I realize there are numerous examples of horrific cruelty in our history — the Middle Passage and Concentration Camps always come to mind first and foremost — but here’s one more. We might want to call such crimes unspeakable but they need to be spoken.
Look up Reginald Edward Harry Dyer for the full scoop. The thousands of citizens, including entire families, who gathered were attempting a Gandhian peaceful protest during a religious festival when the city of Amritsar was packed with pilgrims and tourists. This tragedy occurred just down the hill from the Sikhs’ holy Golden Temple.
The protest was held on rented private property in a back alley courtyard. Dyer had stupidly issued a Jim Crow-like order barring Indians from congregating in groups of 6 or more (in their own country) and decided to make an example of this particular group that included children. British sources gave a figure of 379 killed with 1,100 wounded. The Indian National Congress counted more than 1000 dead and 1500 injured.
Churchill later publicly called it a “monstrous” and UnBritish act, although I wonder what his private remarks might have been, given his well-documented scathingly racist remarks about Indians and his willful starvation of 3.5 million Indians, 24 years after the Amritsar Massacre, during the Bengal Famine of 1943.
Dyer was also all about half-naked public floggings of private citizens and his soldiers fond of stopping pedestrians and making them slither down the street like worms at gunpoint. The British parliament viewed Dyer as a hero. By the way, it’s reenacted in the movie Gandhi as one of the watershed moments leading up to the widespread popularity of the Independence Movement.
“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” Vanity asks the question, “Is it popular?” But, conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”