It started a few months after the end of the first world war when an Englishwoman, a missionary, reported that she had been molested on a street in the Punjab city of Amritsar. The Raj’s local commander, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, issued an order requiring all Indians using that street to crawl its length on their hands and knees. He also authorized the indiscriminate, public whipping of natives who came within lathi length of British policemen.
On April 13, 1919, a multitude of Punjabis gathered in Amritsar’s Jallian wala Bagh as part of the Sikh Festival “Baisakhi fair” and to protest at these extraordinary measures. The throng, penned in a narrow space had been peacefully listening to the testimony of victims when General R.E.H. Dyer appeared at the head of a contingent of British troops. Giving no word of warning, he ordered 50 soldiers to fire into the gathering, and for 10 to 15 minutes 1,650 rounds of ammunition were unloaded into the screaming, terrified crowd. Apart from the many deaths directly from the shooting, a number of people died in stampedes at the narrow gates or by jumping into the solitary well on the compound to escape the shooting. . Official British Raj sources estimated the fatalities at 379, and with 1,100 wounded. However, the casualty number quoted by the Indian National Congress was more than 1,500, with roughly 1,000 killed.
Dyer’s response to the Hunter Commission Enquiry said he did not stop the shooting when the crowd began to disperse because he thought it was his duty to keep shooting until the crowd dispersed, and that a little shooting would not do any good. In fact he continued the shooting till the ammunition was almost exhausted. In a telegram sent to Dyer, British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer wrote: “Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves.” A Sikh teenager Udham Singh saw the happening with his own eyes and avenged the killings of his countrymen by killing Michael O’Dwyer in Caxton Hall of London on 13th March 1940. On the 31st July, 1940, Udham Singh was hanged.