The Hero of Jallianwala Bagh- Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew

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Saifuddin Kitchlew

The massacre that shook the very foundation of the British Raj in India and inspired several freedom fighters to act against the atrocities of the enemy. It was one the deadliest genocide ever recorded in Indian History and central to it lies the story of Saifuddin Kitchlew, who is hailed as the hero of Jallianwala Bagh.

The massacre of Jallianwala bagh took out on 13 April 1919, when local leaders of the Indian National Congress and hundreds of others gathered to peacefully protest against the arrest of Satyapal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. It was also the occasion of Baisakhi and hundreds of people joined to celebrate. Colonel Reginald Dyer with his troops entered the area and closed all the exit gates and opened fire on the unaware protesters. Thousands of people died that day including kids.

Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew is remembered today as the face of the protest against the Rowlatt act.

Born in 1888 to a Kashmiri Muslim family in Amritsar, Punjab, Kitchlew was a sincere kid since childhood. He went on to complete his education from Islamia High School in Amritsar, later obtaining a B.A. from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. from a German university, before finally practicing law in India. He played an important role in forming the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi. He was a frontline freedom fighter, a barrister, and an advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity.

During his days in Cambridge, he participated in several rallies and majlis where he first came to know Jawaharlal Nehru. It was in Cambridge that he developed socialistic ideology and was highly fascinated by the French revolution. While practicing law in Amritsar, Kitchlew came in contact with Mahatma Gandhi. Soon, he engaged himself in anti-colonial fight, and thus in 1919,l was elected as the Municipal Commissioner of the city of Amritsar. During his early years as a revolutionary, he participated in various movements including the Satyagraha movement. Later he left his legal practice and went on to join the Indian independence movement, as well as the All India Khilafat Committee.

Saifuddin Kitchlew

Especially, it was the Khilafat movement where he played an integral role. The Khilafat movement also known as the Caliphate movement, or the Indian Muslim movement (1919–24), was a pan-Islamist political protest campaign launched by Muslims of British India. It was led by Shaukat Ali, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Hakim Ajmal Khan, and Abul Kalam Azad to restore the caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate, who was considered the leader of the Muslims, as an effective political authority. It was one of the major movements in Indian history. It was not a religious movement but rather done in solidarity with the Muslim community of the world.

The Khilafat Community later joined hands with the Indian National Congress and fought for both Khilafat and Swaraj. It soon became a part of the non-cooperation movement and ignited peaceful civil disobedience all over the country. The movement ended in 1922 when Turkey moved towards Nationalism.

Once the movement ended, Kitchlew engaged himself entirely in the cause of nationalism driven by religious unity and harmony. It was his vision that if Hindu, Muslims, Sikhs, and every other religion of the country come together to fight for a single cause, they can definitely win over the Colonial Rule.

His role in the Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala bagh

But before all this, Kitchlew played a crucial role in the Jallianwala Bagh. In March 1919, the Imperial Legislative Council passed the Rowlatt Act, which gave constitutional legitimacy to wartime emergency measures. This one act gave the government the power, to gag the press, make arrests without warrants and detain revolutionaries at will.

Protests broke out all across the country against the new inhumane Rowlatt Act. Kitchlew led several protests and ignited strikes requesting locals to stop their businesses and join the Non-cooperation movement. Almost 30,000 people attended his meeting on 30 March 1919. In his meeting, he passed several anti-colonial remarks and urged people to protest against the act. But all these protests were not violent and the majority protested peacefully.

Saifuddin Kitchlew

As per the new law, on 9th April 1919, Kitchlew along with Gandhi and Satyapal were arrested for leading protests in Punjab. In response to their arrest, several people came outside on road protesting against the unfair imprisonment of their leaders. One of the public meetings arranged at the Jallianwala Bagh led to the gruesome massacre which later came to be known as the ‘Jallianwala Bagh massacre’ killing thousands of innocents.

When Kitchlew was released from prison, both he and Gandhi highly condemn the act and it was the very deciding moment in history where every Indian started revolting against the Raj. The massacre became the first step of India towards Poorna swaraj.

Saifuddin Kitchlew was appointed as a chairman of the reception committee of the Congress in Lahore and on 26 January 1930, the INC declared Indian independence and welcomed an era of civil disobedience and revolution aimed to achieve poorna Swaraj- an ideology driven by Bhagat Singh. Kitchlew formed Naujawan Bharat Sabha, a committee of youth where they educate young students to participate in nationalist causes.

During his years as a revolutionary, Saifuddin Kitchlew was arrested several times and spent a total of 14 years in prison. Post-independence, Kitchlew protested against the partition of India and the Muslim League. He held several meetings, gatherings, and public events to protest against the partition and voted for a resolution.

“surrender of nationalism for communalism”- Saifuddin Kitchlew.

This was the very reason that he refused to go to Pakistan and chose to stay in India. After the partition, Kitchlew left congress and instead formed the All-India Peace Council. He died on 9 October 1963.

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