POLITICS
13/04/2019 10:14 AM IST

A Jallianwala Bagh Survivor Remembers The Moment The Gunfire Began

An excerpt from Nanak Singh's 'Khooni Vaisakhi', which was banned by the British soon after its publication.

Wikimedia Commons
Jallianwala Bagh in 1919, a few months after the massacre.

BRIG. GEN. DYER ARRIVES,

GUNFIRE BEGINS

Five-thirty sharp the clock had struck

Thousands gathered in the Bagh, my friends.

Leaders came to lament the nation’s woes

Taking turns to speak out loud, my friends.

Voiced grievance, hardship, anger, sorrow

Saying, no one listens to us, my friends.

What can we do, what options left?

Can’t see any ray of light, my friends.

Those words forlorn, they barely voiced

Came soldiers thundering down, my friends.

At Dyer’s command, those Gurkha troops

Gathered in a formation tight, my friends.

Under the tyrant’s orders, they opened fire

Straight into innocent hearts, my friends.

And fire and fire and fire they did

Some thousands of bullets were shot, my friends.

Like searing hail they felled our youth

A tempest not seen before, my friends.

Riddled chests and bodies slid to the ground

Each one a target large, my friends.

Haunting cries for help did rend the sky

Smoke rose from smouldering guns, my friends.

Just a sip of water was all they sought

Valiant youth lay dying in the dust, my friends.

That narrow lane to enter the Bagh

Sealed off on Dyer’s command, my friends.

No exit, no escape, no way out was left

Making the Bagh a deathly trap, my friends.

A fortunate few somehow survived

While most died then and there, my friends.

Some ran with bullets ripping their chest

Stumbling to their painful end, my friends.

Others caught the bullet while running away

Dropping lifeless in awkward heaps, my friends.

In minutes, the Bagh so strewn with corpses

None knew just who was who, my friends.

Many of them did look like Sikhs

Amid Hindus and Muslims plenty, my friends.

In the prime of their youth, our bravehearts lay

Gasping for one last breath, my friends.

Long hair lay matted in blood and grime

In slumber deep they sleep, my friends.

Says Nanak Singh, Who knows their state

But God the One and Only, my friends.

Excerpted with permission from Khooni Vaishakhi by Nanak Singh, translated by Navdeep Suri. Published by HarperCollins India