Bhagat Singh (28 September 1907 — 23 March 1931) was an Indian socialist and a revolutionary. He is considered to be[who?] one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian Independence Movement.
Bhagat Singh's photo taken on 4 April 1929 (4 days before he threw bomb in the assembly)
|Born||28 September 1907[a]|
|Died||23 March 1931 (aged 23)|
Lahore, Punjab, British India
(present-day Punjab, Pakistan)
|Cause of death||Execution by hanging|
|Organization||Naujawan Bharat Sabha|
Hindustan Socialist Republican Association
Workers and Peasants Party
Kirti Kisan Party
|Movement||Indian Independence movement|
Singh was born to Vidyavati Kaur and Sardar Kishan Singh, in a Sikh Jat family on 28 September 1907 in Lyallpur, Punjab in British India. His family had earlier been involved in revolutionary activities against the British Raj.
His uncle Swaran Singh had participated in the freedom struggle against the British. When in 1907, an another uncle of Bhagat, Ajit Singh was arrested and exiled to Rangoon in Burma (Myanmar), Swaran asked the people of Punjab to force the government for his release and due to his efforts Ajit Singh was released from Rangoon jail in October 1907.
After coming back from jail, Ajit Singh decided to start a major revolt against the British. He began agitating the farmers and peasants to start a movement against them. The movement called 'Pagdi Sambhal Jatta' was launched in 1908.
The British came to know of his intentions and arrested him on 13 January 1911, when he was attending the Lohri festival celebration at his relative's house. In February, Ajit Singh escaped from jail and ran away home, only to inform about his planning to start a mass struggle abroad India. Ajit Singh bid farewell to his family and fled to Iran in March.
In 1912, Bhagat joined the District Primary School in Lyallpur and recieved his elementary education there till class IV. In 1916 his family shifted to Lahore so he had to leave the Primary School. In Lahore, he was admitted to the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (D.A.V) School, and he received rest of his primary education from there. When he was in 8th standard, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place. The very next day (on 14th April) he went to the bagh telling at his home that he was going to school. After running about 12 miles from Lahore, Bhagat reached Amritsar. On 2 pm as the boy Bhagat entered the bagh's compound he saw blood scattered all over the ground. The turbans and torn clothes of people laid lifeless on the ground. The walls of the compound were red with blood. As it was curfew in Punjab those days, the blood hadn't been cleaned. Bhagat had taken a glass bottle with him before leaving from home. He took a handful of blood-stained soil and put it in the bottle. He reached home and put the bottle on infront of the Sikh gurus potrait and prayed to him for peace and solace for the victims of the massacre and he pledged to teach the British a lesson.
In 1920, Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-cooperation movement to encourage a mass protest against the British and to boycott their trade in India and to end their cooperation with the British rule. Many people joined the movement and discarded the use of foreign goods and clothes. The people boycotted schools and colleges. The factories, industries, shops & hospitals run by government were all boycotted. Many students also left British schools and joined Indian schools.
Bhagat Singh also actively participated in the movement. He along with a group of people used to burn foreign clothes publicly and used to boycott foreign schools, he was only 13 years old.
In February 1922, In Chauri Chaura village of Gorakhpur in United Provinces, Non violent actvists of the town lead a march to a nearby liquor shop to picket it. Some policemen beated down activists. The protesters became angry and they burnt down the police station where the policemen were hidden killing all 22 policemen inside. Mahatma Gandhi was shocked to hear about the incident and he halted the non- cooperation movement realizing that the people had still not understood the message of non-violent protest against the British. This created much chaos around the common people as they thought that if Gandhi had not suspended the movement they would have easily gained freedom.
Bhagat also came to know of this. He also was equally shocked about halting of the movement. He ran away from he to go to Chauri Chaura but his father soon came to know of it and stopped him at Bathinda.
