Published: 16th March 2021
New edition of historian V N Datta's 'Jallianwala Bagh' released
The revised edition now comes with an introduction by his daughter and a noted historian herself Nonica Datta
A new edition of the late historian Vishwa Nath Datta's 1969 classic 'Jallianwala Bagh: A groundbreaking history of the 1919 massacre' was released on Monday, announced publishing house Penguin.
The revised edition, of what is widely considered as one of the first attempts to document the gruesome massacre, now comes with an introduction by his daughter and a noted historian herself Nonica Datta, it added. Based on a meticulous exploration of the primary sources and oral testimonies of the survivors and victims of 1919, the author crafts a unique and first-hand narrative of this event and its legacy in the history of modern India and provides a complex picture of the city of Amritsar, where he grew up. "This is a new edition of 'Jallianwala Bagh', a classic written by my father, historian VN Datta in 1969. Through a masterly reading of hitherto undiscovered archival sources and oral testimonies, Datta crafts a complex picture of the city of Amritsar, where he grew up; this ia a setting for his vivid description of the massacre," Nonica, who teaches history at Jawahar lal Nehru University said.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place in Amritsar (undivided Punjab) during the Baisakhi festival on April 13, 1919, when troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer opened fire at a crowd of people holding a pro-independence demonstration, leaving scores dead. "Even after the 100th year of commemoration, his work becomes all the more immediate. As a historian writing in the 1960s, his crafting of an intricate narrative and analysis of 1919, uncomfortably entangled with local and national histories, is no mean feat. "Recognised as a classic across the global community of scholars, VN Datta's Jallianwala Bagh deserves a wider readership for generations to come. Some books never cease to remain relevant. Jallianwala Bagh is one such," writes Nonica in the introduction.
A pathbreaking study that moves the focus away from the frames of imperialism and nationalism, the book, according to the publishers, brings a local and an altogether different scholarly perspective on imperial, racial and military violence in the 20th century. "This highly readable work in its revised edition is of tremendous historical and contemporary value," they added.
Datta, born in 1926, belonged to independent India's first generation of historians who brought a liberal and pluralistic outlook to the writing of modern Indian history. He died at his residence in New Delhi in December last year. He was 94 years old. His other well-known works include 'Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sarmad'; 'Gandhi and Bhagat Singh'; 'Amritsar: Past and Present' and 'Sati: A Historical, Social, and Philosophical Enquiry Into the Hindu Rite of Widow-Burning'.