A hundred years ago, a British officer ordered 50 Gurkha and Indian troops to fire on an unarmed crowd of many thousands in Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh. Historian Dr Zareer Masani (above right) explores the myths and realities around one of the worst episodes in the history of the British Empire. How many people were shot or wounded? Was it a pre-meditated slaughter by Brigadier Reginald Dyer, later dubbed “the Butcher of Amritsar”? Or was he massively over-reacting to a large public meeting?
Buried in the past, Zareer finds evidence that Jallianwala was not an isolated incident, but the result of a spiral of violence in the Punjab, much of it directed at unarmed Europeans. Should Britain now make a formal apology for the incident? Dyer’s biographer maintains that we should, but surprisingly the Indian historians Zareer interviews say it would be meaningless.
Producer: Tom Alban
Historian Zareer Masani examines the details and lasting impact of the Amritsar Massacre.