Dyer, Reginald

18 November, 2007
Markovits Claude

The man known to posterity as the “Butcher of Amritsar” had a rather chequered career in the Indian Army (the Colonial Army of British India). Born in India to a family of boxwallahs (people employed in the commercial sector), a social group looked down upon by both administrators and military officers, he made his way to Sandhurst, where he failed to join the prestigious arm of the cavalry, and had to settle for the infantry. In 1919 he was in command of a brigade in Jullundur in the Punjab, and took the initiative of proclaiming martial law in his area. An arch-imperialist, but apparently not a racist (he was on excellent terms with Indian soldiers, particularly Sikhs and was to be made an honorary Sikh prior to Amritsar, which of course made it impossible for him to be thus anointed). He became convinced that he was endowed with a mission to save the British Empire from subversion. He deliberately fired upon an unarmed crowd at Amritsar on 13 April 1919, and never showed any remorse over it. He became a symbol for the die-hard imperialists and the conservative Morning Post collected a sum of 26 317 £ for his defence. In spite of pressure to resign, he held out until July 1920, when he resigned “voluntarily” and retired to England, where after having suffered a stroke in 1922, he died in 1927. An exhaustive and excellent biography is Collett, 2005.

Cite this item

Markovits Claude, Dyer, Reginald, Mass Violence & Résistance, [online], published on: 18 November, 2007, accessed 17/02/2021, http://bo-k2s.sciences-po.fr/mass-violence-war-massacre-resistance/en/document/dyer-reginald, ISSN 1961-9898
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