In 1923, He joined the National College in Lahore. There he studied as well took part in many extracurricular activities. In August 1923, an essay competition was held at the college by Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. The topic was to write about any of the special acknowledgements about Punjab. Bhagat Singh wrote an essay on the following topic:
THE PROBLEM OF PUNJAB'S LANGUAGE AND SCRIPT
An acquaintance of the literature of a society or a country is of prime importance for the understanding of that society or country, because the consciousness of the soul of a society or country, because the consciousness of the soul of a society gets reflected in its literature also." History is witness to the authenticity of the above statement. Countries have followed the direction determined by the flow of their literature. Every nation needs literature of high quality for its own uplift. As literature of a country attains new heights, the country also develops. Patriots — be they merely social reformers or political leaders — pay highest attention to the literature of their country. If they do not create new literature to meet the requirements of the contemporary issues and situations, all of their efforts will fail and their work will prove unstable.
Perhaps Garibaldi could not have succeeded in mobilising the army with such ease if Mazzini had not invested his thirty years in his mission of cultural and literary renaissance. The revival of Irish language was attempted with the same enthusiasm along with the renaissance in Ireland. The rulers so much wanted to suppress their language for the ultimate suppression of the Irish people that even kids were punished for the crime of keeping a few verses in Gaelic. The French revolution would have been impossible without the literature of Rousseau and Voltaire. Had Tolstoy, Karl Marx and Maxim Gorky not invested years of their lives in the creation of a new literature, the Russian Revolution would not have taken place, leave alone the propagation and practice of communism.
The same applies to the social and religious reformers. Kabir's ideas have a stable impact because of his literature. Till date, the sweetness and sensitivity of his poems prove captivating to the people.
Exactly the same can be said about Guru Nanak Devji, When the Sikh Gurus started establishing their new order along with the preaching of their beliefs, they felt the need of a new literature and this inspired Guru Angad Devji to evolve the Gurumukhi script. Centuries of continuous warfare and Muslim invasions had dried up the literature of Punjab. The Hindi language was at the verge of extinction. He adopted the Kashmiri script in his search for an Indian language. Later the Adi Granth was compiled by Guru Arjun Devji and Bhai Gurudasji. They took a far-reaching and useful step in this act of creating their own script and literature to perpetuate their beliefs...
Besides this, a month later he joined a Dramatics Society near the college campus and began to organize functions and shows.
In late October, he had organized a show for the governor of Punjab. When the governor Edward Douglas Maclagan arrived the theatre. The Indian people present there did not do anything in respect of the governor. They treated him very casually. He became so angry with the irrespective treating that he walked out of the theatre, but Bhagat Singh didn't mind and performed the show infront of the citizens of his motherland.
While studying in National College, he used to spend most of his time in the College Library reading books about armed revolution in foreign countries.
He was inspired by the Russian revolutionaries who believed that armed revolt can only bring freedom. His first act which brought to notice was that occured in March 1924. It is said that one of his friend's bullock cart driver was beaten harshly by some English officials as the sign the outside the office of the officials read - 'Indians are not allowed'. He took revenge and along with Sukhdev he attacked the officials car and beated them with clubs and sticks and escaped unnoticed in the night.
In April, his father asked him to get married for which he refused. His father pressurised him for it, so one night, he quietly left his home for going to Kanpur. Before leaving he wrote a letter to his father:
My life has been dedicated for serving the nation, I cannot get married as I have no intention to achieve worldly pleasures when my motherland is suffering. I have a responsibility to save the 30 crore citizens of my country as they are in great distress. So, I am leaving to achieve Swaraj for my country. I hope you will allow me to do this small contribution for my motherland.
Bhagat Singh worked for Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi in the newspaper Pratap Press in Kanpur for some months. Then he met Chandra Shekhar Azad and they began to work together for freedom struggle.
In early 1925, his father called him home as his mother was very ill. He wrote to him for coming home, promising he would not force him to get married:
Dear Son Bhagat,
Your mother is very ill. The village doctor gave some medicines to her but she wants to meet you as she is very sad that you left home without telling anyone. Please come home as soon as possible. I know that wherever you are you are no doubt fighting for freedom of the motherland but your mother also needs your support. I would not pressurise you for marriage. If you recieve this letter please come home soon.
In March 1925, he accepted his father's wish returned to Lyallpur but had to soon escape from there as police had came to know of his whereabouts. He went to Delhi and started publishing the Daily Veer Arjun Newspaper for 6 months.
