THE TIMES of London on 24 February 1920 carried a letter penned a Mr E. Beechey at the Wellington Club, Amritsar,in the Punjab, which was reprinted in THE TIMES on Monday 24th February 2020.
Mr Beechey, writing “as one who was present at the scene of the disturbances, and take some interest in the honour of British administration abroad”, took “exception to the version which Sir Michael O’Dwyer had given in his letter from Delhi”, “as being highly coloured and tending to mislead.”
As Mr Beechey told it there were riots in Amritsar on April 10 1919, “due to the arrest and deportation without judicial inquiry of two leading agitators against the Rowlatt Bill, which had been opposed by all the Indian members of the Viceroy’s Legislative Council. These were suppressed the same day by the police firing on the crowd,
and calm prevailed till April 13, the day of the massacre. The military had arrived and taken over control from the civil officials who, without the authority of the Supreme Government, surrendered their charge. And, it would appear, the situation was well in hand, the military having complete control for three days, and there being no rioting
whatever during that period. Nevertheless this situation is described by Sir Michael O’Dwyer as ‘a state of open rebellion’ and again in these words, ‘rebellious mobs were in possession of the great city of Amritsar’. This is a distortion of the facts. The mere disobedience by a crowd of an order forbidding the holding of meetings was made
the occasion for shooting some thousands of them when, according to General Dyer himself,. they might have dispersed if he had ordered them to, and it was to this that Sir Michael O’Dwyer accorded his approval. Sir Michael’s letter is ominously silent as to what action he took to correctly inform the Viceroy of the true nature of the occurrence of April 10, and as to any of the facts would account for the British public being kept in ignorance of what happened in Amritsar and Lahore while he held the office which he was relieved of on May 28 1919″
Sir Michael O’Dwyer, Deputy Governor of the Punjab, was from Solohead (near Limerick Junction) was a farmer’s son and was educated by Jesuits and at Baliol College, Oxford.
Solohead had made the headlines for a relatively tiny engagement between ARMED men in January 1919 recently described as INFAMOUS in Ireland’s Own.
It seems that Sir Michael O’Dwyer might today be celebrated as IRELAND’S OWN by Dr Varadkar, Micheal Martin and Charlie Flanagan.