Jallianwala Bagh massacre: 100 years later

An ode to martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh

The martyrs’ well at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar . The year 2019 marks 100 years of the massacre.   | Photo Credit: Shiva Sharma

One of the first poems written in protest after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 is being republished to mark the centenary of the tragedy that galvanised the movement for Indian independence.

Khooni Vaisakhi, a classic work of protest poetry by the late Nanak Singh, was translated by his grandson Navdeep Suri, who is India’s Ambassador to the UAE. Nanak Singh, one of the most notable Punjabi writers of his generation and among the prominent 20th century reformist writers from Pakistan.

The long poem written in Gurmukhi was banned and was missing for decades. Giani Zail Singh, Home Minister in the last Indira Gandhi government, restored the book to the family.

Mr. Suri was 12 when his grandfather passed away. “It is from my grandmother that we heard how he was among the witnesses to the massacre and how he lost his hearing as the bullets landed around him, killing his friends,” said Mr. Suri, who will formally launch the book on Saturday.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place on 13 April, 1919, when a rally consisting of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus, gathered for a stir against the draconian Rowlatt Act. The firing that killed hundreds left Nanak Singh, 22, buried under a pile of corpses. Though Nanak Singh lived till 1971, he rarely discussed the incident with his family.

He was a self-taught rebel and joined the freedom movement. Khooni Vaisakhi was banned and its copies confiscated in 1923. The translated edition of the poem also contains an essay by journalist Justin Rowlatt, great-grandson of Sidney Rowlatt, author of the Rowlatt Act. The piece of legislation suspended all the civil liberties and imposed restrictions on the press. In a personal piece in the book, Justin Rowlatt recounted how the massacre became a “turning point” in the freedom struggle. He said that he remains “appalled” that his great-grandfather was honoured with a Knighthood for authoring the law.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 6:23:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/an-ode-to-martyrs-of-jallianwala-bagh/article26823831.ece

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