In October, he returned to Kanpur to free the Kakori prisoners who had been arrested after the train robbery in Kakori (9 August) along with their leader Ram Prasad Bismil. The prisoners were temporarily kept in Kanpur Station Cell before being shifted to different Central Jails.
On 22 November, along with Azad, Bhagat went to to the Station Cell unnoticed and broke the lockups and freed one their comrade but the police soon arrived there and they had to run away. Thus the plan failed.
In March 1926, he organized the Naujawan Bharat Sabha to encourage the young men of his country to fight for there freedom. He began to address big public meetings and asked them to overthrow the British rule from India. He also took the help of Dramatics Society for the purpose of spreading his message.
On 16 March 1927, Singh ordered a felt hat from an Italian Textile factory Giusippe Cambiaghi. The hat costed him ₹ 57. The highest price of a hat at that time.
On 16 October, when the Dussehra festival fair was held in Lahore Maidan. At 7:10 pm a bomb exploded in crowded section of Maidan when the Ramleela procession was being taken out. About 10 people died in this explosion and about five times of that were injured. People rushed out of the Maidan to save their lives.
Next day, The Tribune was published as follows-
LAHORE, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1926 (VOL-XLVI)
BOMB EXPLOSION AT DUSSEHRA FAIR
Lahore-On Saturday, during the festival of Dussehra, the annual Dussehra Fair was organised at Lahore Maidan. About 200 people gather there for celebration. When the Ramleela play is held at 7 pm a tragic bomb Explosion takes place at the crowded section. According to the sources luckily the explosion hasn't caused much harm to most of the people. Many people escaped unhurt but unfortunately, 12 people are said to have died in this explosion. 50 are said to be injured. According to the Police report, the explosion was committed by Indian revolutionaries who wanted to spread terror among the people and disturb peace in the nation. The local people deny and say it is the doing of the British Government to blame the revolutionaries for such ungrateful act.
The British Government took advantage of the incident and arrested Bhagat on the pretext that he was involved in the bomb incident on 29 May 1927. The real reason for his arrest was to stop him from addressing people to unite against the British rule.
It was later found that the bomb explosion was caused by a man named Channa Adin who was bribed by the Lahore police for committing such an act to get an opportunity for blaming the revolutionaries.
He was released on a security of ₹ 60,000 (about ₹ 25,00,000 of today) for having found no evidence against him, about a month later.
He became involved in numerous revolutionary activities. He quickly gained prominence in the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) and became one of its chief leaders. Eventually, the name of the organization was changed to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) on 9 September 1928.
A Commission known as Simon Commission was appointed by the British Government to look after the administration of India for further political reforms. The commission which reached India on 3 February 1928 decided to tour the whole India to gain the first hand information of the condition of the administration. But there were no Indians in the commission, this angered many Indian political leaders who lead protests against the commission.
The leaders lead marches and rallies wherever the commission went using the slogan 'Simon Go Back'. The Commission reached Lahore on 30 October 1928. The protest march was lead by Lala Lajpat Rai. As the members of commission got down from the train at Lahore Railway Station. The protesters began yelling 'Simon Go Back', soon the protest turned violent and the police had to resort to lathi charge to stop the protest. The SP of Lahore James A. Scott began to beat Lalaji with a baton. Lalaji became wounded from the batoning but he continued to yell 'Simon Go Back...Simon Go Back...Simon Go Back...' Lalaji was wounded and he fell to the ground, before he fell he is said to have announced:
'Each and every baton that rained down on me will prove the last nails of the coffin of this empire'.
18 days later, Lalaji succumbed to his wounds. Bhagat Singh who was also in the protest march was the witness to this incident and decided to take revenge.
To avenge this, Bhagat made a plan by calling a meeting at Mozang House (an HSRA hideout). On the night, of 10 December the plan to kill the SP Scott was made. Jaigopal was asked to keep a watch on Scott for five days and report the time to fix for execution of plan.
On 15 December, the last meeting was held in which Sukhdev presented a map of the Police Headquarters of Lahore where Scott used to work. Bhagat and Rajguru were chosen to execute the plan. Jaigopal was told to signal Bhagat and Rajguru as he sees Scott coming out of the office. The plan was now ready to be executed.
