Freedom fighter and educationist Madan Mohan Malaviya, who has been chosen for India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, had a close association with the holy city of Amritsar, dating back to the times when the British used 'black laws and ordinances' to crush any form of revolt against their oppressive rule.
A standing proof of Malaviya's love, affection and association with the city is the Durgiana Mandir, which is an important place of worship and also a landmark of the city. Malaviya laid the foundation stone of the Durgiana Mandir in 1925.
The design of the shrine is quite akin to the Golden Temple, for which Malaviya even came in for a great deal of criticism from the Sikh and Akali leadership of that time. Malaviya who also remained president of the Hindu Maha Sabha in the 20s was instrumental in motivating the rich Punjabis to come forward and give liberal donations for the construction of the temple.
PROBE INTO JALLIANWALA BAGH MASSACRE
However, Malaviya's link with Amritsar also came to be associated with pain and anguish. The saddest day or moment in his life was experienced in Amritsar.
That was when he visited the holy city just after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 13, 1919. He came to the city along with Mahatama Gandhi and went to the scene of the massacre. The magnitude of the tragedy moved him to tears.
It was on the instructions of Mahatama Gandhi that Malaviya started inquiring into the massacre. This was necessary as the then British government tried to play down the magnitude of the tragedy. Thereafter, Malaviya became a familiar face in Amritsar, spending long hours moving from one place to another and meeting eyewitnesses of the massacre. He also went around in the rural areas of Amritsar and Lahore, meeting people and recording their statements on the tragedy.
He presented his report in the Imperial Legislative Council of Punjab (Lahore) in September 1919, in which he contradicted the findings of the Hunter Commission. While the English put the death toll at around 200 plus, Malaviya's report stated that around 1,000 people were killed and over 2,000 were wounded. Among the dead were 42 children, with the smallest being a seven-month child.
On Gen Dwyer's claim that the people of Amritsar had been warned on April 12, 1919 about probationary orders in the city, banning rallies and gatherings, Malaviya's report pointed out that among the killed were 57 residents of various villages. He clearly pointed out that the people living in the villages were not aware of any probationary order of the government.
ATTENDED CONG SESSION IN AMRITSAR
Malaviya also attended the All India Congress Committee session held at Amritsar in December 1919. In the years to come and till his death in 1946, he made a number of trips to the holy city.
Malaviya founded the Amritsar Sewa Samiti along with some local citizens. To this day, the Samiti runs a number of health dispensaries, where free medical check-ups and even medicines are provided to the poor.
To show their love for Malaviya, the residents of the city have named a busy commercial road after him. The MM Road runs from Crystal Chowk to Novelty Chow