Tuesday, August 31 2021

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Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module. This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time.

That’s senior space official Vladimir Solovyov announcing that Russian cosmonauts have discovered new cracks in the International Space Station. He’d previously warned that much of the ISS's equipment is starting to age—and that there could be an “avalanche” of broken equipment after 2025. This is the latest in a series of woes afflicting the station—which briefly spun out of control last month due to a software glitch.

Big Story

A big brouhaha over the Jallianwala Bagh memorial

The TLDR: A Rs 200 million (20 crore) renovation of the iconic site has sparked outrage at the ‘Disneyfication’ of a cherished memorial. We look at what has changed—and why people are so angry.


First, a quick history lesson

  • On April 13, 1919, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer marched his soldiers to Jallianwala Bagh—where they blocked the single, narrow lane that led to the ground. 
  • Gathered inside the Bagh were 15,000-20,000 people protesting the draconian Rowlatt Act—which allowed the colonial government to indiscriminately arrest people as “terrorists.” 
  • Authorities had imposed martial rule but news of the order banning the assembly of more than four people had not reached Amritsar yet.
  • At 5 pm, Dyer’s 50 soldiers—armed with .303, Lee Enfield and bolt action rifles—opened fire on the crowd without any warning. 
  • They fired all the 1,650 rounds, and the firing lasted ten minutes.
  • The official death toll according to the British was 379, but the Indian National Congress insisted at least 1,000 were killed and 500 injured. 
  • At least 120 bodies were recovered from the well inside in the Bagh—where people jumped in a panic to save themselves.
  • After an inquiry into the tragedy, Dyer was removed from his post—but he was treated as a hero by the British public. 
  • It also marked a turning point in the freedom struggle—convincing Gandhi-ji that cooperation with the colonial government was not possible after this “wanton cruelty and inhumanity almost unparalleled in modern times.”


The latest scholarship: has failed to establish the exact number of deadwhich range from 200 to 2,000. The recently republished ‘Jallianwala Bagh’ by historian VN Datta puts the number at 700but insists there were no women and children at the gathering. More intriguingly, Datta lays out evidence of a plan to deliberately engineer a massacrearguing that a government agent named Hans Raj made efforts to ensure that the meeting at the Bagh would take place. Also this:


“As the gathering panicked on seeing the military, Hans Raj mounted the stage to say that the military will not fire, and that the meeting should proceed with its work. He then signalled Dyer by dropping his handkerchief, walked towards the General and vanished forever.”


Ok, tell me about the memorial…

The original Jallianwala Bagh memorial was first inaugurated back in 1961 by President Rajendra Prasad—exactly 42 years after the tragedy. The most notable part of the memorial was the ‘Flame of Liberty’ monument designed by American sculptor Benjamin Polk:


In 2015, the entire area around the next-door Golden Temple was renovated—but the Bagh was left out. And it was gently going to seed over the years. The government made up for this omission in 2019—allocating  Rs 20 crore for its restoration to mark the 100 year anniversary of the tragedy. The project was supervised by the Archaeological Survey of India and developed by Ahmedabad-based Vama Communications—which had previously worked on the National Police Museum in Delhi and Mahatma Gandhi Museum in Rajkot. The Bagh was shut to the public until Saturday—when the Prime Minister unveiled its new look, sparking all the furore. 


Here’s a bird’s eye view of the new look:


Side note: Even before its unveiling, the renovation briefly ran into trouble due to an image of two “semi-naked” women (in the style of classical paintings)—which was placed in the gallery alongside the likes of Guru Nanak and Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was removed after angry objections from local activists. See the offending image below (tap to zoom):


So what’s wrong with it?


In today’s edition

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