Woolwich, April 18
The Greenwich and Bexley branch of the IWA(GB) held a meeting, attended by 700 people, to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh (Amritsar) Massacre perpetrated by British imperialism against innocent men, women and children holding a peaceful demonstration. In the resulting carnage, 350 people died and over 100 were wounded.
The Amritsar massacre inflamed Indian public opinion and turned the entire Indian population against British imperialism as had no other event; it laid the foundation for a truly powerful anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movement which was not to stop until the expulsion of British imperialism from India. The incident of 13 April, 1919 inspired countless Indian revolutionaries to take us in earnest the struggle against British imperialism. One of the revolutionaries was Udham Singh, who, having come to Britain, shot dead in Caxton Hall at a public meeting Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the butcher of the Amritsar Massacre. This public assassination only a few months after the start of the second world war sent shock waves throughout the British Empire. Although British imperialism, after a secret and farcical trial, hanged Udham Singh, portraying him as a common criminal, progressive and nationalist opinion in India quite correctly owned him as a worthy and heroic son of India, who was prepared to pay with his life to fight against British imperialism and its foremost representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to pay our tribute to this great son of India, who was at the same time a great friend of the British proletariat and an impeccable foe of British imperialism.
Several speakers spoke at the meeting including, Mangat Ram Pasla (former Secretary of the Punjab unit of the CPIM), Avtar Sadiq (President, IWAGB) and Harpal Brar (Editor, Lalkar). The guest of honour at that meeting was Raj Babbar, member of the Indian parliament and one of the most prominent stars of the Indian screen, who is in Britain to make a film in which he portrays Udham Singh. He was given a rousing welcome and his speech was punctuated with frequent applause. During his speech he made the significant point that, although Udham Singh could have killed Sir Michael O’Dwyer on several previous occasions had that been the only thing that he desired, he did not do so. The reason being that Sir Michael’s actions were motivated by a desire to terrorise the Indians and to teach them a lesson that defying British orders carried a very heavy price. For his part, Udham Singh by his spectacularly public action wanted to teach the British ruling class a lesson that suppression of the Indian people also carried a very heavy price. Notwithstanding the censor, Udham Singh’s message reached its twin targets. It was enthusiastically greeted by the Indian people and it sent shivers down the spine of British establishment figures.
Harpal Brar concentrated his speech on the genocidal war being waged by the war-mongering Neo-Nazi NATO alliance against tiny Yugoslavia and the reasons why the British proletariat and progressive humanity everywhere else should oppose it. Since his speech is very similar to a number of similar speeches he has delivered at several other rallies we shall not produce it here as it is included in another section of this paper.
There was a rich cultural content to the meeting with singers, poets, Bhangra dancers and dramatists contributing to the success of this wonderful evening. At the end of the meeting guests who had travelled from far and wide to attend the function were treated to characteristically generous hospitality by the Woolwich comrades.