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The Rowlatt Act and its aftermath

 

The positive impact of reform was seriously undermined in 1919 by the Rowlatt Act, named after the recommendations made the previous year to the Imperial Legislative Council by the Rowlatt Commission, which had been appointed to investigate "seditious conspiracy." The Rowlatt Act, also known as the Black Act, vested the Viceroy's government with extraordinary powers to quell sedition by silencing the press, detaining political activists without trial, and arresting any individuals suspected of sedition or treason without a warrant. In protest, a nationwide cessation of work (hartal) was called, marking the beginning of widespread, although not nationwide, popular discontent.

The agitation unleashed by the acts culminated on 13 April 1919, in the Amritsar Massacre in Amritsar, Punjab. The British military commander, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, ordered his soldiers to fire into an unarmed and unsuspecting crowd of some 10,000 people. They had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, a walled garden, to celebrate Baisakhi, a Sikh festival, without prior knowledge of the imposition of martial law. A total of 1,650 rounds were fired, killing 379 people and wounding 1,137 in the episode, which dispelled wartime hopes of home rule and goodwill in a frenzy of postwar reaction.

The Amritsar Massacre

 

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