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Rowlatt Act & Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Rowlatt Act & Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Rowlatt Act & Jallianwala Bagh Massacre:-Rowlatt Satyagraha was in response to the British government enacting the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919, popularly known as the Rowlatt Act. Gandhiji called for a countrywide campaign against the Rowlatt Act.

Rowlatt Act

The British colonial government passed this act based on the recommendations of the Sedition Committee, which was chaired by Sir Sidney Rowlatt. Despite the united opposition of the Indian members, the Imperial Legislative Council hurriedly passed this Act. The Indian public referred to it as the ‘Black Act’ due to its unjust and restrictive nature. On 18th March 1919, the Imperial Legislative Council passed the Act, which essentially extended the emergency provisions imposed by the 1915 Defence of India Act enacted during the First World War.

The Act gave the government the power to imprison any person suspected of terrorist activities for a maximum period of two years without trial. It also provided for preventive indefinite detention and also arrest without a warrant. Other provisions were juryless trials for forbidden political acts. Convicted people were to deposit securities upon their release and also refrain from taking part in any political, religious or educational activities. The Rowlatt Act also severely curbed the freedom of the press. All the Indian members of the Imperial Legislative Council opposed the bill. Despite this, the bill was passed. This Act which gave the police huge powers was opposed by the people. The Act was described as “No Dalil, No Vakil, No Appeal”.

Impact Of World War I On India

Mahatma Gandhi wanted non-violent civil disobedience against such unjust laws, which would start with a hartal on 6 April 1919. But before it could be launched, there were large-scale violent, anti-British demonstrations in Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Ahmedabad, etc. ‘ Especially in Punjab, the situation became explosive due to wartime repression, forcible recruitments, and ravages of disease. In towns across North and West India, life came to a standstill, as shops shut down and schools closed in response to the bandh call.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

On April 9, 1919, two nationalist leaders, Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr. Satyapal, were arrested by the British officials without any provocation except that they had addressed protest meetings, and were taken to some unknown destination.

This caused resentment among the Indian protestors who came out in thousands on April 10 to show their solidarity with their leaders.

Soon the protests turned violent because the police resorted to firing and some of the protestors were killed. To curb any future protest government put martial law in place and law and order in Punjab was handed over to BrigadierGeneral Dyer.

Hunter Commission

The government formed a committee of inquiry to investigate the Jallianwala Bagh shootings. On October 14, 1919, the Government of India announced the formation of the Disorders Inquiry Committee. The committee was commonly known as Hunter Commission after the name of the chairman, Lord William Hunter. It also had Indian members. In the final report submitted in March 1920, the committee unanimously condemned Dyer’s actions. However, the Hunter Committee did not impose any penal or disciplinary action against General Dyer.

Nationalist Response

  • Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in protest.
  • Mahatma Gandhi gave up the title of Kaiser-i-Hind, bestowed by the British for his work during the Boer War.
  • Gandhi was overwhelmed by the atmosphere of total violence and withdrew from the movement on April 18, 1919.
  • The Indian National Congress appointed its own non-official committee that included Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das, Abbas Tyabji, M.R. Jayakar, and Gandhi to look into the shootings.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Rowlatt Act and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

What was the Rowlatt Act?

The Rowlatt Act, also known as the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919, was a legislative measure enacted by the British colonial government in India. It granted the authorities sweeping powers to arrest and detain individuals without trial, curtailed civil liberties, and restricted freedom of speech and assembly.

What were the reasons behind the enactment of the Rowlatt Act?

The British government introduced the Rowlatt Act in response to the unrest and anti-colonial movements that emerged in India during the freedom struggle. It aimed to suppress nationalist activities and maintain control over the Indian population by curbing civil liberties.

What led to the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre?

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre took place on April 13, 1919, in Amritsar, Punjab, India. It occurred when British troops, under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer, opened fire on a peaceful gathering of thousands of Indians who had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh to protest against the Rowlatt Act. The massacre resulted in hundreds of deaths and injured many more.

Read more: Revolutionary Terrorism

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