The Rowlatt Act 1919 and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre – History

Gandhiji in 1919 decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act 1919. The Act had been hurriedly passed by the Imperial Legislative Council despite the united opposition of the Indian members. It gave the government enormous powers to repress political activities and allowed the detention of political prisoners without trial for two years. 

Mahatma Gandhi wanted non-violent civil disobedience against such unjust laws, which would start with a hartal on 6 April. Rallies were organized in various cities, workers went on strike in railway workshops, and shops closed down. Alarmed by the popular upsurge, and scared that lines of communication such as the railways and telegraph would be disrupted, the British administration decided to clamp down on nationalists.

Local leaders were picked up from Amritsar, and Mahatma Gandhi was barred from entering Delhi. On 10 April, the police in Amritsar fired upon a peaceful procession, provoking widespread attacks on banks, post offices, and railway stations. Martial law was imposed and General Dyer took command.

On 13th April, the infamous Jallianwalla Bagh incident took place. On that day a large crowd gathered in the enclosed ground of Jallianwalla Bagh. Some came to protest against the government’s new repressive measures. Others had come to attend the annual Baisakhi fair. Being from outside the city, many villagers were unaware of the martial law that had been imposed.

Dyer entered the area, blocked the exit points, and opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. His object, as he declared later, was to ‘produce a moral effect’, to create in the minds of satyagrahis a feeling of terror and awe. As the news of Jallianwalla Bagh spread, crowds took to the streets in many north Indian towns.

There were strikes, clashes with the police and attacks on government buildings. The government responded with brutal repression, seeking to humiliate and terrorise people: satyagrahis were forced to rub their noses on the ground, crawl on the streets, and do salaam (salute) to all sahibs; people were flogged and villages (around Gujranwala in Punjab, now in Pakistan) were bombed. Seeing violence spread, Mahatma Gandhi called off the movement.

Why was the Rowlatt Act Passed?

The Rowlatt act 1919 allowed the britishers to arrest and imprison any person without trial. Under the Rowlatt Act there was no need of a warrant to arrest the Indians. Britishers could easily convict a person without trial in court and conduct the trial in seclusion. 

The Rowlatt Act also imposed strict restrictions on movements of people and suspended the Right of Habeas Corpus (remedy against wrongful deprivation of personal liberty).

Who passed the rowlatt act? 

Imperial Legislative council, the legislature of british India passed the rowlatt act to curb political activities in the nation. Rowlatt gave enormous powers to police to arrest any person for any reason without any warrant. There was a surge in growing nationalists in India and the rowlatt act was meant to curb the same. 

Who was the founder of Rowlatt act?

The Rowlatt Act was passed on the recommendations of the Rowlatt Committee. It was named after the president of the Rowlatt Committee, British Judge Sir Sidney Rowlatt. The rowlatt act allowed the imprisonment of any person on the suspicion of terrorism, the punishment under the rowaltt act was two years of jail without a trial. The rowlatt act was passed to curb all the revolutionary activities in British India.

Read More- Civil Disobedience Movement | Nationalism in India | Indian History

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