A tragedy revisited

April 18, 2021 1:00 AM

Two books shed new light on the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Indians needed to be taught obedience, believed Michael O'Dwyer, Lieutenant Governor of Punjab. On April 13, 1919, he marched his soldiers into the walled garden and ordered them to open fire.Indians needed to be taught obedience, believed Michael O'Dwyer, Lieutenant Governor of Punjab. On April 13, 1919, he marched his soldiers into the walled garden and ordered them to open fire.

Jallianwala Bagh: A Groundbreaking History of the 1919 Massacre
VN Datta
Penguin Random House
Pp 248, Rs 399

Based on a meticulous exploration of the primary sources and oral testimonies of the survivors and victims of 1919, VN Datta crafts a unique and first-hand narrative of the most violent event and its legacy in the history of modern India and provides a complex picture of the city of Amritsar, where he grew up. Jallianwala Bagh is a rigorous account of the causes, nature and impact of the carnage that shook the nation and irreparably wounded its collective consciousness. It brings a local and an altogether different scholarly perspective on imperial, racial and military violence in the 20th century.

Udham Singh: The Revenge of Jallianwala Bagh
Anita Anand
Simon & Schuster
Pp370, Rs 499

Indians needed to be taught obedience, believed Michael O’Dwyer, Lieutenant Governor of Punjab. On April 13, 1919, he marched his soldiers into the walled garden and ordered them to open fire. According to legend, a young, low-caste orphan named Udham Singh was injured in the massacre. Trapped in the Bagh till morning, he was forced to hear the cries of the dying. At dawn, he is said to have picked up a handful of blood-soaked earth, smeared it across his forehead and vowed vengeance. The book shines a devastating light on one of the Raj’s most horrific events, but reads like a taut thriller.

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