Jallianwala Bagh. 13 April 1919. Twenty-two-year-old Nanak Singh joins the mass of peaceful protestors agitating against the Rowlatt Act. What then turns out to be one of the worst atrocities perpetrated by the British Raj, and a turning point in India’s independence movement, also becomes a life-changing experience for Nanak Singh, who survives the massacre, unconscious and unnoticed among the hundreds of corpses.
After going through the traumatic experience, Nanak Singh proceeds to write Khooni Vaisakhi, a long poem in Punjabi. The poem was a scathing critique of the British Raj and was banned soon after its publication in May 1920.
Indian diplomat Navdeep Singh Suri, who is translating his grandfather and noted Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh’s poetry on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in English, says that the work was protest poetry at its best.
“It’s not just a piece of poetry but also a work of contemporary history. The manner in which he narrated the massacre and the run-up to the massacre, protests against the Rowlatt Act and role of nationalist leaders Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satyapal, it all needs to be told exactly like it was ought to,” said Suri, while speaking at an event at Majha House.
Suri is the Indian Ambassador to the UAE and was born in Amritsar. He said the book would be published in two formats, “I have been working on the English translation while the Punjabi version is being done by my father Kulwant Singh Suri. Both books will come out on April 13, marking 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.”
An essay written by Suri titled ‘”The book, bagh and bauji”, in which he narrates personal account of history seen through Nanak Singh’s works and a letter written by Justin Rowlatt, the great grandson of Sir Sidney Arthur Taylor Rowlatt, who drafted the Rowlatt Act, will also be added.
“The letter gives an account of Justin Rowlatt’s experience of visiting the Jallianwala Bagh and his shared legacy of the incident,” said Suri.