THE MUKHERJEE family has been taking care of the Jallianwala Bagh for three generations. Sukumar Mukherjee is incumbent secretary of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust.
According to the family, Sukumar’s grandfather and Congress party leader Sashti Charan Mukherjee had come from West Bangal to Amritsar in 1910. They say he was present when General Dyer had opened fire on Baisakhi in 1919, but escaped by hiding under a table. Later, he along with others worked to raise funds to acquire the land of Jallianwala Bagh. Since then, the Mukherjee family has been staying in a house in the premises.
Sukumar’s father Uttam Charan had become secretary of the trust after the death of Charan Mukherjee, who was its first secretary.
As it hold the reins to the Jallianwala Bagh administration, the Mukherjees are the only ones identified as a victim family, while the government and Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust failed to keep track of more than 500 victim families whose members were either injured or killed in the massacre.
It was historian Malwinder Jit Singh Waraich who had approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2009 to demand ‘freedom fighter’ status for such families. The court had ordered the Punjab government to include such families in the list of ‘freedom fighters families’. However, nothing was done to implement the order.
How this will impact the observation of the 100th anniversary of the massacre (April 13) is yet to be seen.
Jallianwala Bagh trust member Tarlochan Singh had approached the Amritsar district administration to make arrangements to felicitate the victims’ families as a mark of respect on the date.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Tarlochan said he was surprised to find that neither the government not the trust has an authentic list of victim families.
“I wanted to honour the victim families and had approached Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Shivdular Singh Dhillon for this purpose. However, he told me that there are various lists in circulation and there could be a controversy. So it will not be possible to invite the victim families in such a situation.”
Asked about the same, Dhillon said, “There are many lists and it is difficult to ascertain their authenticity after so many years.”
Sukumar Mukherjee said, “I have seen 7 survivors of the massacre, they were honoured at the 50th anniversary in 1969 by then prime minister Indira Gandhi, who had come to Amritsar. My father was secretary of the trust at that time. At that time, the survivors were given Rs 5,000 each.”
“No victim families are in touch with us directly. People often come to me to claim that their forefather had died in the Jallianwala Bagh, but how can we crosscheck their claim?” he asked.
There is a first person account of a woman called Rattan Devi displayed at the memorial. It says that she lost her husband Chajju Bhagat in the massacre, and that her house was near the Bagh.
However, trust authorities said they are not aware about the location of the house, or whether anyone from Rattan Devi’s family is still alive.