XXXV. IN THE PUNJAB
Sir Michael O'Dwyer held me responsible for all that
had happened in the Punjab, and some irate young Punjabis
held me responsible for the martial law. They asserted
that, if only I had not suspended civil disobedience,
there would have been no Jalianwala Bagh massacre. Some
of them even went the length of threatening me with
assassination if I went to the Punjab.
But I felt that my position was so correct and above
question that no intelligent person could misunderstand
I was impatient to go to the Punjab. I had never been
there before, and that made me all the more anxious to
see things for myself. Dr. Satyapal, Dr. Kitchly and
Pandit Rambhaj Dutt Chowdhari, who had invited me to the
Punjab, were at this time in jail. But I felt sure that
the Government could not dare to keep them and the other
prisoners in prison for long. A large number of Punjabis
used to come and see me whenever I was in Bombay. I
ministered to them a word of cheer on these occasions,
and that would comfort them. My self- confidence of that
time was infectious.
But my going to the Punjab had to be postponed again
and again. The Viceroy would say, 'not yet,' every time I
asked for permission to go there, and so the thing
In the meantime the Hunter Committee was announced to
hold an inquiry in connection with the Punjab
Government's doings under the martial law. Mr. C. F.
Andrews had now reached the Punjab. His letters gave a
heart-rending description that the martial law atrocities
were in fact even worse than the press reports had
showed. He pressed me urgently to come and join him. At
the same time Malaviyaji sent telegrams asking me to
proceed to the Punjab at once. I once more telegraphed to
the Viceroy asking whether I could now go to the Punjab.
He wired back in reply that I could go there after a
certain date. I cannot exactly recollect now, but I think
it was 17th of October.
The scene that I witnessed on my arrival at Lahore can
never be effaced from my memory. The railway station was
from end to end one seething mass of humanity. The entire
populace had turned out of doors in eager expectation, as
if to meet a dear relation after a long separation, and
was delirious with joy. I was put up at the late Pandit
Rambhaj Dutt's bungalow, and the burden of entertining me
fell on the shoulders of Shrimati Sarala Devi. A burden
it truly was, for even then, as now, the place where I
was accommodated became a veritable caravanserai.
Owing to the principal Punjab leaders being in jail,
their place, I found, had been properly taken up by
Pandit Malaviyaji, Pandit Motilalji and the late Swami
Sharddhanandji. Malaviyaji and Shraddhanandji I had known
intimately before, but this was the first occasion on
which I came in close personal contact with Motilalji.
All these leaders, as also such local leaders as had
escaped the privilege of going to jail, at once made me
feel perfectly at home amongst them, so that I never felt
like a stranger in their midst.
How we unanimously decided not to lead evidence before
the Hunter Committee is now a matter of history. The
reasons for that decision were published at that time,
and need not be recapitulated here. Suffice it to say
that, looking back upon these events from this distance
of time, I still feel that our decision to boycott the
Committee was absolutely correct and proper.
As a logical consequence of the boycott of the Hunter
Committee, it was decided to appoint a non-official
Inquiry Committee, to hold almost a parallel inquiry on
behalf of the Congress. Pandit Motilal Nehru, the late
Deshbandhu C. R. Das, Sjt. Abbas Tyabji, Sjt. M.R.Jayakar
and myself were appointed to this Committee, virtually by
Pandit Malaviyaji. We distributed ourselves over various
places for purposes of inquiry. The responsibility for
organizing the work of the Committee devolved on me, and
as the privilege of conducting the inquiry in the largest
number of places fell to my lot, I got a rare opportunity
of observing at close quarters the people of the Punjab
and the Punjab villages.
In the course of my inquiry I made acquaintance with
the women of the Punjab also. It was as if we had known
one another for ages. Wherever I went they came flocking,
and laid before me their heaps of yarn. My work in
connection with the inquiry brought home to me the fact
that the Punjab could become a great field for Khadi
As I proceeded further and further with my inquiry
into the atrocities that had been committed on the
people, I came across tales of Government's tyranny and
the arbitrary despotism of its officers such as I was
hardly prepared for, and they filled me with deep pain.
What surprised me then, and what still continues to fill
me with surprise, was the fact that a province that had
furnished the largest number of soldiers to the British
Government during the war, should have taken all these
brutal excesses lying down.
The task of drafting the report of this Committee was
also entrusted to me. I would recommend a perusal of this
report to any one who wants to have an idea of the kind
of atrocities that were perpetrated on the Punjab people.
All that I wish to say here about it is that there is not
a single conscious exaggeration in it anywhere, and every
statement made in it is substantiated by evidence.
Moreover, the evidence published was only a fraction of
what was in the Committee's possession. Not a single
statement, regarding the validity of which there was the
report. This report, prepared as it was solely with a
view to bringing out the truth and nothing but the truth,
will enable the reader to see to what lengths the British
Government is capable of going, and what inhumanities and
barbarities it is capable of perpetrating in order to
maintain its power. So far as I am aware, not a single
statement made in this report has ever been disproved.