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Jallianwala Bagh – Why Indians fired on Indians

I lived in Hong Kong for some years. One of the facts I observed was that Hong Kongers by and large do not like Indians and many of them even hate us. Whether an Indian goes on to look for a home or on the streets to buy groceries, the feeling is palpable. Many Indians I talked to said they feel it rather strongly. I had asked several people but got no satisfactory answer.

Finally, I asked a local friend about the reason. He was a historian at one of Hong Kong’s University. At first he tried to deny that this exists but then later said the roots of it are historical. “Do you know,” he said, “the British came to Hong Kong in 1841 and when they tried to build the first police force with the help of locals, they realized that the loyalty of the locals cannot be trusted to follow their orders or shoot and kill if their fellow brethren revolted or were a rebellion. But they realized they didn’t have the same experience in India. So they brought the Indians. The first batch of Indians who came brutalized and tortured the people here. The memory still lives in the mind of every person here and we haven’t forgiven you for it and will never do,” he said in a deeply emotional voice. “You Indians followed orders and didn’t show any mercy towards us which we expected you would do.”

I could only apologize to him and said it was an injustice. But what he had said left me perturbed. In social sciences ‘the other’ is a term that denotes how human beings divide, create walls with other groups whom they perceive as not similar to them and even inferior. For the American ‘the other’ is everyone who is outside America. For the British everyone who is not White and outside the country is ‘the other’. For the man from Pakistan it has become the Indian. Same can be said of the Chinese. But the curious thing for Indians is that for many an Indians ‘the other’ is not an outsider but another Indian only with whom his deepest chasm lies. He is someone whom we make into an enemy.

“You Indians, you have done it with your own people, like in Jallianwala Bagh. That is how the British controlled your nation for two centuries, isn’t it?” The historian’s words have stayed with me since then.

In one of his books, Amitav Ghosh, the author, writes that the British believed that the Indians can always be relied upon to ruthlessly put down any one whether their own in India or anywhere else on their orders, something they could never imagine doing with anyone else. Would a Japanese be ever trusted to fire on its own people on the orders of a foreign General? Would a Chinese army have done so when asked? I believe the answer is a big no.

As one ex-General from the former British Indian army said, “The British were masters in making the Indian people believe that they were fighting on the side of the truth and so when the Indians fought a fellow Indian they saw him as evil and felt little or no guilt killing him.”

Is that why even today we are deeply divided, can torture a fellow Indian and feel little empathy, even shoot at him or beat him to death?

Why did we Indians create ‘the other’ amongst each other and not outside like other nations do?

Once, a British historian, on the mention of Jallianwala Bagh, said that a British police force or army would never shoot at its own people if asked to do so.

Why did we Indians did it then? I believe it is worth finding an answer to this dilemma.

Why didn’t the police force refuse to follow Michael Dyer’s orders and not shoot at their own people? This maybe is one of the most poignant and perplexing questions in understanding why British could rule India.

Has the notion of ‘the other’ as one we can hate and eliminate always existed amongst us in our history and as one that the British only perfected when they came in contact with us? I wish to ask this on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh if we as a society created a gap within that can cause fissures and we can again be ordered into maniacal behavior on the orders of a white man or woman.

Did we carry our philosophy of ‘vasudeva kutumbakam’ too far and become like the subjects in Milgram’s experiment?

Jallianwala Bagh to me appears to be not the action of a deranged, crazy lunatic General but of a psychopath who knew this weakness of Indians only too well, who understood this mindset in us. He knew that when ordered to fire, the men wouldn’t stop because the cries of their own country men would have no effect on them. This philosophy, sick and dangerous, may need to be addressed and understood that may lead us to kill each other or destroy. Will it ever lead us to become a united cohesive nation and not hold us back?

Creating ‘the other’ and making him into an enemy is dehumanizing which has just not only been symbolic, making us slaves but also making us lose what is the most precious, our freedom. It delineated us from the power that rightfully belonged to us as a nation.

Last year we visited the Jallianwala Bagh. There were hundreds of people laughing, talking and taking pictures. No single face looked solemn. Only some seemed curious looking at the Well or the Bullet marks on the wall. Where does this detachment from our history comes from?

Slavery dehumanized us Indians. As we know from history, no group cedes its privileges over others out of altruism but is forced to do so when the privileges they enjoy begin to threaten their survival. Gandhi could never do that to the British. Only once during the INA Trials and the Naval Revolt, it happened when the idea of one Indian being separate from ‘the other’ got erased terrifying the British into thinking it might bring their annihilation in India.

Will the present generation erase this blot? In it perhaps lies the safety that will make our future generations safe from the contradictions that pushed our ancestors into slavery and annihilating each other.

Courtesy: Author Rajat Mitra

(Psychologist and Author of ‘The Infidel Next Door’)

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Dibyendu Deepak

    April 16, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Very well written and absolutely correct. We have been ruled by “others” for the last 1000 years and even today we refuse to change perhaps its in our DNA.

    I didn’t watch movie “Kesari” for the precise reason. Battle of Saragarhi – 21 Sikh soldiers fought for Britishers but fought against Afridi , Pathans ( now part of Pakistan and Afganistan) who were fighting British. Year was 1897 almost 40 years later to first war of independence. But these shameless soldiers chose to side with British.

