the-jallianwala-bagh-national-memorial-amendment-act-2019

In News: The bill received the President's Assent in the latest 2019 winter session of Parliament. It aims to address various deficiencies in the management of the National Memorial and to ensure that the Trust is an apolitical entity.

Background:

  • Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 provided for the erection of a National Memorial in memory of those killed or wounded on April 13, 1919, in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.
  • The 1951 Act also provided for a Trust to manage the National Memorial.
  • Composition: The Trust as per the 1951 Act included the Prime Minister, as Chairperson, (ii) the President of the Indian National Congress, (iii) the Minister in-charge of Culture, (iv) the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, (v) the Governor of Punjab, (vi) the Chief Minister of Punjab, and (vii) three eminent persons nominated by the central government.

Amendment:

  • The 2019 amendment act removes the President of the Indian National Congress as a Trustee.
  • It clarifies that when there is no Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha will be the Trustee.
  • The 1951 act provided that the three eminent persons nominated by the central government will have a term of five years and will be eligible for re-nomination. 
  • The 2019 bill added a clause to allow the central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of his term without assigning any reason. 

Jallianwala Bagh Incident:

Events prior to Jallianwala bagh massacre:

  • The INC supported British during the 1st World War : Both Extremists and the moderate faction of the Indian National Congress supported the British efforts during World War 1 in hope that, British would grant self-government to India after the war.
  • The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms 1919 proved to be a mere eyewash in the name of self-government.As per congress the reforms were “disappointing” and “unsatisfactory”.
  • The government armed itself with extraordinary powers to suppress any voice against the reforms and passed the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919, popularly known as the Rowlatt Act.
  • Rowlatt act: The Rowlatt Act was passed by the British government to increase their grip on power over the common folk. This law was passed in March 1919 by the Imperial Legislative Council which gave them the power to arrest any person without any trial.It also authorised the government to detain such people arrested for up to 2 years without trial.
    • The act was passed despite unanimous opposition from the Indian members of the council, all of whom resigned in protest. These included Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Madan Mohan Malviya and Mazhar Ul Haq.
    • This act was passed on the recommendations of the Sedition Committee chaired by Sir Sidney Rowlatt.
  • On April 9, 1919, two nationalist leaders, Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr. Satyapal, were arrested by the British officials without any provocation except that they had addressed protest meetings, and taken to some unknown destination.

The Jallianwala bagh massacre:

  • On 13th April, Baisakhi day, a large crowd of people mostly from neighboring villages, unaware of the prohibitory orders in the Amritsar gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh.
  • Dyer marched his fifty riflemen to a raised bank and ordered them to kneel and fire.
  • General Dyer blocked the only exit point and opened fire on the unarmed crowd killing more than 1000 unarmed men, women, and children.

Aftermath :

  • This event caused many moderate Indians to abandon their loyalty to the British and become nationalists, distrustful of the British.
  • The Government of India announced the formation of a committee of inquiry into the events in Punjab. Referred to as the Disorders Inquiry Committee, it was later more widely known as the Hunter Commission.
  • The report concluded that:
    • Lack of notice to disperse from the Bagh, in the beginning, was an error.
    • The length of firing showed a grave error.
    • Dyer's motive of producing a sufficient moral effect was to be condemned.
    • Dyer had overstepped the bounds of his authority.
    • There had been no conspiracy to overthrow British rule in the Punjab.
  • The Hunter Commission did not impose any penal or disciplinary action because Dyer's actions were condoned by various superiors.
  • On 13 March 1940, at Caxton Hall in London, Udham Singh, an Indian independence activist from Sunam who had witnessed the events in Amritsar and had himself been wounded, shot and killed Michael O'Dwyer.