The last known survivor of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, Shingara Singh, passed away here Monday. He was 113.
Singh was the last surviving witness to the merciless killing of unarmed Indian protestors, including women and children, at the Jallianwala Bagh who were fired upon by British forces led by Brigadier Reginald Dyer.
He died of old age complications and illness, family members said.
Popularly called Bapu (father) Shingara Singh, the freedom fighter used to point out to his hand where he claimed that he was shot. He was in his early 20s when the incident took place April 13, 1919.
British Army officer Dyer had commanded his troops to the Bagh on Baisakhi Day (April 13), located in a congested residential and commercial area near the holiest of Sikh shrines Harmandar Sahib (popularly known as Golden Temple), and opened fire without a warning to the unarmed protestors demanding an end to British rule in India.
Dyer's troops fired and killed hundreds and stopped only when they ran out of ammunition. The massacre could have been more deadly had Dyer realised his plan to fire from a machine-gun fitted armoured vehicle. The vehicle could not enter the narrow by-lane leading to the garden and had to stop outside.
The Bagh, enclosed from all four sides with buildings, had only one main entrance that was blocked by Dyer's troops. Other smaller gates were locked and people fleeing from the firing were shot. Many of them jumped to their death in a well inside the garden.
The British government officially put the casualties at 379 dead and over 1,100 injured. But local witnesses had claimed that nearly 2,000 people were killed in the massacre - the bloodiest in India's freedom struggle.
Singh, who was specially honoured by then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during a visit to the Bagh in March 2003, had, in recent years, rued the government apathy to him and his family.
But Monday saw Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal expressing sorrow at his demise.
Badal senior described him as an "icon of the pre-independence movement who was the last surviving witness to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre".
The Jallianwala Bagh is now a national memorial highlighting the sacrifice of hundreds of unknown men, women and children, including an infant, for India's freedom struggle.