February 13, 2019
Sugata Bose speaks on The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2018
Deputy Speaker Sir, I rise today to speak as a historian, a humble ordinary citizen of India. We have to rise above party in order to honour the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh, the innocent men, women and children who were gunned down in Amritsar nearly a hundred years ago, on April 13, 1919.
Of course, General Reginald Dyer’s order, which was obeyed by the soldiers who had their fingers on the triggers, but there was also a British governor, Michael O’Dwyer, who was holding festivities in Lahore in preparation for his departure from India. Curfew was imposed, crawling orders were given; there was a place in Gujranwala that was strafed from the air. What we did to remember today is that the blood of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs mingled in the earth of Jallianwala Bagh and that is the unity of all religious communities that we must strive for today.
Who were the leaders of Punjab who were leading the movement, the ‘satyagraha’, in 1919? On the one hand, there was Dr Satyapal, on the other hand, there was Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew, and the committee that had been established by the Indian National Congress was chaired by none other than Madan Mohan Malviya, and it included Motilal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.
And we know that our great poet, Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood when he heard of this awful tragedy. He did not choose to wear any badge of honour given by the satanic government, the British Government of 1919. The ‘satyagraha’ that was being conducted was a campaign against the lawless law, the Rowlatt Act, which would have enabled the British to hold Indians imprisoned without charge, without trial in peacetime. They were trying to have wartime ordinances turned into a peacetime legislation. The people of India resisted, and the Amritsar massacre marked the final psychological alienation between the British colonisers and the Indian people who had been colonised.
I would also like to add that there was an aftermath of the great Amritsar tragedy; our revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh were products of the tragedy that took place on the April 13, 1919. Ten years after 1919, Bhagat Singh and his comrades were in Lahore Jail and there was a hunger strike by political prisoners and the British tried in the central legislative assembly here to pass this law, they tried to say that these prisoners would be tried in absentia because they could not be brought to court.
Our great nationalist leaders of the time opposed that move resolutely. As someone from Bengal I would like to mention that of the hunger striking prisoners Jatin Das died after two months – 64 days as Saugata Babu has been saying – of being on fast. When now when the body of Jatin Das was brought from Lahore to Kolkata, it was none other than Subhas Chandra Bose who presided over the funeral and he came back to his home with the asthi of Jatin Das and asked his sister in law Bibhabati to preserve these immortal remains of our great revolutionary with care.
Finally Deputy Speaker Sir, I would also like to mention another historical fact. In 1943, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose travelled in a submarine from Europe to Asia. He started his journey on the February 8/9, 1943 and since he would be on the submarine for nearly three months, he had left a recorded broadcast that went on air April 13, 1943 in order to pay tribute to the martyrs of the Amritsar massacre.
So, I would appeal to this Government that please do not bring a divisive Bill on this particular issue. Let us all join together and unitedly honour the memory of those who fell a hundred years ago on April 13, 1919. Let us leave all parliamentary bickering behind us and let us all together say that we will strive for the unity of all of the religious communities of India and let is bow our heads in memory of the martyrs of the Amritsar tragedy. Jai Hind.