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Sherman Stanley

O’Dwyer, the Butcher of Amritsar,
Meets His Fate in London

(23 March 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 12, 23 March 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Last week, in London’s Westminster district, a young Sikh student and engineer named Mahomed Sing Azad interrupted a meeting of high. Indian officials and retired British civil servants to put two bullets in the heart of Sir Michael O’Dwyer, former Governor General of India’s province of the Punjab.

Azad, crying out that he was acting in the name of India’s freedom, also wounded the Marquis of Zetland, Secretary of State for India, and two others.

Readers of the Socialist Appeal know that our movement does not support individual terrorist action which can never be a substitute for action on the part of the people of India for their independence. But if ever a man deserved the fate that was meted out to him it was Sir Michael O’Dwyer. That is why we, opponents of terrorism of this sort, must hasten to energetically condemn Mahatma Gandhi and his associates in the leadership of the Indian Nationalist Congress who instantly disowned Azad and threw his fate into the hands of the British authorities.

Who was Sir Michael O’Dwyer?

It was he who, more than anyone else, bears responsibility for the worst massacre in India’s history – the Amritsar massacre, which takes its place in world history alongside the Bloody Sunday of Czar Nicholas.

The Amritsar affair took place on April 13, 1919 – almost 21 years ago. The Caxton hall assassination of last week was a reminder to British imperialism that the memory of April 13, 1919 can never be wiped out until it has been fully avenged.

The Post-War Wave of Revolt in India

After the last World War a revolutionary wave, stirred up by the actions of the Russian workers and peasants and by the total failure of the British to keep their hypocritical promises made during the war in exchange for support by India, held the country in its grip. The Indian Nationalist movement was progressing rapidly. In the historic Punjabi city of Amritsar some 5,000 Sikh peasants and workers had gathered on April 13 to listen to Nationalist agitators. They were a crowd of men, women and children – totally unarmed – meeting in the city’s open square known as Jallianwala Bagh.

Suddenly a contingent of British soldiers, with a few professional Indian troops, under the command of Brigadier General Dyer appeared. They had been sent by Sir Michael O’Dwyer to “restore order.” These men were posted at the only exit to the walled-in square. Without warning – as General Dyer later boasted – they began to fire into the crowd. Before the slaughter was over 500 lay dead and 1,200 were wounded. Then the brave general withdrew.

The next day, as part of his admitted project of “striking terror into the whole of the Punjab”, General Dyer issued his famous “crawling order” compelling all Indians to crawl on their hands and knees down the principal street of Amritsar. Such was British imperialism in action in the summer of 1919!

Never since India’s first War of Independence of 1857 had the country been roused to such a fury. Dyer and his boss, Sir Michael O’Dwyer had to be withdrawn from India. Indian public opinion forced the creation of a Royal committee to investigate the horrible massacre. At the hearing both of these bloody imperialists defended and boasted of their actions. O’Dwyer assumed full responsibility and claimed that he had saved thereby British rule over the 400,000,000 Indian people.

Murderers Whitewashed By British “Democracy”

After the trial had dragged on for years, the inevitable whitewash and verdict of “not guilty” was given. Dyer retired on a nice pension and died in 1928, doubtlessly untroubled by the screams of his victims, for had not the Crown and Church of England given him their blessings? As for Sir Michael, he met his fate last week.

No event has made such an impression upon the Indian people as the massacre of Amritsar. A national memorial park has been created on the site, to which hundreds of thousands of Indian fighters for freedom come every year. Jallianwala Day – a day upon which the memory of those who died in the cause is honored and a renewed pledge to struggle for freedom is taken – is celebrated annually by India.

The British will unquestionably try to place the hangman’s noose around the neck of Mahomed Singh Azad, martyr in India’s struggle. They have already hung three members of the Irish Republican Army.

Action of the English working class can save Azad. Our comrades in England, the British Fourth Internationalists, have already begun a campaign in his behalf.

Defend Azad from the British hangmen!

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