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May 24, 2019
New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) Turbans, shoes and blood strewn across a barren land, a whipping post to which Indians were tied and flogged, and a deep well where many victims of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre fell into when shot at a 100 years back, have been recreated, almost as tools of time travel, at an ongoing exhibition here.
Titled “Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Commemoration Exhibition (1919-2019)” — an extensive show of archival reports, newspapers, installations, audio resources and photographs detailing the aftermath of the brutal event.
It has been put together by The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust (TAACHT) at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
The exhibition starts with the troubled landscape of Punjab under the repressive regime of Michael O’Dwyer, the then Lt. Governor of Punjab, the organisers told IANS. It is followed by an extensive section on Gandhi’s “satyagraha” against the “Black Bills” — Rowlatt Bills that sought to extend many war-time emergency measures after the World War I.
The show, which as per TAACHT Chairperson and author Kishwar Desai, took over two years to compile, depicts how April was the cruellest month for many who lived in Amritsar, and other cities of undivided Punjab in 1919.
“They were whipped, forced to crawl, stripped, humiliated, shot at, jailed, bombed and massacred,” says Desai, who has also authored the book “Jallianwala Bagh, 1919, The Real Story”.
The centenary exhibition, which has travelled here from Amritsar’s Partition Museum, also gives voice to the untold stories of the victims, and uses the first-hand testimonies of people in the Bagh that day. It also features the voices of their family members who hold a memory of the massacre in their family history.
As per the research by Desai’s team, the death toll of the massacre is at least 502, not counting 45 unidentified corpses. Of these, only a handful were women.
The official toll given by the British is 379, which is often contested by Indian researchers.
The exhibition, which places the April 13 massacre within the larger context of the political duress faced by Punjab, also explores if the event was a “pre-planned conspiracy”.
“On the morning of April 13, Dwyer had banned public meetings through cursory proclamations, but none of the announcements were made near the Bagh, nor, deliberately, were people prevented from gathering there.
“An aeroplane flew over the Bagh around 4.30 pm to inform Dwyer when sufficient people were present. He then marched through the only narrow entrance (and exit) with his troops, comprising Baluchis and Gurkhas. He ordered firing on the crowd as soon as he entered, without any announcement for dispersal,” Desai said.
The show brings forth many lesser-known sides of the bloodbath, its precedents and consequences. It is open to the public till April 28 here.