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13 April, 1919, Amritsar.

The venue was Jallianwala Bagh, a park enclosed by


walls on three sides, with just one exit point via an obscure, narrow lane. A
shootout was ordered by Brigadier General Reginald E. H. Dyer, who later on
faced a tribunal and was removed from service. He had emptied all the
ammunition in ten minutes, firing 1,650 rounds (approximately), killing
thousands who hardly figure in the 'official statistics' given out by the British
Government or even the Indian National Congress.
It was a Sunday. Some 15,000 20,000 people assembled at Jallianwala Bagh to
celebrate Baisakhi Purnima. It's true that meetings had been banned in view of a
probable insurgency, but a peaceful gathering (women, children and aged people
included) couldn't have been a 'threat' for the well equipped Angrez Police.
Rabindranath Tagore got to know the details by 22 May, 1919. The mass media
kept mum and whatever reportage was given out was heavily 'censored' or
distorted. Tagore had a tough time figuring out what's what. None of his political
acquaintances, seemed to be as bothered as him about the hapless lot facing the
gun. There had been no word of caution or warning from General Dyre. The force
positioned itself in practiced silence and opened fire gunning down even those
who tried escaping by climbing the walls as the only available option.
Some of the people survived. They were instructed to walk on their knees and
hands like four legged animals and paraded naked in broad day light. Men and
women. Alike
In his agitated state of mind Rabindranath (an insomniac anyway) lost whatever
little sleep he could catch up with.
After distraught attempts to get concrete news, arrange meetings and lead
organized protests failed (his friend Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was helpless
too), Tagore dashed off an overnight letter to the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford on
May 30, 1919 requesting to be kindly relieved of the burden of his knighthood.
The Tagore family had been directly associated with the Indian National Congress
and the freedom movement in general. Rabindranath used to be part of the
annual sessions of Congress. But after Jallianwala Bagh, the senior Congress
leadership refused to convene a protest session in Kolkata as they felt it would
be too abrupt. This also helped them avoid issuing an 'official' statement of
condemnation or formulate policies to act accordingly.
It's a new millennium altogether. An independent India, living through political
criminalization, corporate scams, land grabbing and state sponsored terrorism
appeals to reason in utter futility. Gunmen annihilating co-citizens at a single nod
of affirmation, 'communists' killing communists, industry-wallahs banishing
farmers, and netas combing out 'tribals' from their forest home lands don't
make for a good democracy. Something has severely gone wrong with us.
Somewhere. With 'counter insurgency' being the order of the day, would Tagore's
letter make any difference today, particularly when he has been repeatedly

classified as 'BOORJOWA KOBI' (i.e. bourgeois poet) or the 'Queen's loyalist' !


May be his letter to Lord Chelmsford could help us think better.
Rabindranath, a name that echoes with art, literature, history, culture,
nationalism, has expressed his rage and regrets against the tyranny and
oppression against the British rule in India by his letter to Lord Chelmsford in
1919.

In 1915 Tagore received the prestigious award of Knighthood by the British King
George V in recognition of his literary talents. But he rejected the title in 1919 as
a protest against the Massacre of Amritsar, where British troops killed some 400
Indian demonstrators. The rejection of the title is one of the most important
events in history that shows his nationalism. The massacre in Jalianwallahbag of
Amritsar took place on 13 April 1919. Tagores reaction to the event was full of
rage. On 31 May in 1919, Tagore wrote his most famous letter to Lord
Chelmsford, the Viceroy of India, rejecting his Knighthood.
Tagore was greatly shocked at the brutality of the British rulers. His reaction
against the mass killings by the British force to the disarmed and resourceless
people created a blow in history. According to Rabindranath Tagore, the massacre
appeared to him the helplessness and the inhumanity of the Indians under the
British colonial rule
The disproportionate severity of the punishments inflicted upon the unfortunate
people and the methods of carrying them out, we are convinced, are without
parallel in the history of civilised governments, barring some conspicuous
exceptions, recent and remote.
Tagore was highly moved by the sufferings of the Indian people at the hands of
the British rulers. He looked at the event critically and said that such brutal event
did not have any logic. It neither had political expediency nor moral
justification. The impact of the massacre was immense and he has a given a
description of it
Accounts of insults and sufferings undergone by our brothers in the Punjab
have trickled through the gagged silence, reaching every corner of India.
He was also disappointed when Anglo-Indian newspapers praised the brutality.
There were protests from every corner in India. Rabindranath wanted to express
his feeling with the common people. He thought that rejecting Knighthood will
give a strong reply to the misdoings and brutality of the British empire in the
mass killing.
The letter rejecting knighthood truly shows Tagores patriotism. He goes against
British colonialism and points out the wrong doings and brutal actions to
common people of India. His rejection of Knighthood was one of the instances of
indicating the tyranny of British rule in India. His letter rejecting Knighthood is

the testimony of protest against British empire. The words of the letter will
remind us his fierce voice against oppression by the British.

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