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How Far Was the (amritsar Massacre) the Key Turning Point in Britain's Relationship with Its Empire in India Between 1845 and 1947?

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How far was the (Amritsar Massacre) the key turning point in Britain's relationship with its Empire in India between 1845 and 1947?

In 1845 India was ruled by the East India Company; by 1947 it was independent and had become two separate states, India and Pakistan. Between these years there were a number of turning points, the Indian Mutiny, the Morley Minto Reforms, the Amritsar Massacre, the Salt March and the Labour election victory. The most important of these was the Amritsar Massacre, due to the fact it proved to Indians that they were viewed as inferior; despite the aid they provided Britain during World War 1. It showed Indians that full independence was the only way they could achieve true freedom. Also it split the British view on British rule in India. Despite the other turning points importance, the massacre brought about the notion of full independence to the whole nation.

The Amritsar massacre (1919) was a substantial turning point in the relationship between Britain and India. Congress argued the massacre was 'unparalleled for its ferocity in the history of British administration'. It caused millions of loyal Indians to turn against the Raj, giving the Indian independence movement a massive boost. Previously, despite calls for Independence from Congress, many Indians still backed British rule. Amritsar changed this. It showed Indians that there was very little respect for them from the British and they were viewed as inferior by many. Not only had the massacre taken away the Indians right to peaceful protest, but it also took place on a Sikh holy day, showing complete disregard for religious customs. It showed that Britain had no plans of keeping to the Royal Proclamation (1858) in which they promised increased religious tolerance. Nehru argued 'if the ordinary rights of human beings are denied to us, then all talk of reform is a mockery' showing how the massacre undermined trust in the British. The effect of the massacre on Indian attitudes is shown in various changes. It was a turning point for many moderate nationalists -Tagore renounced his knighthood, support for Gandhi increased e.g. membership of Congress increasing (1919:100,000, 1921:2,000,000). Gandhi emerged as the main figurehead of the Indian independence movement, after the massacre he also developed his idea of making the Raj ungovernable, this would later lead on to the Salt March and civil disobedience campaign. Some of the moderate elite also turned to Gandhi e.g. the elite Nehru family began supporting him. Gandhi went on to gain International recognition, contributing to the eventual independence of India bringing the topic to the rest of the world.

There was a mixed reaction in Britain, with some arguing that Dyer had saved the British Raj, and some that Dyer's actions had been completely out of order. It can be argued that the Indian Mutiny could have caused Dyer's reaction, as he feared another Mutiny. It brought about a reaction in Britain that the treatment of Indians as inferior was wrong which was a change in how many Britain's had viewed the Indian situation previously. Edwin Montagu argued in a House of Commons debate 'Are you going to keep your hold on India by terrorism, racial humiliation, and subordination, and frightfulness, or are you going to rest it upon the growing goodwill on the people of the Indian empire?'This shows the realisation of Britain's poor treatment to Indians being wrong. There were however many who believed Dyer had reacted correctly. The Morning Post for example named Dyer 'The man who saved India' and raised a fund for him, getting £2600. This showed some continuity in the British public's opinion. This reaction of heroism towards Dyer in Britain brought about outrage in India, Indians being extremely offended by the lionising of Dyer. It can be argued that this enflamed Indian tempers even more, backing up the view that Indians were viewed as inferior by their rulers, increasing the case for independence. Rabindranath Tagore wrote 'The result of the Dyer debates in both Houses of Parliament makes painfully evident the attitude of mind of the ruling classes of the country towards India' later going on to say 'The late events have conclusively proved that our true salvation lies in our own hands'.

Despite these changes brought about by the massacre, there was some continuity. Britain still had no intention of giving India full independence yet, simply offering dominion status. There was still the view also that Indians were inferior to British people, shown in some of the public's reaction to the massacre. Also Gandhi still didn't have support of the entire country, with the princely states particularly resistant, whilst some sections of the elite were concerned about non-cooperation. Gandhi had also already been involved in local situations and formed links with local leaders before the event, Hindus and Muslims having united already under the Lucknow Pact (1916)in which Congress and the Muslim League united, with Congress promising Muslim representation in an independent government. It could also be argued that WW1 had also stimulated the nationalist movement, Congress for example requesting full independence. Despite these points however, the Amritsar massacre was the fundamental turning point compared to others due to the fact that in brought about a nationwide plea for independence. Metcalf and Metcalf argue 'The year 1919 was a watershed in the modern history of India. Nothing was the same afterwards'.

The next most important point I believe was the Indian Mutiny (1857). It was a moderate turning point in the relationship between Britain and India. In terms of change for Britain, It brought about the abolition of the East India Company, marking the introduction of total British rule in India. This brought about political change; Parliament was in charge now with a Secretary of State for India with the responsibility of answering for Parliament. This didn't have a particular short term effect on Anglo-British relations, with some things continuing as before e.g. the economy, colonial state. Yet Washbrook argues 'rhetorically and psychologically, the shifts were important and can be seen to have represented in changing responses to the complex problems the Empire faces in India after the mutiny'.

The mutiny also created change for the Indian population with the introduction of the Royal Proclamation in 1858. Washbrook argues that 'The mutiny provided a serious re-evaluation of Britain's 'mission' in the subcontinent'. It suggested increased respect for the Indian people, also preaching religious tolerance. The mutiny having been caused by a disregard for religious customs the pig and cow fat was replaced with other



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