In the oft-blotted copybook of British rule in India, no atrocity left a darker stain than the massacre at Jallianwalabagh, a public garden in Amritsar. The name Jallianwalabagh itself was such a mouthful that the sahibs preferred to refer to it as the Amritsar Massacre. Jallianwalabagh was a misnomer anyway. In the bagh (‘garden’) of the Jallia-wala (‘man from Jallia’) flowers had long ceased to bloom. By 1919 discarded food wrappings and orange peel provided the only colour and four scruffy trees the only cover. Enclosed within a high wall and a jumble of box-like houses, the six-acre site was a dust bowl, an urban wasteland to which Amritsar’s citizens, spilling from the narrow lanes that led to the Sikhs’ Golden Temple, resorted for recreation and occasional assembly.
On the afternoon of 13 April 1919 anything from 5,000 to 25,000 people gathered in the garden. They had been drawn there by calls for a public meeting to endorse Gandhi’s denunciation of the repressive Rowlatt Acts and protest against the detention of Amritsar’s leading nationalists. Most protesters