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States » East

Book presents unique perspective on Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Kolkata, Mar 31(UNI) Important historical events have often found themselves recreated and re-enacted in literature.
From the French Revolution to the Revolt of 1857, incidents of violence, especially political violence, find an important place in literature because of the specific point of view they provide.
History isn’t just dry political accounts of kings and dynasties from centuries ago; it is an account of the lives of people, and can be relevant even today.
Jallianwala Bagh: Literary Responses in Prose & Poetry is a selection of excerpts, short stories, and
poems, designed with the intention of offering a unique perspective on the horrifying massacre that
took place in Jallianwala Bagh in 1919.
Standing at the intersection of literature, history, and politics, this collection offers a glimpse into the far-reaching effects the Jallianwala Bagh massacre had on the people of India.
As Rakhshanda Jalil puts it, ‘Some events shake the conscience of thinking men and women the
world over, send seismic tremors across the length and breadth of a nation, unspool events of
unforeseen consequences and find reflection not only in the literature of their age but for generations
to come.’
The brutality of the incident compelled writers to pick up their pens, thus memorialising the
Jallianwala Bagh massacre in the records of history forever.
What stands out in this collection are the various points of view from which the writers tackle the
incident. The section on prose fiction, which includes pieces by literary stalwarts like Saadat Hasan
Manto, Mulk Raj Anand, and Ghulam Abbas, barely focus on the actual incident itself.
Instead, the writers choose to emphasise the political unrest that leads up to the massacre and the aftermath of the incident on the lives of the people of Amritsar.
While Mulk Raj Anand’s ‘Morning Face’ presents a raw description of the massacre and explores its effects on the lives of ordinary Indians, Manto’s ‘An Incident in 1919’ explores the event through the actions of Thaila Kanjar, the brother of two prostitutes, thus making a hero out of an otherwise overlooked and disregarded individual.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Stanley Wolpert’s ‘Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh’, a fictionalised version of the inquiry that condemned the acts of General Dyer. Here, we see the massacre not through the eyes of the Indian masses, but Dyer himself, who tries to defend his choice to fire on an unarmed crowd in front of a committee.
‘Those Who Crawled’ by Ghulam Abbas is told through the perspective of a child, offering a
new outlook on the aftermath of the Jallianwala Bagh incident, focusing on Dyer’s infamous ‘Crawling
The poetry in the collection largely mourns the martyrs of the massacre, and the indiscriminate
killing of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike at the hands of the British. The brutality and the lack of mercy of the British is highlighted, and the bagh itself is seen as a place of remembrance, memorialising the sacrifice of those who gave their lives there, and of its importance in the movement that earned India her freedom.
Edited by noted literary historian, writer, and critic Rakhshanda Jalil, Jallianwala Bagh: Literary
Responses in Prose & Poetry exposes the reader to the growing political consciousness of the time through the individual lens of each writer and poet.
These stories and poems offer a personal glimpse into an incident that stirred the consciousness of an entire nation and played a pivotal role in India’s struggle for freedom. All this cumulates in a remarkable way of ‘seeing’ history beyond the way one would in a classroom or a history book.
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