Jallianwala Bagh Massacre Photo Exhibition in Wellington

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‘Punjab under Siege’ at St Peters Church from November 21 to 28, 2019

Venkat Raman
Auckland, October 26, 2019

Wellingtonians and visitors to the Capital will be able to understand the ‘Jallianwala Bagh Massacre,’ at an exhibition scheduled to be held next month.

Organised jointly by Ekta New Zealand and New Zealand India Research Institute, the Photo Exhibition, called, ‘Punjab under Siege,’ will be held at St Peters Church located at 211 Willis Street in Wellington.

Ekta New Zealand said that Labour MP and Chief Labour Whip Michael Wood will officially open the Exhibition at a formal ceremony commencing at 530 pm on November 21, 2019.

“The exhibition revisits the event, its causes and aftermath and explores what is remembered, how it is remembered and what has been forgotten. Based on two years of research and curation by the Partition Museum Amritsar, it includes archival and audio-visual material which tells the narrative of the massacre through eyewitness accounts, photographs and official documents,” the organisers said.

Wellington will be the third city in the world where this exhibition will be held, after Amritsar in India and Manchester in the United Kingdom.

It follows the Centennial Observance of the Massacre held at the same venue on April 12, 2019 with Finance Minister Grant Robertson, the then Indian High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli and former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand.

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre Memorial in Amritsar, India

The rise of Indian Nationalism

The following is an extract of Sir Anand’s speech:

India at the time was a British Colony and a mixture, at that time, of States, princely kingdoms and people of various backgrounds and languages, all functioning as a Colony.

The beginnings of nationalism had been stirring and the colonial powers had seen fit to pass a statute called the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act 1919 which went through the Legislative Council in Delhi on March 10, 2019.

This piece of legislation, popularly known as the ‘Rowlatt Act’ or ‘Black Act,’ extended emergency measures of arrests without warrant incarceration without trial, trials without juries and preventive detention. This gave the Imperial authorities power to deal with what they termed revolutionary activities.

Many of India’s emerging national leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi were very critical of this new piece of legislation and there were demonstrations mounted in many parts of India, later in March and into April 1919.

Baisakhi Festival

The next piece of the mosaic is Baisakhi, the harvest feast acknowledged by Sikhs in mid April. It is a religious Festival characterised by prayers, processions and the raising of flags and occurs at the beginning of the solar year when people thank God for a good harvest.

It has traditionally been observed on March 12 and so, in Amritsar at the Jallianwala Bagh, there gathered many hundreds of people in order to celebrate Baisakhi.

The Massacre

The rest is, as they say, history when troops under the command and control of General Reginald Dyer, an Indian born but British officer of the Indian Army who fired rifle shots on the unarmed citizens. This has gone down in Indian history as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Hundreds of people lost their lives and a number of reactions were forthcoming with Dyer being removed from duty and being criticised for his actions. Many people say that the episode was a decisive step toward the end of British rule in India. Certainly, in the fullness of time, the country of so many different kinds of governance would become united as one country with one constitution and independence, notwithstanding having a population with as many as 16 languages and encompassing two time zones.

The Christchurch shootings

There is, may I suggest, then a thread that reaches out over a hundred years, and extends to Christchurch in our own country, where, on Friday, March 15, 2019, by reason of the actions of one person, 51 Muslim worshippers at Mosques, in two Christchurch locations lost their lives under gunfire and almost as many have suffered wounds and injuries requiring attention.

It is always difficult to state in a clear fashion what correct responses ought to be to such enormous and far reaching events. Much has been said and written about Jallianwala Bagh. The challenge is that linking these two horrific events should provide our resolve to stand against violence when it occurs and to try and ensure that it will never occur again.

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