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Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab Under Siege

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Im a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. keyworthdavid@gmail.com https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/david-keyworth/49/b3a/b83
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Pushing the Colonial boundaries
The Partition Museum, Amritsar and Manchester Museum, (part of The University of Manchester) are co-curating 'Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab under Siege.'

The exhibition coincides with the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April 2019, and the bicentenary commemorations for Manchester's Peterloo Massacre. The exhibition draws on Kishwar Desai's book - Jallianwala Bagh, The Real Story.


Partition Museum Amritsar, Amritsar, Colonial history, Manchester Museum, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Peterloo Massacre, The Singh Twins, South Asia gallery, British Raj
Partition museum in Amritsar By Amritpal Singh Mann - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74027112


On 13 April 1919 a peaceful protest took place in Amritsar (Punjab, North West India), to challenge colonial rule by the British state.

The Rowlatt Acts of 1919, had renewed press censorship and imprisonment without trial. In Amritsar, an estimated crowd of 10,000 ignored prohibitions on large gatherings and met to protest in the walled area of Jallianwala Bagh.

When Colonel Reginald Dyer's Gurkha and Baluchi troops fired ammunition, protesters were unable to escape through the handful of narrow exits.

According to one official report, an estimated 379 people were killed, and about 1,200 more were wounded.

Dyer admitted at the Court of Inquiry that: "They had come out to fight if they defied me, and I was going to give them a lesson."

Despite that, Dyer was presented with a jewelled sword - at the British House of Lords - inscribed to the 'Saviour of the Punjab'.

The massacre itself, and the establishment's response to it, is credited with both inspiring Mahatma Gandhi's Non Co-operation Movement and turning the Indian National Congress Party (founded 1885) into a mass movement.

British rule of India (the Raj) ended in 1947, having been instituted in 1858.

In addition to this source material, two years of research and curation were undertaken by the Partition Museum (set up by The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust), Amritsar. This was supported by the supported by the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary Commemoration Committee, comprising of Indians and Non-Resident Indians (NRI).

The museum will also 'work with descendants and communities to collect stories related to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre'.

Partition Museum Amritsar, Amritsar, Colonial history, Manchester Museum, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Peterloo Massacre, The Singh Twins, South Asia gallery, British Raj
Bullet marks, visible on preserved walls, at present-day Jallianwala Bagh. By Dr Graham Beards - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28301277


The resulting exhibition will include archival and audio-visual material. There will also be a new three-panel artwork by The Singh Twins, commemorating the anniversary. They received an MBE from the Queen for 'Services to the Indian miniature tradition of painting within Contemporary Art' in 2011.

Partition Museum Amritsar, Amritsar, Colonial history, Manchester Museum, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Peterloo Massacre, The Singh Twins, South Asia gallery, British Raj
Prince Charles admiring a work by The Singh Twins: Amrit Kaur Singh and Rabindra Kaur Singh www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Singh_Twins


Manchester Museum is due to open a new South Asia gallery in 2021. The 13.5m project will draw on Manchester's strong historic links with the Indian subcontinent, which resulted from the textile trade.

2019 also marks two hundred years since Peterloo Massacre This is the name given to a peaceful gathering of 60,000 people - in St Peter's Fields, Manchester which demanded voting rights and other democratic reforms. Eighteen people are estimated to have died and nearly 700 were injured when troops cut through the crowd. The tragedy inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley to write The Masque of Anarchy.

Partition Museum Amritsar, Amritsar, Colonial history, Manchester Museum, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Peterloo Massacre, The Singh Twins, South Asia gallery, British Raj
People in Jallianwala Bagh pointing at bullet marks on the wall surrounding the Bagh. Courtesy of Manchester Museum.


Mike Leigh's film Peterloo - starring Maxine Peake and Rory Kinnear - premiered at HOME, Manchester on Wed 17 October 2018.

Elsewhere in the city, the Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest exhibition takes place from 23 March 2019 to Sunday 23 February 2020 at the People's History Museum.

It will include original Peterloo artefacts, alongside pieces telling more recent stories of protest. A short film commissioned especially for the exhibition brings to life the story of Peterloo, protest, and the road to democratic reform.

The Protest Lab - an experimental gallery gives individuals, communities and organisations an opportunity to share and develop their views and ideas for collective action.

The Manchester Histories organisation is asking young people aged 14 - 18 years to short story or poem, written from the perspective of a young person at Peterloo. There will be a 50 cash prize and mentoring from an author, poet or creative writing expert.

More details at Manchester Histories .

The origins of The Manchester Museum lie in the collection of the Manchester manufacturer and collector John Leigh Philips (1761-1814). After his death, a small group of wealthy men banded together to buy his 'cabinet', and in 1821 they set up the Manchester Natural History Society.
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Why? Two sides of the Colonial story at Manchester and Amritsar
When: 6 April - 2 October 2019
Phone: 0161 275 2648
Where: The Manchester Museum The University of Manchester Oxford Road Manchester M13 9PL
Cost: Free
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