About a hundred years ago, over the month of April 1919, the city of Amritsar was a site of massive unrest. During the First World War, Punjab was a hub of anti-colonial activity. The passage of the Rowlatt Act—a colonial law meant to curb sedition—was seen as an attack on Indian civil liberties and Mohandas Gandhi’s call to protest the law led to a vigorous response in Amritsar. On 10 April, there were violent clashes between the British Indian military and protestors.
On the evening of 12 April, Hans Raj, a 23-year-old aide of the freedom-movement leader Saifuddin Kitchlew, attended a meeting of nationalists at the Hindu College in Amritsar. Hans Raj informed the attendees about another meeting that had been planned for the next day at the Jallianwala Bagh, to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi and to peacefully protest the arrest and deportation of two nationalist leaders, Satya Pal and Kitchlew.
Hans Raj had been crucial in the organisation of the meeting, and had helped build a platform in the middle of the bagh, from where the crowd could be addressed. By mid afternoon on 13 April, thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had gathered in the bagh, most of whom were peasants, domestic workers, craftsmen and artisans from nearby villages.