Following the arrest of Teesta Setalvad, a claim alleging that her great grandfather gave 'clean-chit' to General Dyer, the person who ordered the firing on civilians in the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre.
On June 24, the Supreme Court upheld the Special Investigation Team's ruling clearing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 69 others of a conspiracy in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Following the SC's decision, the Gujarat police arrested activist Teesta Setalvad, former senior IPS officer RB Sreekumar and another retired IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. They have been arrested for allegedly fabricating evidence, committing forgery, and criminal conspiracy. Read The Logical Indian's report on the arrest here.
The viral posts carried two images which seemed to be historical documents concerning the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh in 1919. The first image carries the following text, "Evidence Taken before the Disorders Inquiry Committee' The image also carries the text, "Volume III Amritsar."
The second image carries the text, "Volume III Amritsar Part I Minutes of Evidence, Amritsar". The document states the names of 'Lord Hunter' and amongst the other names, 'Sir C.H. Seetalvad' can be seen. The viral posts claim that Teesta Setalvad comes from a lineage that has taken decisions against the interest of the nation. The viral posts imply that Setalvad's family has 'betrayed the nation'.
The images were shared by several people, more prominently by Kanchan Gupta, Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. In the tweet, Gupta addresses Setalvad as a 'Fraud activist and 'riot relief fund' scamster' and claimed that Teesta Setalvad is the great-granddaughter of Chimanlal Harilal Setalvad.
He states that Chimanlal Harilal Setalvad was a member of the infamous 'Hunter Commission' on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which gave a clean chit to General Dyer. Gupta also claims that MC Setalvad, the son of Chimanlal Harilal Setalvad, was selected as Attorney General of India by Nehru.
The viral post was shared widely across Twitter and Facebook with the same claim.
Twitter handles such as BJP Voice, Organiser Weekly, and sub-editor of the right-wing media outlet OpIndia Hindi, Anupam K Singh, among others also circulated the claim widely.
The Logical Indian fact check team verified the viral claim and found it to be false. Chimanlal Setalvad interrogated and criticised Dyer as well as Micheal O'Dwyer.
We conducted a keyword search for the 'Disorders Inquiry Committee' mentioned in the viral post. Our search led us to this page on the official website of the UK Parliament. The page contained both images as seen in the viral posts. On the page, it is detailed how the Hunter Commission was formed after the Jalianwala Bagh massacre, which led to the killings of an estimated 379 and the wounding of hundreds more. The British government established a committee to inquire into the events.
We also came across the report of the committee uploaded on Wikimedia. This committee was formed after the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre took place as an enquiry committee into the incident. The report mentions the following persons as members of the committee.
1. Lord Hunter, Chairman of the Commission
2. Mr Justice George C. Rankin of Calcutta
3. Major-General Sir George Barrow, KCB, KCMG, GOC Peshawar Division
4. W.F. Rice, member of the Home Department
5. Pandit Jagat Narayan, lawyer and Member of the Legislative Council of the United Provinces
6. Thomas Smith, Member of the Legislative Council of the United Provinces
7. Sir Chimanlal Harilal Setalvad, Vice-Chancellor of Bombay University and advocate of the Bombay High Court
8. Sardar Sahibzada Sultan Ahmad Khan, a lawyer from Gwalior State
9. H.C. Stokes, Secretary of the Commission and member of the Home Department
The committee's report was divided into two sections. As per the book, British Reaction To The Amritsar Massacre written by Derek Sayer, the committee was formed along "racial lines."
The majority section of the report constitutes Lord William Hunter and the four British lawyers George C. Rankin, Walter Francis Rice, Sir George de Symons Barrow, and Thomas Smith. Their signatures can be seen on the document below.
The members of the majority report criticised the actions of Dyer, who killed hundreds of civilians, on the following grounds. They noted that Dyer fired at the crowd without giving any chance for the people to disperse and that he continued to fire even as the crowd attempted to flee from the location.
However, other than these criticisms, the majority report states that Dyer's actions were justified due to the prevalent facto martial law, and due to the powers granted to Dyer to "re-establish civil control".
The minority report, on the other hand, is noted as being "more hostile" as compared to the majority report, as per the book British Reaction To The Amritsar Massacre written by Derek Sayer. Sayer notes that the minority report severely criticized Dyer's actions.
The minority committee consisted of the three Indian members of the Hunter Commission. This included Sir Chimanlal Harilal Setalvad, Sardar Sahibzada Sultan Ahmad Khan, and Jagat Narayan.
The minority report criticises Dyer by stating that his declaration of martial law in Amritsar was "insufficiently promulgated". The minority members termed the firing as an act of "frightfulness" which was compared to German atrocities in France and Belgium.
The minority report contains an interrogation of Dyer and includes responses by him referring to the victims of the massacre as targets. The report also highlights how Dyer aimed to cause "terror" and "punish" the victims. The report also contained criticism of Micheal O'Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, as well.
We came across a tweet by author Nilanjana Roy published on June 26. The tweet contained excerpts from the book The Paitent Assasin written by Anita Anand. The images from the book document the elaborate interrogation of Dyer conducted by Setalvad. The book states that Setalvad repeatedly cross-questioned Dyer which led him to make "one incendiary comment after another." The author also states that the Indians denounced the report as it failed to address Micheal O'Dwyer's role in the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre.
In our Fact Check, we also came across this report by The Outlook published on 29 June 2022. The report mentions Recollections and Reflections: An Autobiography written by Chimanlal Setalvad. In the autobiography, Chimanlal wrote down his observations after the Hunter Commission took place. The article quotes Chimanlal Setalvad having stated that there was a "definite cleavage of opinion between the European members on the one hand and the Indian Members." Chimanlal's noteworthy observations as noted in the article are noted below.
We also came across this report by The Week published on April 13, 2019, on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The report quotes Teesta as asserting that the Indian members of the Hunter Commission were "extraordinarily independent". She remarks, "They did not in any way feel that they had to bow before the dictates of the government."
In our Fact Check, we found historical documents from the Hunter Commission which stated the differing opinions of the majority and minority sections of the committee. The minority section had observed the actions of Dyer as an act of "frightfulness" and his warnings were "insufficiently promulgated"
The minority section consisted of Chimanlal Setalvad, who contrary to the claims of the viral posts, took an active stance against the actions by Dyer. He interrogated and criticised Dyer as well as Micheal O'Dwyer. It is also observed that neither of the sections gave a 'clean-chit' to Dyer. Thus, it can be concluded that the claim by the viral posts lacks historical context and is misleading.
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