On April 13, 1919, about 25,000 unarmed Indians had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, an open area enclosed by high walls of flat-roofed houses in a densely populated part of the city. Many were listening to speakers denouncing the iniquities of the Rowlatt Act. Later, soldiers led by Brigadier General REH Dyer, entered the Bagh.
Without warning the crowd to disperse, Dyer ordered his troops to open fire. Several hundred died and many more were injured. The massacre was universally condemned by all including many Britons.
In his new book, Crimson Spring (Aleph Book Company), author Navtej Sarna brings the horror of the atrocity to life by viewing it through the eyes of nine characters—Indians and Britons, ordinary people and powerful officials, the innocent and the guilty, whose lives are changed forever by the events the day. Set against the epic backdrop of India’s freedom struggle, World War I, and the Ghadar movement, Crimson Spring is an unsettling look at a barbarous act.
“For long I wished to write about it, and the people during those times, and revolutionaries who died for India’s freedom,” said Sarna, here on an invitation from Chandigarh Literary Society (CLS). On the use of fiction, Sarna said one cannot take liberty with history and historic characters in it, but it is the emotional turmoil that can be depicted through the fiction.