On 17 December, Bhagat along with Rajguru & Chandrashekhar Azad went to the area of Police Headquarters. Bhagat and Rajguru hid behind a tree nearby. Jaigopal also came riding on his bicycle and acted as he was repairing it to wait for Scott. On 16:20 as another police officer ASP Saunders came out of the office Jaigopal mistook him for Scott and signaled Bhagat and Rajguru. As soon as Saunders approached the tree near the office Rajguru came out and shot him in the head which wounded him and Bhagat shot thrice in his chest and killed him.
The Head Constable Chanan Singh chased Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Azad but was wounded by Azad's covering fire.
The traffic inspector Fern who was standing there controlling the traffic saw them running and started chasing them. Bhagat fired at Fern but he ducked down to prevent the shot and thus the shot missed. The four then escaped through the D.A.V college backdoor to arranged safehouses.
Next day, Posters appeared all over the walls of Lahore informing the public about the revenge action against the British-
"TYRANT GOVERNMENT BEWARE" Saunders has been killed. Lalaji's death has been avenged.........
The rest of the matter of the poster contained the motives behind the murder of the officer and warning given to the Intelligence Department and Bureaucracy. It was signed by Balraj (a pseudonym of Chandrashekhar Azad).
When the news of Saunder's murder reached the British government in Lahore. The government launched a search operation in the whole of Lahore. The CID was asked to keep a watch on every person departing and arriving in Lahore.
On 18 and 19 December many people were arrested on suspicion of the murder. Many people were beated mercilessly and caught and jailed without warrant.
The HSRA decided that it is not safe for Bhagat to be in Lahore as he would be soon caught by the police if so. So they planned Bhagat's escape from Lahore to reach Calcutta.
On the evening of 19 December Sukhdev requested Durga Bhabhi (wife of Bhagwati Vohra, member of HSRA) to accompny Bhagat to escape from Lahore. Durga Bhabhi agreed willingly.
To avoid recognition Bhagat had shaved his beard and cut his long hair (a violation of Sikh customs) and had wore an English outfit. He asked Durga Bhabhi to wear an English outfit too. Rajguru was asked to become the porter at the station.
At about 6:00 am Bhagat along with Durga Bhabhi and Rajguru who acted as their porter reached the Railway Station and boarded the first train from Lahore to Calcutta. Chandra Shekhar Azad too escaped Lahore along with them.
In Calcutta, Bhagat and Chandra Shekhar Azad met Jatindranath Das, a scholar and a scientist in January 1929. Jatin was asked to make bombs, arsenals and other weapons for the HSRA. The HSRA set up a bomb factory in Agra for the purpose. In March, the arsenals were tried and tested in secret near the Yamuna River.
In April, the British Government introduced two bills called as Public Safety Bill and Trade Dispute Bill. The first was for the purpose of curbing mass protests that were taking place in many parts of the country and the second was for lowering the pension of the mill workers and farmers by 10%.
Meanwhile, the Bombay Textile Mill workers announced a strike on 15 February to protest against low wages paid by the owner of the mill. The workers remained on strike for many days. They also barred the entry of the owner in the mill. The owner reported the problem to his friend who was a British Officer. The Officer agreed to help him. On 1 April, the Officer came with a large cavalry force to disperse the protesting workers to make way for the owner. First the Officer requested the workers to end the strike but they refused to do so. The Officer then ordered the cavalry to Lathi charge on the workers. Many were injured in this Lathi Charge.
To put a stop on the strikes of workers, the government decided to pass the bills as soon as possible.
The British decided to pass the bills on 8 April.
Bhagat Singh decided to protect the rights of the farmers of his country to protest against unjust laws of the government and decided to halt the passing of bills.
On 8 April, as the Speaker Vithalbhai Patel stood up to announce the passing of bill, He bombarded the assembly with two bombs making sure that this will not harm any person. They were shouting slogans of revolution and threw pamphlets.
After the bombarding, they surrendered. He was kept in Delhi Central Jail from 16 April to 13 June.
The trial for Delhi Assembly Bomb case began on 7 May with an introductory hearing with the Presiding Judge Justice PB Pool. In the next hearing, a month later on 6 June lawyer Asaf Ali defended Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt. Asaf tried his best to defend the revolutionaries but in vain as on 12 June, both were sentenced to transportation for life in Delhi Jail.
