After 25 civilians were killed in Amritsar by the British police on April 10, 1919 in the days leading up to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the protests spread to different parts of Punjab — many of them now in Pakistan. In Lahore, protesters marched from Lahore Gate to Anarkali Bazaar raising slogans on the same evening, forcing the police to open fire and arrest nine people for “rioting”.
Several protests followed in Lahore on April 12, 1919 — one in which crowd tore pictures of the British monarch, and another where Hindu leaders addressed a gathering at Lahore’s Babri mosque.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13 that year brought about a sudden surge in such protests in west Punjab. Gujranwala was most affected after news of Baisakhi massacre reached there and protests spread to small towns and villages of Rawalpindi, Gujrat and Lahore. A book on Jallianwala Bagh incident written by Dr Gursharan Singh and Dr Balraj Sagar, says that 13 major violent incidents were reported in different districts of west Punjab.
“I have been working on the 1919 unrest in Punjab and it was largely spread of what we now know as Pakistan. Except Amritsar, most of this unrest was in Punjab that went to Pakistan,” said Kamaljit Kaur, a research scholar with the Guru Nanak Dev University.
“The British even used bombs in Gujranwala to curb a protest which was in response to the Baisakhi massacre. It would be wrong to say that all people were angry with the Rowlatt Act. Most of the people, who were participating in such gatherings, were not even aware Rowlatt Act. They were suffering the consequences of the First World War. There was increase in inflation and people had no money to buy food. Many saw their loved ones going to war and not coming back. There were many factors that people were fed up and it was largely happening in this belt of Punjab,” Kaur said.
She added: “Partition has created a barrier in understanding Jallianwala Bagh, because majority of the episodes after Jallianwala Bagh massacre were reported in west Punjab, which is now part of Pakistan. Hardly any mention about these incidents is found in the school and college books here. So the common man, who is not a historian, finds it difficult to understand why Jallianwala Bagh happened and what was the immediate reaction to it.”
Pakistan-based writer and journalist, Faizan Naqvi said,”Jallinawala Bagh is part of school syllabus in Pakistan, but even in Pakistan children are not taught about the incidents which were taking place in Lahore, Gujranwala and other districts of west Punjab. It is not only 100th anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh, but also of all those incidents which were happening at that time.”
He too believes that Partition has become a big barrier in understanding the history of the massacre. “Now people living in Lahore, Gujranwala Rawalpindi, Gujarat do not know about the struggle of their forefathers 100 years back. It is true that people hardly know about Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the related episodes in Pakistan. Partition has become a big barrier. It has affected the history of undivided Punjab. Jallianwala Bagh would be understood differently if history were taught on both sides in absence of Partition narrative,” said Naqvi.