02 May 2019, The Tablet

Bathed in blood


Beyond Belief Podcasts
BBC Radio 4

The centenary commemorations of the Amritsar massacre, in which a detachment commanded by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer slaughtered more than 500 unarmed Indian citizens – mostly Sikh but some Hindus – who had congregated at the Jallianwala Bagh, have stirred a debate about what might be called negative exceptionalism. To put it starkly, was the bloodbath unique in its awfulness, or was it merely the tip of an iceberg of atrocities and humiliations visited on the subcontinent by a couple of centuries of British imperialism?

Beyond Belief is nothing if not eclectic, and the podcasts available on its website cover a wide range of topics in an equally wide range of tones (“Six things you might not know about chanting” is one of the current selections.) On the other hand, the guests Ernie Rea assembled here to discuss Amritsar offered an A-grade demonstration of what a resourceful producer – in this case Catherine Earlam – can do in half an hour: always sticking to the main point, but veering off in several unexpected directions in search of supporting evidence.

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