In the Court hearings, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt made a statement to clarify their motives for bombing and about the repressive action of government against the Labourers and Farmers of the country who have a large participation in the economical development of the country. The typewriter had written the whole statement. Here is a small part of the statement.
No...Hope...For... Labour.../stop/ We...have...been...ruminating.../stop/ upon...all...these...matters.../stop/ as...also...upon...the.../stop/ wholesale...arrests...of...the.../stop/ leaders...of...the...labour movement.../stop/ When...the...introduction...of.../stop/ the...Trade...Disputes...Bill.../stop/ brought...us...into...the.../stop/ Assembly...to...watch...its.../stop/ progress...the...course...of.../stop/ the...debate...only...served.../stop/ to...confirm...our...conviction.../stop/ that...the...labouring...millions.../stop/ of...India...had...nothing.../stop/ to...expect...from... an.../stop/ institution...that...stood...as.../stop/ a...menacing...monument...to.../stop/ the...strangling...of...the.../stop/ exploiters...and...the...serfdom.../stop/ of...the...helpless...labourers.../stop/
The next day, the police came to know about his involvement in the murder of ASP Saunders and soon made preparations to transfer him to Mianwali Jail and Dutt to Lahore Central Jail.
The police then took Bhagat and Batukeshwar Dutt to Mianwali & Lahore.
The next day, Bhagat reached Mianwali Jail. He was kept in this jail while all other HSRA revolutionaries were kept in Lahore Central Jail.
The next day, as Bhagat got to know that the English prisoners and thieves were treated with dignity and were given healthy food but there was discrimination with Indian prisoners and revolutionaries and given non-hygenic food as well.
Bhagat began his longest (112 days) hunger strike in jail which lasted from 15 June to 5 October 1929. Together many other revolutionaries began hunger strike that day.
The demands that Bhagat placed before the jailor were- 1. There should be no discrimination between the British and Indian prisoners.
2. Indian prisoners should be given books and newspapers to read and clean clothes to wear as given to the British.
3. Healthy food should be provided to the Indian prisoners.
The demands were refused many times by the jail authorities and the jailors forced the prisoners to break their hunger strike treacherously.
They would often beat the prisoners to drink milk or swallow food to halt the hunger strike but the prisoners were adamant.
The Lahore Conspiracy Case trial began on 10 July 1929, in the Lahore Jail Cantonment Hall. Bhagat Singh had been shifted a day earlier to this jail for the trial. The Presiding Judge was Justice Rai Sahib Pandit Sri Kishen. There were in total 14 accused and 2 approvers in the case. Jaigopal later turned approver.
Meanwhile, Jatin Das who had begun his hunger strike 28 days after Bhagat, died on 13 September 1929 due to weakness. Thousands of people attended his funeral on 15 September and felt proud for the brave revolutionary Jatin Das.
At last, on 5 October the Jail authorities agreed to the prisoners' demands and they ended their hunger strike.
Rajguru gets arrested at a motor garage in Pune on 30 September 1929 and is presented in the court hearing on 18 October.
Kundan Lal and Bejoy Kumar Sinha also get arrested in September.
On the other hand, The Conspiracy Case trials went on with no decision for months. Jaigopal betrayed the HSRA by telling that Bhagat was involved in the murder of Saunders. On 21 October 1929, as Jaigopal spoke the truth a revolutionary Prem Dutt became so angry he insulted him and threw his slipper on his head. Jaigopal fainted and collapsed in the witness box.
Prem Dutt was handcuffed but the revolutionaries protested so Magistrate Rai Saheb ordered all of them to be handcuffed but they did not budge. The police started beating them and forced to be handcuffed. They were badly wounded due to this. Many had to be taken away from the court on stretcher.
The Magistrate had later felt apology for his act.
To Speed up the slow moving trial, Lord Irwin declared Emergency on 1 May 1930. Arrests of the accused were speeded up and the arrested ones were to pass through trials of the special tribunal. The tribunal was appointed by the Viceroy on 30 April. Three Judges - Justice Coldstream, Justice GC Hilton and Justice Agha Hyder justified the Case.
