Ironically, colonial apologists portray Jallianwala Bagh as a “monstrous” exception to the otherwise benign rule. This brutality is often presented as a one off accidental act committed by one exceptional villain Dyer. Speaking on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in the British Parliamentary debate on 8 July 1920, Winston Churchill had said, “That is an episode which appears to me to be without precedent or parallel in the modern history of the British Empire. It is an event of an entirely different order from any of those tragical occurrences, which take place when troops are brought into collision with the civil population. It is an extraordinary event, a monstrous event, an event, which stands in singular and sinister isolation.” Churchill’s jugglery of words was a futile and deceptive attempt to portray the tyrannical and brutal character of the British Raj as a civilised entity and the Dyer massacre as an exception. The Jallianwala massacre was a product of the systemic racism, superiority complexes and colonial brutality characteristic of the British Raj.

Post-1947,Subcontinent’s official historians and elitist representatives present this tragic event from a nationalist perspective rather than the class essence of this struggle. In fact, the oppressed regardless of their religious backgrounds were active in the struggle against the Raj along with its coercive state and system. Secondly, in 1919, the two-nation theory was unheard of amongst the masses.

In Pakistan, the mainstream narratives mention Jallianwala massacre as ‘Indianised’, Sikh, or foreign event that had nothing to do with the people in western Punjab after its bloody bifurcation in 1947. The mayhem and savagery that this gruesome partition had unleashed repeated the Jallianwala barbarity throughout Punjab, its meadows, hamlets and waterways soaked and flowed with innocent blood. In the last analysis the responsibility of religious genocide, rape and devastation of Punjab lies squarely on the Punjabi ruling classes. These elites had used religion, sectarianism, ethnicity, caste, creed and communal prejudices to whip up hatreds at the behest of the imperial aggressors in their wild lust for having greater gains to wealth and power after the departure of the British. Punjab was cleaved in blood and its toilers particularly women were raped, slaughtered and desecrated in the harrowing religious frenzy that wrecked havoc in this land of five rivers. More than 1.7million perished in this holocaust and more than twenty million uprooted from their ancestral villages and hearths where they had lived for innumerable generations. It was the brutal vengeance of the British imperialists against a people who had dared to challenged the Raj by their valiant struggles from the Ghadar party to Bhagat Singh’s HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Revolutionary Association). Several rebellious movements against the British had their origins and roots in Punjab. This targeted brutality was similar to the British Raj’s revenge against the chivalrous resistance and fight of Pashtoons against the European occupiers on both sides of the Durand Line and the defiance and revolts against the colonialists in Bengal and others.

The slaughter of colony textile mills workers at Multan in 1978 and the genocide of 1983 in Sindh are heinous analogies of the Jallianwala massacre. In the post 1947 period the state’s operations in Baluchistan and other regions bet ray a colonial mind-set and aggression. The sufferings of the masses during the so-called democratic regimes never lessened either

In India, nationalists and religious groupings present the Jallianwala tragedy as an attack against their particular political tendency or sect that represents vested interests of some ruling classes section. From the Hindutva chauvinists to the Congress’s secular nationalists present it as an episode that was part of their past struggle and ideological heritage. Certain Sikh sects define it as a calamity inflicted upon the Khalsa tradition. If one can cut across historical distortions, the period around 1919, in the wake of a victorious Bolshevik revolution, signifies a vivid and intense epoch of socialist and class struggle in the Subcontinent.

The freedom struggle including Jallianwala Bagh is the legacy of the struggling toilers of the region. The Raj had incarcerated the two key leaders from Amritsar, Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlu and Dr. Satya Pal in 1919. The tragic Baisakhi rally on April 13 was demanding their release. The imperialist repression and the protesters struggles for their release had nothing to do with their religious beliefs. Despite Ghandi’s presence, religious identity and prejudices had not started to dominate politics in those stormy events of class struggle.

The decades long liberation struggle in the united India went through different phases. Revolutionary tendencies spearheaded the movement at most militant and courageous episodes of the struggle. Only in the later stages, after the Communist Party of India (CPI), aligned with the Rajon the plea of ‘anti-fascism’ following the pacts in Yalta, Tehran and Potsdam between Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt and Truman that the Congress and the Muslim League got to the helm of the divided movement from 1940s onwards. Only after the defeat of the 1946 revolution that had been sparked by the sailors revolt, religious reaction came to the fore.

There is another aspect to Jallianwala massacre and mainstream portrayal of such episodes of colonial brutalities. The post-colonial elites have proved equally vicious and ruthless against the teeming millions of the ex-colonial countries. These upstarts have used such incidents of the tyrannous rule of their colonial masters to undermine their own cruelties and despotic rulership and build their ‘nationalist’, religious’ and patriotic image.



In South Africa, Marikina Massacre in August 2012 was no less brutal than the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 under the Apartheid. In 1937, Japanese Army committed the Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanjing in China whereby thousands of Chinese were slaughtered while 20,000 to 80,000 women were raped. But in 1989, Chinese troops stormed through Tiananmen Square killing and arresting thousands of protesters. Tiananmen protestors were singing the workers revolutionary Internationale when they were attacked. The regime that ordered this repression was restoring free market economy. The long list of such examples in the former colonial states goes on.

In South Asia, post-colonial states area continuation of the regime under the Raj in so many ways. The colour, race, religion, ethnicity or gender of the rulers changed but the oppressive character of the exploitative system and capitalist state remained in place.

Despite the democratic pretensions the Indian ruling classes have been ruthless against the oppressed classes. In 1928, on the question of pot colonial rulership, Bhagat Singh had lectured his comrades: “We don’t want independence! We don’t want independence where the English rulers are replaced by the local ‘brown’ elites. We don’t want freedom where this wretched system of exploitation and slavery continues to torment the toiling classes.” Twenty years before the so-called independence Bhagat Singh had sensed the danger and started to put up a fight against the rule of Lord Macaulay’s “a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” This seven-decade rule by this implanted elite has devastated one of the oldest and the richest civilisations in the world.

The Indian state has re-invented many more Rowlatt Acts today. Such laws as TADA and POTA are no less vicious. From Punjab to Manipur and from Tamilnad to Assam the military aggression of the mighty Indian state against those struggling for freedoms were replications of colonial belligerence. Nehru’s romanticised vale of Kashmir has been converted into a massive Jallianwala Bagh by the Indian state particularly after the imposition of the Hindutva regime under Narendra Modi. The ‘Indian’ Dyers have outfoxed their British version. State forces firings on unarmed protestors, landless peasants, Dalits, labourers, religious minorities and others who dare to put up formidable protests have become a norm. The Modi regime has practically a colonial position on Kashmir treating it literally as an occupied territory. Indian democracy is a deception for the poor and a gadget for the rulership of the rich and mighty.

In Pakistan ordinary people suffered innumerable brutalities and repressions, particularly under the Zia military regime, that traumatised the society. Apart from the atrocities perpetuated against the workers and left wing activists, socio-cultural life was poisoned with reaction that continues to destabilise Pakistan as long as the country remains wedded to present system. The slaughter of colony textile mills workers at Multan in 1978 and the genocide of 1983 in Sindh are heinous analogies of the Jallianwala massacre.In the post 1947 period the state’s operations in Baluchistan and other regions bet ray a colonial mind-set and aggression. The sufferings of the masses during the so-called democratic regimes never lessened either.

The Jallianwala struggle has yet to achieve victory! The struggle must go forward!