PATIALA: It was on this day 98 years ago – April 13, 1919 – that one of the bloodiest massacres in India’s freedom struggle took place at Amritsar. Colonel Reginald Dyer ordered his men to fire at an unarmed, peaceful gathering in Jallianwala Bagh, killing hundreds in cold blood.
Today, a 98-year-old former railway employee and farmer from Patiala is still fighting a lone battle to get justice for a member of his family who was a victim of the massacre.
Mohan Singh was born in the same year as the massacre. And for the past 70 years, he has been struggling to prove that his grandfather Ishar Singh who hailed from a village in Amritsar was present at the scene of the carnage when Dyer’s men opened fire on a defenceless crowd.
In 2016, after petitioning the authorities for seven years, Mohan Singh managed to get the Amritsar deputy commissioner to recognise that his kin was among those killed at Jallianwala Bagh during the firing. Singh hopes to use the official acceptance to press his case with the British government which had compensated families of the victims almost a century back.
Despite his age, Mohan Singh’s memory has not dimmed. “After the massacre, the British government recognised around 500 people as victims,” he says. “The government then took a conscious decision to award Rs 3,500 as compensation to families of the deceased in 1920. As many as 480 families were given compensation but around 20 families were left out, mine among them. Now, my family must get its just place in history.”
He adds that the value of Rs 3,500 in 1920 would be in crores today. Mohan Singh’s advocate who is preparing the legal documents to file a case in the Punjab and Haryana high court says, “In our petition we will be praying for compensation with 12% interest over the past 98 years along with all consequential benefits and costs.”
To strengthen his case, Mohan Singh has collected as much evidence as possible. For instance, Ishar Singh’s name appears in the records maintained by the Jalianwala Bagh Trust. His name has also been mentioned in various compilations of the Punjab government, historians and in the book ‘Who’s who – Punjab’s freedom fighters’ published by the publication bureau of Punjabi University at Patiala.
He is also mentioned at serial number 189 in ‘Who’s Who – Jallianwala Bagh Saka’ published by Punjab State University Text Book Board, Chandigarh.