The Patient Assassin

Anand gave the audience at Hay a moving account of the Amritsar massacre of 1919, which cost the lives of hundreds when troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer fired rifles into a crowd of unarmed Punjabi civilians.

Her book tells the tale of Udham Singh, the “beating heart of this book”.   He was a young, low-caste orphan who survived the massacre but according to legend, “picked up a handful of blood-soaked earth, smeared it across his forehead and vowed to kill the men responsible, no matter how long it took”.

Her research has traced Singh and his many alias’ through Africa, the United States and across Europe, all the way to a London hall in 1940, where he was ready to shoot down Michael O’Dwyer, the man who endorsed Reginald Dyer’s actions the day of the massacre.

Anand told the audience that the book has a very personal relevance, as her grandfather was there the day of the massacre.  Luckily he survived, however, she said “he lived with survivor’s guilt for the rest of his life”.  She described how he went blind later in life, but if anyone offered sympathy, he would say “don’t feel sorry for me, God gave me my life that day, it’s only right that he should take the light from my eyes”.

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Picture by Sam Hardwick