Ep 6: Jallianwala Bagh: The Brutality of the Empire

1947: Road to Indian Independence

Aug 10 2022 • 32 mins

Even as nationalist consciousness was growing, the British decided to embark on what was arguably one of the most coercive phases of colonial rule. In 1919, soon after the First World War ended, the British introduced the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919, popularly called the Rowlatt Acts. The new legislation provided for indefinite preventive detention. It imposed controls on free speech and the free press. It violated every tenet of a rule-of-law-based society. But this attack on civil liberties led to an upsurge. As the Mahatma called for a Satyagraha, Punjab emerged as a site of resistance and repression. And it was here, in April 1919, that the British showed their most brutal avatar, massacring hundreds of unarmed civilians who had congregated at Jallianwala Bagh in the cruellest fashion possible. In this episode, Durba Ghosh, the Cornell historian and author of Gentlemanly Terrorists: Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919-1947, takes us through Britain’s coercive machinery and how the Amritsar massacre transformed Indian nationalism.