Rajneesh Dhawan)(RD): I am Associate Professor with the Department of English at the University of the Fraser Valley in Canada. I was born in Amritsar and despite being a Canadian for almost ten years, I have retained strong connections with the city of my birth. I have been freelancing for stage and television for more than two decades. I have written three T.V. series and four documentaries for Doordarshan. Since moving to Canada, I have written and produced four plays. I write in English, Hindi and Punjabi.
SM: When and how did the thought of writing the book on Jallianwala Bagh came to your mind ?
RD: Since I grew up in Amritsar, Jallianwala Bagh has been a part of my emotional and psychological make-up for as long as I can remember. In 2016, I read a research paper on the Jallianwala bagh massacre written by Dr. Parminder Singh Sandhu. After reading that paper, I realized, how little I knew about the complete story and impact of this momentous event. That is when I decided that this story needs to be told in its totality. In 2017, I wrote a screenplay based on the events that led to this tragedy and registered it with the SWA, Mumbai. I was keen to get the story out before the centenary of the event. When I could not find a producer for the film, I decided to tell the story in the form of a novel. I chose Hindi as the medium of expression because I wanted to reach the widest audience base. Luckily, Rajpal and Sons accepted my submission and brought the book out in the shortest possible time.
SM: In which all languages the book is available ?
RD: So far the book is available in Hindi. Efforts are afoot to translate it in English and Punjabi.
SM: What all efforts you had to get the writing material ready for you ?
RD: The character and idiom of Amritsar is in my blood and spirit. I identify myself as an Ambarsariya first and foremost. It was therefore natural for me to understand the reactions that the locals would have had to the events that were happening in Amritsar since February 1919. In 2014, I had written a historical play based upon the Komagatamaru incident of 1914 and the subsequent Gadarmovement. My research told me that these two incidents were connected with the Jallianwala bagh massacre. Onc
SM: How long it took for you to finalize the book content ?
RD: The research took almost a year and a half. Writing the book took about two months.
SM: Could you tell us in brief about the book ?
RD: There is a general perception that the Jallianwala baghmassacre was a stand-alone incident where General Dyer sprayed bullets on peaceful satyagrahis protesting the imposition of the Rowlatt act. But that is not the complete story. Beginning March 30, 1919, Amritsar had assumed a leading role in the protests against the Rowlatt act. A number of non-violent and violent incidents happened between March 30, and April 10 and following those incidents, General Dyer was sent to Amritsar with specific instructions “to teach the people a lesson.” The novel uses these incidents as its backdrop and presents the story through the lens of the common citizens of Amritsar; citizens who had the courage to challenge the mighty British empire.
SM: Its a digital age where everything is being read online. So, how easy or difficult was you to find a publisher ?
RD: I submitted the proposal to Rajpal and Sons in Januarythis year and within a couple of weeks they expressed their interest in publishing the book. They promised that they will get the book out before April 13, and they have kept their promise. I guess I was lucky, and I can safely say, my book is interesting and extremely informative.
SM: What are the future plans after this book ? Do you have any other subject in your mind which you wish to write in coming days ?
RD: I am working on a documentary on the same subject for the English speaking audience. Discussions are also going on to make it into a feature film. I have two more books in the pipeline. The first one is in Hindi and has been written in the genre of fantasy. The second one is comedy based upon a societal problem and language of expression in that case is English.
The book is now available at bookstores, www.amazon.in and
SM: Thank you for your time today, Rajneesh and all the best for your upcoming books!
RD: Thank you.