be noted that a few days after the massacre, Dyer was given honorary Sikh status by elders at the Golden Temple.

 

None of this is to excuse the massacre, which was certainly a key event in the direction of Indian independence, but here is always context to be considered.

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michaeldr
3 hours ago, Keith Woodland said:

Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought it was Koyli that were involved. Also was General Dyer actually with the troops, very unlikely in a modern situation I would have thought.

 

See the link provided by Maureen ( https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951p00324262w;view=1up;seq=32 )

Dyer's report to Genstaff Division is Appendix C

As well as the two armoured cars and 40 Gurkhas armed only with their knives, he had with him 50 riflemen; from 9th Gurkhas, 25, and from 54th Sikhs & 59th Rifles a further 25

Dyer was there himself and no verbal warning to disperse was given before the firing.

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Heid the Ba
22 hours ago, Steven Broomfield said:

It should also be noted that a few days after the massacre, Dyer was given honorary Sikh status by elders at the Golden Temple.

 

None of this is to excuse the massacre, which was certainly a key event in the direction of Indian independence, but here is always context to be considered.

Dyer is usually portrayed as out of touch and with no understanding of India, whereas he was born in the Punjab and spoke Urdu and Punjabi.  I wasn't aware that Dyer was given honorary Sikh status; the elders of the Golden Temple must have known exactly what happened and would have heard the shooting since Jallianwalla Bagh almost abuts the temple grounds.

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Heid the Ba
On ‎13‎/‎04‎/‎2019 at 19:19, Ron Clifton said:

There was (is) normally a procedure for this, involving at least one magistrate, and when he/they consider that the police can no longer contain an insurrection, they formally request the army to take over responsibility. The procedure is discussed at length in the Manual of Military Law - Chapter XIV if I recall correctly. In the Great War period the Army's expert in these matters was Sir Nevil Macready, who served as Adjutant-General in France and later at the War Office. After the war he became Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

 

Ron

FM Slim wrote a book covering his early time in the Indian Army (the name escapes me at the moment) which includes a chapter called "Aid to the civil" which covers the problems of using the army to police riots and disturbances.

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Steven Broomfield
3 hours ago, Heid the Ba said:

Dyer is usually portrayed as out of touch and with no understanding of India, whereas he was born in the Punjab and spoke Urdu and Punjabi.  I wasn't aware that Dyer was given honorary Sikh status; the elders of the Golden Temple must have known exactly what happened and would have heard the shooting since Jallianwalla Bagh almost abuts the temple grounds.

 

There's an interesting article in the current edition of Standpoint magazine, amongst a lot of other things in various newspapers and books.

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Heid the Ba

It is an interesting article but Masani usually has an axe to grind, and he sometimes has it in for the Sikh community.  I'm not sure why but he talks about the population of Amritsar and the victims as Indian rather than as members of their religious communities, as if they had a commonality of purpose and belief. He criticises Dyer for reading the riot act (metaphorically) throughout the city but not near the Golden Temple claiming Dyer didn't know the city.  It seems to me that Dyer toured the Hindu and Muslim areas, but not the Sikh, and having spent his life in India and much of it in the Punjab it is inconceivable Dyer didn't know where the Golden Temple was.  The actions of the Sikh elders after the massacre would suggest the Sikhs thought Dyer did the right thing, possibly because of tensions with the other religious communities. 

 

It is my experience that Sikhs in India get more worked up about Indira Gandhi ordering the storming of the Golden Temple in 1984 than Jallianwalla Bagh and certainly when we were there a couple of years ago we attracted some interest (but as a white person in India you always do) but no hostility.  On a lighter note some of the bushes in the park have been topiaried into the shapes of soldiers in Brodies firing rifles.

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michaeldr

The act of conferring a Sikh honour on Dyer is discounted today as the doings of colonial placemen who had been appointed by the British rules.

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Steven Broomfield
1 hour ago, michaeldr said:

The act of conferring a Sikh honour on Dyer is discounted today as the doings of colonial placemen who had been appointed by the British rules.

 

Sounds reasonable.

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