100 years of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: On display in Lahore, documents that detail horrors committed by the British in 1919

Divya Goyal
Jallianwala Bagh memorial in Amritsar.

An exhibition displaying secret official documents of British India government related to Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, its aftermath and the Martial law (that was imposed by the British in Punjab banning public assemblies to suppress agitations against them) opened in Pakistan's Lahore Saturday.

The exhibition - '100 Years of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre & Martial Law in Punjab – The Official Records Speak Themselves' was inaugurated by Tahir Yousaf, secretary (archives), government of Punjab, Pakistan.

From telegrams declaring Martial Law to reports on outbreak of upheaval in Amritsar, at least 50 such documents, which were never put in public domain before, have been displayed at the exhibition that remains open till April 26.

An official brief said that these documents "throw a new light on the horrors committed by the British government" in Punjab "after declaration of Martial law in Amritsar, Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat (in Pakistan) and Lyallpur districts in 1919". It says that "facts were not only hidden from people of British India and England, but the Hunter Commission (constituted by the British to probe Jallianwala Bagh massacre) was also kept ignored".

Speaking to The Sunday Express over phone from Lahore, Muhammad Arfeen Awan, deputy director (archives), government of Punjab, said, "These documents have been sequenced and displayed for first time. It is an effort to tell younger generation of Pakistan about the cost that people from both India and Pakistan paid to get the freedom and expose atrocities done by the British. These are the rare secret British government documents of 1919 that are only in possession of Pakistan. We have displayed copies here."

From telegrams declaring Martial Law to reports on outbreak of upheaval in Amritsar, at least 50 such documents, which were never put in public domain before, have been displayed at the exhibition that remains open till April 26.

The documents put on display include: a report dated April 13, 1919 regarding outbreak of disturbances in Lahore, Amritsar, Kasur, Ahmadabad and Patna; a telegram dated April 15, 1919, which states that Martial Law has been declared in Lahore and Amritsar; a telegram of April 19, 1919 stating that the first riot in Lahore occurred on April 10 and further stating that a murder occurred in Amritsar on April 10 and persons involved should be tried by the Military commission; and a telegram of April 24 the same year reporting news of hartal at Lyallpur and Gojra and that Martial Law has been declared in Lyallpur.

There also is a letter by Rawalpindi Governor on May 3, 1919 in which he wrote to chief secretary, Punjab to take strict action to ensure respect for all Europeans after a stone was thrown in Jhelum by crowd at car of 'Mr Barton', then deputy commissioner Rawalpindi. He also asks for imposing Martial Law in Jhelum to "teach people discipline as a punishment".

Martial law copy ordering students of Dyal Singh College to report to commanding officer four times a day.

Also on display is an extract from "O.M.'s Propaganda Report' dated April 15, 1919 saying that "racial passions run high in Amritsar".

A letter of September 3, 1919 by Amritsar deputy commissioner reports final death figure at Jallianwala Bagh as 291, including two women and five children (under 15 years).

Read | Jallianwala Bagh massacre: Lost in pages of history, protest tremors that shook Punjab now in Pak

A copy of notice distributed in Amritsar to get correct information from general public about how many people died at Jallianwala Bagh, Lahore deputy commissioner's letter dated September 8, 1919 saying that some school boys were whipped on orders of Officer Commanding (Kasur) and two boys aged 10 and 8 were tried under Martial Law and awarded six stripes each, and a letter of Amritsar deputy commissioner dated November 8, 1919 enclosing map of district showing scenes of various outrages by using confidential signs and marks is also on display.

Then there is a list showing different outrages committed in Lyallpur district, a copy of ordinance dated April 14, 1919 regarding trial of persons charged with offence under the Bangal State Offences Regulation, 1804; a copy of instructions for Guidance of Officers administering Martial Law in Lahore; copy of warrant of extraction on sentence of death passed by Military Court of Commission, Lahore and Martial Law order number 30 dated April 17, 1919 by Officer Commanding regarding arrest of all male persons residing in hostel o Sanatan Dharam College, Lahore on tearing a Martial Law order from the walls.

Several other Martial Law orders copies on display include: An order dated April 18, 1919 directing students of Dyal Singh College, Lahore to report to Commanding Officer four times a day; another order dated April 25, 1919 issued warning to students of Lahore regarding obscene and filthy comments on pictures of Naval and military forces, military and other forces published in newspapers; another order dated May 5, 1919 regarding punishments inflicted to the 16 students of King Edward Medical College Lahore on participating in riots and an order dated May 10, 1919 on the regarding steps taken against all Afghan nationals residing in Lahore who were told not to leave area without written permission.

A notice that was circulated in Amritsar after Jallianwala Bagh massacre (in Punjabi and Urdu) asking people about information on deceased.

A copy of letter by chief secretary Punjab dated May 23, 1919 regarding judgement of Kasur Rebel case were 13 persons were sentenced to death and 13 given life imprisonment; copy of a notification dated May 27, 1919 and a copy of orders dated June 14, 1919 regarding lifting of Martial Law in Lahore, Kasur, Amritsar, Gujranwala and Gujrat districts- are also on display.

Speaking to The Sunday Express from Lahore, president of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation, Pakistan, Imtiaz Qureshi said that the Punjab Province government has put up the exhibition following their request to Prime Minsiter Imran Khan.

- With Anju Agnihotri Chaba in Jalandhar