The centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was marked by the Ghadar International through many public meetings in Britain and Australia during April, 2019.
There were two meetings in Britain, in Southall and Ilford on 13th and 14th April respectively. The first meeting in Australia was held in the open on 21st April, at Sikh Games in Melbourne. The second meeting was held on 28th April in Sydney.
At each of these events there were photo exhibitions about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the glorious history of uncompromising struggle of the Ghadari Babas. There were also photos exhibited, showing the atrocities committed by the Indian state against people waging struggles for their rights since 1947, i.e. after the British colonialists transferred power to the class of big capitalists and big landlords.
Comrades Dalvinder and Salvinder were the main speakers at all these meetings. Narating the events preceding the massacre, they pointed out that about 15,000-20,000 people had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh on Baisakhi Day to condemn the killing of more than two dozen people who were participating in a peaceful protest march three days earlier. The people had been protesting against the imprisonment of two leaders of the anti-colonial struggle, Dr Satyapal and Dr Saifudin Kichlew, and against the passing of the draconian Rowlatt Act. The Rowlatt Act allowed the authorities to arrest anybody without warning and prosecute them without a jury.
Recalling the background of the Rowlatt Act, the speakers said that the Rowlatt Act was the continuation of the Defence of India Act passed during the First World War. The Defence of India Act was used mainly against the revolutionaries of Hindustan Ghadar Party. The speakers explained that Hindustan Ghadar Party (HGP) was formed in US by the Indian immigrants who realised that the cause of racist attacks and racist discrimination in US and Canada was the enslavement of their country by the British colonialists. It became clear to them that although the British empress had declared, after the defeat of Ghadar of 1857, that all her subjects were equal, but in practice they were not allowed same rights as the Europeans. The British Secretary of State even refused to meet the delegation sent by the Indians in Canada to ask the British government to take measures for their safety and dignity.
As the First World War began, the HGP gave a call to all its members to go back to India and fight for the independence of their motherland. More than 8000 Ghadaris heeded the call of the party and went back, handing over everything they owned to the Party. They worked hard to moblise the British Indian Army to launch the second Ghadar to free India. They told Indian soldiers in British Indian Army not to fight for enslavement of other countries, like China, Turkey and Iran.
The speakers exposed the treacherous role played by the Indian National Congress. They explained that while HGP acted to make use of the opportunity provided by the World War to liberate India, the leaders of the Congress Party, especially MK Gandhi, were working to safeguard the British Empire by campaigning for recruitment of Indian youth in the army. Gandhi asked the INC to hold back all their demands including Home Rule and work wholeheartedly for the Victory of the British Empire. Gandhi, Nehru and other leaders of the Congress Party were instrumental in creating and fostering the illusion that the British Rule was beneficial to India and that after the victory of Britain in the War, Indians would be made partners in the British Empire.
The speakers pointed out that the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was a turning point in the struggle for independence of India. Even Gandhi was forced to wage non-cooperation movement in 1920. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre gave rise to leaders like Shaheed Udham Singh, who avenged the massacre by shooting dead the lieutenant governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer after 21 years. Twelve year old Shaheed Bhagat Singh was deeply affected by that event.
Referring to the campaign asking the British government to apologise for the massacre, the speakers’ view was that an apology for historical injustices will not be a sincere one, unless the British state stops launching unjust wars against other countries and the perpetrators of these wars are punished. Speakers recounted that Tony Blair took the decision to send the British army to Iraq despite opposition from the British people.
The speakers explained that in commemorating these historical events, we should draw lessons from them and work to ensure that these kind of atrocities do not happen again.
Comrades said that the sacrifices of our martyrs weakened the British rule. The colonialists were forced to transfer power to the class of Indian capitalists and big landlords in 1947. This class kept intact the state established by the British to exploit and plunder the land and labour of Indian people. Now it is the brown sahibs and the foreign capitalists who are using the same state to enrich themselves by robbing the resources and exploiting the labour of Indian people.
The present rulers have further perfected the policy of divide and rule. They kept the same draconian laws like sedition act and land acquisition laws and passed numerous anti-worker, anti-peasant laws to perpetuate their rule. They have committed many more massacres like the Jallianwala Bagh. Many examples were given of genocide committed by the state under the rule of Congress party and the BJP, like the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, demolition of Babri Masjid, genocide in Gujarat, the state terror in Chhattisgarh, Kashmir, and other regions of the country.
The speakers pointed out that O’Dwyer had commended Dyer for “teaching the Indians a lesson” for disobeying the rulers and justified his actions. The British government was forced to end the services of Dyer and allow him to retire. That was the only so called “punishment” to this butcher of Amritsar. Back in England the Tory party collected more than £60,000 for Dyer. Similarly the present Indian state has not punished any of the perpetrators of genocides committed against Sikhs, Muslims, Kashmiris, Assamese, etc. Describing the conditions of workers, peasants, students, women, Adivasis, Dalits and small shopkeepers, the speakers said that after more than 70 years of independence, the lot of ordinary people has become worse. Thousands of peasants have committed suicides Apart from the super-rich, all sections of Indian people are in turmoil and are waging struggles for their rights.
None of the parties of the rich are trusted by the people. The only solution offered by the Congress party and the BJP is to change the governing party at the centre and the states at each round of elections. But changing the governing party or the leaders does not make people the decision makers. People do not set the agenda or decide the direction of economy. We have seen various alliances of the parties of the rich come and go at the centre and the states. What does our experience show? That they all carry out the agenda of the monopoly capitalist class. The state is controlled by this class and they bring to power the party most effective in deceiving the people. Although they promise to end corruption, end poverty etc. but in practice they do their best to increase the wealth of the rich. Speaking about Prime Minister Modi’s claim that he is a Chowkidar who will safeguard the wealth of the country, one of the speakers said that far from being the Chowkidar safeguarding the country’s money from being stolen by the rich, Mr. Modi is actually facilitating the loot of our wealth and resources by the monopoly capitalist class, by viciously attacking all those who are opposing the exploitation, loot and plunder.
All the speeches concluded with the clear message that to stop the massacres like Jallianwala Bagh from happening again and again, the present system has to be replaced with a new system where the will of the people is paramount, where people are the decision makers.
Vigorous discussion took place after the speeches. Many people present at the meetings expressed serious concern about the situation in our country. Many questions were raised, which the speakers addressed, about the agenda of our rulers, the grave dangers to our people and the need to take the people’s struggles forward.