Amritsar – Jallianwala Bagh “An everlasting symbol of non-violent and peaceful struggle for the freedom of India”
Writing from: Pushkar, where the camels are camels, and the women are sometimes men (at least that is what this morning’s all-female India vs tourists hockey team led me to believe…)
Jallianwala Bagh is a small park built as a memorial to an awful event in Indian and British history.
In 1919 General Dyer, of the British Army, was called to restore order to the city as unrest had broken out over an emergency British law that allowed them to imprison Indians suspected of sedition without trial. The general ordered his 150 men to open fire on the 2000 peaceful protesters occupying an open space surrounded by high walls. Over 400 people were killed and 1500 injured. The event caused Ghandi to tell his followers that ‘co-operation in any shape or form with this satanic government is sinful’ and it was the start of many acts of civil disobedience that followed up to the Independence of India.
I was understandably a bit uneasy going in. I think it was possibly a feeling of inherited guilt mingled, with a worry that people might have long memories. It doesn’t help that people stare at us so much (me especially being a Western lady. Lucky me). There were a lot of eyes on us as we passed down the narrow stone passage into the park, past signs informing those who entered about what happened there less than 100 years ago.
Still I reasoned that we were here for the same reason everyone else was, to remember and to learn, and also almost everyone at tourist sites has been so accepting and excited to have us there so far. I have faith in people.
We went quietly through the park, around manicured lawns, and past the stone memorial. My skin went cold as we peered into the deep well on one side of the park, as I had read that many people jumped into it to avoid the bullets. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would have been like. It is such a small area, nowhere to run at all.
Once around the park we were suddenly absolutely surrounded by people, a sheer wall of ladies and men engulfed us, then one man patted M on the shoulder and said to him “Please, photo?”. The rest of them twittered excitedly and M and I found ourselves in the centre of happy faces and camera clicks. The lady next to me was most excited of all. She grabbed my pastey (well less pastey now but still pretty white compared) hand in her own and clutching it tightly held our joined hands up for the camera, cackling delightedly as she did so.
So we remember, we learn, and we smile for each others cameras. Not a bad way to move on. Have I mentioned how lovely people here are yet?