The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was a turning point in the Indian freedom struggle, but the Amritsar memorial is struggling to get regular funds for its upkeep as the nation observes the 99th anniversary of the British brutality.

With an estimated 50,000 daily visitors, or 1.8 crore annually, the memorial opens between sunrise and sunset daily and welcomes visitors all the year round. Despite this heavy footfall, the memorial that is run by a trust set up in 1951 has no regular source of income and the trust struggles to maintain the historic site, which is close to the Golden Temple.

The upkeep of the memorial is the responsibility of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust. “Since no funds are received from the government, either Centre or state, the income generated from renting out a building to Punjab National Bank and interest accrued from government securities is not enough to sustain and maintain the site,” the trust’s secretary S K Mukherjee told , adding that the trust spends about Rs 5.5 lakh monthly.

A memorial fund collected over Rs 9 lakh after the 1919 Baisakhi day massacre and the Jallianwala Bagh land, roughly seven acres in size, was bought for Rs 5.65 lakh in 1920.

The remaining amount, around Rs 4 lakh, was invested in government securities. Interest from these funds, said Mukherjee, was insufficient to meet daily expenses and salaries of 15 employees.

So bad is the trust’s financial situation that the light and sound show, inaugurated by then defence minister A K Antony in 2010 has been discontinued for over a year. The system and software used for the 52-minute show narrated by actor Amitabh Bachchan in Hindi has periodically been hit by snags. “The whole son-et-lumiere system required an immediate upgrade as the existing one had outlived its life and often developed snags,” Mukherjee said.

A private residential building, with historic bullet marks on its facade and acquired in 2011-12 is yet to be restored. “It’s in a very bad condition and the building could cave in anytime. We need funds for its repair and to strengthen its structure,” explained Mukherjee, adding that the museum is in desperate need of funds to digitise archives.

At several places within the memorial, tiles have become loose and have not been repaired. There have been a couple of low intensity blasts, including one in March, near Amar Jyoti caused by gas accumulation and these ripped apart several tiles. The eternal flame at Amar Jyoti is kept lit with regular supply of seven gas cylinders a week from the Indian Oil Corporation.

The Union ministry of culture under the previous UPA government had announced issue of over Rs 7 crore for the trust. A light and sound system was installed, an auditorium was constructed and some other work was carried out at the site using some of the money.

The trust has had to contribute funds from its own resources to meet urgent expenses for facilities like drinking water and toilets. “Sometimes small expenses of about few thousand rupees come up suddenly and money is required immediately. If there is a scarcity of funds, I have to spend from my own pocket. I can’t afford to spend in lakhs, but I have often spent a few hundred or thousand rupees,” says Mukherjee.

Several announcements regarding grants or plan to bid for World Heritage status for Jallianwala Bagh have been made earlier, but there was no action on those. He had suggested levying a visitor charge so that the trust could at least generate sufficient funds to meet its daily expenses. Senior BJP leader and a former trustee L K Advani too had proposed an entry ticket of Rs 5 for the visitors, but it couldn’t be implemented.

The bloodshed unleashed under the command of British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer April 13, 1919, the Baisakhi day, affected hundreds of families.

The toll is still disputed — the colonial government put the number of deaths at 376, but the Indian National Congress said more than 1,000 had died. The 1,650 rounds fired by Indian and Gurkha soldiers under command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer also injured 1,200 people.

A handful of elderly relatives of the people killed in the massacre want the Central government to finalise an exact number of martys killed in the Baisakhi day bloodbath. They also want facilities that are extended to the kin of the freedom fighters and representation in the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust.

Led by Mahesh Behal, the Jallianwala Bagh Shaheed Parivar Samiti, a group formed by the descendants of the martyrs wants the government to finally fix the exact number of people martyred on the day and display their names in the memorial.

Behal says the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust has a list of 379 martyrs, the government’s list has names of 501 martyrs and his organization has names of 464 martyrs. Another independent list has over 1,000 martyrs.

“The dust should be finally cleared over this issue and there should be no confusion on the number of martyrs now,” adds Satpal Sharma, a descendant of a martyr. He wants the names of all the martyrs to be displayed near the Flame of Liberty.

The Amritsar district administration had issued freedom fighter successor certificates in 2016 to about half-a-dozen descendants of the martyrs, but they did not receive any facilities like rail concession, and pension given to the relatives of freedom fighters. The district administration issued these certificates based on the list of martyrs registered in the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust records to their descendants after they gave detailed Shajra Nasab (family ancestry tree).

Descendants of the Jallianwala Bagh victims still hold memories of those killed in the massacre close to their heart.



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