The trials of the special tribunal began on 5 May 1930 at The Court of Special Magistrate in Poonch House. The location had been shifted from the Lahore Cantonment. The accused were forcibly taken to the trials as they had refused to come to the court. The revolutionaries knew well that the presiding judge is British and he will no doubt give them a harsh punishment. On the 8th day of the trial, the revolutionaries were again harshly beaten with sticks and were dragged to the court for trial. The revolutionaries boycotted the trials from that day on and did not present themselves in the court. They demanded that Justice GC Hilton must be removed and Indian Judge must preside the case. But the Government denied their wish. In June, they removed Justice Agha Hyder (who had tried to stop the police from beating the revolutionaries as he had sympathy for them) and Presiding Judge Justice Coldstream and made Justice GC Hilton the presiding judge and appointed Justice Abdul Qadir and Justice Tapp instead.
The revolutionaries permanently boycotted the trials due to the opposite result of their demand.
Thus, the trials continued in the absence of the accused. Thus the trials were only based on the testimoies of the 3 Government approvers Jaigopal, Hans Raj Vohra & Phonindra Nath Ghosh.
The testimonies were utilised as prime evidence against the accused and were thus used to give the judgement in the case.
On 7 October 1930, the special tribunal of three judges pronounced their judgement as follows-
1. To be Hanged till death
! Bhagat Singh ! Sukhdev Thapar ! Shivaram Rajguru----
2. Sentenced for life imprisonment ! Shiv Verma ! Jaidev Kapoor ! Mahavir Singh ! Gaya Prasad ! Kishori Lal ! Bejoy Kumar Sinha ! Kamal Nath Tiwari----
3. Termed Imprisonment ! Prem Dutt-5 Years ! Kundan Lal-7 Years----
4. Released due to lack of evidence ! Desh Raj ! Ajoy Kumar Ghosh
! Jatindra Nath Sanyal----
Rajguru & Sukhdev were to be hanged on 24 March 1931 at 7 am sharp.
Bhagat Singh was ordered to be hanged separately on 27 October, but later in December it was decided to hang three of them together in the jail in March only.
Many of the politicians appealed to the government to reduce the punishment of the three comrades especially Madan Mohan Malviya, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Subhash Chandra Bose who had positive views about the revolutionaries.
Especially, Mahatma Gandhi asked the Viceroy Lord Irwin to cancel the hanging of three revolutionaries but he refused to do so.
On 22 March, the Jailor decided to bring forward the hanging time 111/2 hours earlier to prevent public protest outside the Jail.
The families of the three were not allowed to meet them on 23 March. The father of Bhagat, Kishan Singh with his wife waited outside for a long a time to get a last glimpse of his brave son but even they were denied.
At 7:20 pm, the Jailor arrived with other officers to take them to the gallows. At that time, Bhagat was reading the Biography of Russian leader Lenin. He called out to Bhagat to get ready as they were getting late. He replied 'wait a minute, one revolutionary is meeting the other'. He threw the book towards the ceiling and stepped out of the cell.
Then while going towards the gallows the three comrades Bhagat, Sukhdev and Rajguru sang the patriotic song 'Mera Rang De Basanti Chola'.
At 7:28, the three arrived at the hanging fort where several officers were waiting for them. Bhagat said to one of the officers 'Sir, today you will see how bravely the great sons of India embrace death'.
So at 7:30 pm, the three were hanged till death by the Lahore Central Jail authorities.
After hanging, their bodies were carried away secretly to Ferozepore through the backdoor of the Jail.
Late at night, the authorities reached the Satluj river banks in Ferozepore where they burnt the bodies of the three revolutionaries.
Soon a big crowd armed with fire torches arrived the river banks. The authorities were frightened and they fled from the scene. The people in the crowd then informed Bhagat's father Kishan Singh about the incident who along with Vidyawati came rushing to Ferozepore. Kishan Singh wept with grief along with pride at the same time for his brave son. The next day, the people and Kishan Singh cremated the body of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.
Thus the brave Indian revolutionary laid down his life for liberating his motherland.
In the memory of the martyrdom of the three brave sons of India the day '23 March' is celebrated every year as Martyr's Day.
The Government of India has made memorials and released many postage stamps to honour these brave martyrs of India.
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