On the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, British Indian author Saurav Dutt honours the victims of the infamous bloodbath of hundreds of unarmed Indians by the British Army under the command of Colonel James Dyer, and the revolutionary spirit of Udham Singh who avenged it, in his book being launched today in the House of Lords in the UK.
The historical fiction novel Garden of Bullets: Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh “offers an emotional plot that takes audiences deep into the characters of the time and the struggles pulsating through India”, says the Kolkata-born author.
“It is also important for younger generations to understand the trauma of this episode of colonial rule and how it utterly transformed the trajectory of Indian national determination and independence. I wrote this as a tribute to the fallen and to allow youngsters to understand what Indian had to go through at its darkest hour,” Dutt told Connected to India, describing the book authored in historical fiction style.
The special commemorative book was collated with research from the Partition Museum archives (set up by The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust), Amritsar, India and interviews with descendants of those who experienced the massacre and period of martial law. Revisiting the event, its causes and aftermath, it delves into the causes for the unrest in Punjab before, during and after the events of April 13, 1919 when British troops opened fire on peaceful Indian protestors on the orders of Colonel Reginald Dyer.
Dutt says he wants the book to be more than another recounting of the tragedy. Rather, he claims that “the Amritsar Massacre of 1919 lifted the curtain behind the colonial enterprise of the British Raj and showed just how heartless and unethical it really was” which he plans the book should reflect.
“Many Britons have grown up believing their homeland saved and civilised the world, while atrocities, genocide and human rights abuses often go unmentioned. Successive governments have failed to narrow this knowledge gap, whether by setting up truth commissions, establishing a museum of colonialism or teaching schoolchildren about colonialism as part of the standard curriculum. Embarrassing facts are neatly filed away, labelled as “the past”, and on the rare occasions that the archives are inspected, damning evidence is nowhere to be seen,” Dutt said.
The UK government’s head-in-the-sand mentality was on public display for all to see this week, with their refusal to issue a formal apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre after a debate in the House of Commons and despite British Prime Minister Theresa May calling it a “shameful scar” of UK’s history.
“The tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh of 1919 is a shameful scar on British Indian history. As Her Majesty the Queen (Elizabeth II) said before visiting Jallianwala Bagh in 1997, it is a distressing example of our past history with India,” May had said. Dutt also didn’t pull any punches while reacting to these events.
“By folding their arms and wishing away the deep hurt associated with the unethical and unjust events of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, the UK Parliament has shown how tone deaf it is to the true historical trauma of this event. In a diverse Britain, where so many Punjabis, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims have enriched its culture and economy over the years, it is remarkable that the government not only could not find the heart to apologise but to at least offer a promise to review colonial history in its education system as a default,” he said.
Dutt is part of a long list of politicians such as MPs Virendra Sharma and Bob Blackman, British Peers including Lord Meghnad Desai and Lord Raj Loomba and authors such as Anita Anand who have publicly campaigned for a formal apology from the British government for an apology for the atrocity. At the 9th Asian Awards in London yesterday he was part of an event bestowing the Founder’s Award to a descendant of a victim of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Today, he is launching Garden of Bullets: Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh at an event at the House of Lords featuring Lord Desai and Lord Loomba as well as dignitaries from India and the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Committee. They will also be debating the latest comments from the UK Parliament about their non-apology.
Born in Kolkata and raised in the United Kingdom, Dutt has written extensively for several prominent journals that cover issues of sociology, media and political economy. His books focus on issues pertaining to South Asian diaspora issues.
Garden of Bullets: Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh is for sale this week through R3M Productions, available in paperback and Ebook formats, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and all good bookstores.