After the terrible massacre at Jallianwala Bagh on 13th April, 1919, the Legislative Council of the government of India constituted the Hunter Commission to examine the mishap that occurred there. On that fateful day, at least a thousand people including women, children and the elderly died and another 1500 were injured, on the orders of General Dyer. The investigating committee was led by Lord William Hunter. The commission was formed on 29th October 1919. It convened in November and took testimony over a period of 46 days.
Hunter Commission Members
- Chairman – Lord William Hunter, ex- Solicitor-General
- W.F. Rice, Additional Secretary to the Government of India (Home Department)
- Justice G.C. Rankin, Judge of the High Court, Calcutta
- Major General Sir George Barrow, Commandant of the Peshawar Division
- Sir Chimanlal Setalvad
- Pandit Jagat Narayan
- Sardar Sultan Ahmed Khan
General Dyer appeared before the commission on 19th November. He stated that he had planned to fire at the crowd, not just to disperse, but to instill a moral impact so as to prevent a mutiny. He also indicated that he had planned to use the machine guns and the armoured cars and would have used them if he had the chance to. He also acknowledged that he left the wounded unattended.
Hunter Commission Report
The commission submitted its report on 26th May 1920. In it, the majority of the members reprimanded Dyer for a ‘mistaken concept of duty’. It concluded that the gathering was not the result of a conspiracy by Indians. Martial law declared in Punjab was justified. It also concluded that Dyer firing at the mob was justified except that he should have given a warning first, and that the duration of the firing should have been shortened. (He had ordered firing for ten minutes).
A minority report was submitted by the Indian members of the commission who questioned the need for martial law at that time and also contested on the severity of the disturbances.
After the commission submitted its report and finished its work, the then government gave Rs. 15000 to the dependents of those killed in the Bagh and Rs. 12000 for the dependents of those killed in the villages in Punjab.