    Time and again we show our character. Even today, there are many such “traitors” who want to fight against Indian on the name of secularism.

  2. SuchindranathAiyerS

    April 17, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    This was a systematic, vicious and brilliant plan that the British (Indian Political Service) devised in the Viceregal period following the supercession of the East India Company by the Crown (1858). Delayed by the opposition of Lord Roberts and Curzon, The unrest under Chelmsford added to the reprisal unleashed by Lord Reading.

    After the 1857 mutiny, having had every Brahmin man, woman and child that they could lay hands in the erstwhile Bengal Presidency, Central Provinces, and United Provinces massacred by way of reprisal by their Madrassi, Pathan and Sikh soldiers, the British put together their plan to subjugate India and began the implementation from 1921; Confiscation of Savarna Commonwealth (Temples, treasure etc) in 1923 and expulsion of the Brahmanas from the courts and de recognizing their judicial authority. Distribution of agricultural lands on which guru kulas and temples were dependent to the ryots, Commencement of Daalit Movement (Phule, Ambedkar etc) in the West. Commencement of Draavid movement (EVR Naiker etc) in the South. Subversion of the Sikhs through Kartar and Karag (Sialkot) to commence the Akali movement in the North. Self emasculating pacifism and worship of alien religions and ideologies such as communism (Alan Octavian Hume, Indian National Congress, Gandhi, Nehru) etc etc. This and the pampering of the Deen e Kitabi (Christians and Moslems) as well as Daalits was enshrined in the Indian Constitution condemning India to a perpetual low intensity civil war. They solidified this by confiscating the commonwealth, including temples, educational institutions, gymnasiums, lands, water bodies, religious freedoms and dispossessing their hereditary law and education giving priesthood so that they would become rootless.

    The PANGOLIN*s extended the same policies to residual India including the unfortunate, formerly well governed, Princely States (Vijayanagar Viceregalities or Palegars and Maratha Governorates) such as Mysore, Travancore, Puri, Kohlapur, etc.

    The Government of India Act (1935) which was modified by Sir Maurice Gwyer for Nehru and Ambedkar to plagiarize into the Indian Constitution, and into which they embroidered ideas that they borrowed from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, such as “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” and “Four legs good, two legs bad”

    A nation locked in the iron maiden of the British Judiciary, Bureaucracy, Police, garnished with self serving politicians, and raised on the gibbet of the Reservations-Extortion Constitution and laws to fall to 135 out of 172 countries (and below Sub-Saharan Africa) in the Global Human and Social Development Index (UNDP – 2016) and 143 rd out of 172 countries in internal Peace and Stability (UNDP – 2016) , home to 30% of the World’s poor (World Bank 2016) and with the highest number of Bomb Blast in the World 2016) pushing Iraq to a lowly second place with just half as many; in just 67 years. India ranks 107 out of 124 countries in corruption free law enforcement and personal security. And in 2018 achieved the distinction of ranking 81 on the list of corrupt countries, ranked from Least Corrupt downwards, and 182 in terms of Freedom of Speech !

    *Note: PANGOLIN: An enemy of India who believes in inequality under law, exceptions to the rule of law and persecution of some for the benefit of others. At present, the sole purpose of the Indian Republic, Constitutional or otherwise, is to pamper and provide for certain constitutionally preferred sections of society who the British found useful to hold and exploit India at the cost of those who the British hated and persecuted. The Pangolin is a creature that is unique to India and feeds on ants that are known in nature to be industrious and hard working if not quite as fruitful as bees who flee to better climes. (PANGOLIN is an acronym for the Periyar-Ambedkar-Nehru-Gandhi-Other (alien) Religions-Communist Consensus that usurped the British Mantle and has worn it with elan to loot, plunder, and rape India since 1921 and re write History and laws to their exclusive benefit since 1947)

  3. Raj Raj

    April 19, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Dibyendu Deepak – appreciate and agree with your point of view.

    Modern free India is less than 100 years old.
    Prior to this, India was a slave for 1000 years.
    Prior to that India was free (& strong)

    I don’t know much about DNA – but the original Indian was a progressive, free-thinker who strived to live and let live. That would be our original DNA – that gave birth to Yoga, Astrology, Palmistry, Astronomy, Math, Ayurved, Meditation, Wholistic health and many other virtues.

    But a thousand years of slavery has altered that DNA. Somehow loyalty to Master and little importance to self (& fellow indians) has creeped in our DNA! (survival instincts !)

    Now we are impatient to re-alter quickly with not even 75 years of freedom!
    Impatience can be a virtue – but the way Rajat Mitra and scores of other reformers put it down – hardly helps the cause. It depresses people and possibly sets back an Indian’s quest for original free-thinking a few years with each such hopeless article. Yes jalianwala tragedy makes every modern indian cry – without needing a hongkonger to tell us that. We can keep crying and wait for sympathies – or put that aside and march forward with determination.

    WE ARE 25 YEARS AWAY FROM A MAGNIFICENT COUNTRY WITH BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE !!! MAX 25 YEARS !
    You and I’d be lying if we do not admit the prosperity and empowerment we are witnessing in people across the nation in just the last decade. Citing one case of acid-attack or eighteen cases of religious intolerance should not cloud the overall mass of progress made by a billion people country.

    Continue to curb the evils firmly and let the “progressive india” Juggernaut keep chugging forward – join it, don’t decry it.

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