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Bhagat Singh
Bhagat Singh 1929.jpg
Bhagat Singh's photo taken on 4 April 1929 (4 days before he threw bomb in the assembly)
Born28 September/19 October 1907 [a]
Banga, Punjab, British India
(present-day Punjab, Pakistan)
Died23 March 1931(1931-03-23) (aged 23)
Lahore, Punjab, British India
(present-day Punjab, Pakistan)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
OrganizationNaujawan Bharat Sabha
Hindustan Socialist Republican Association
Kirti Kisan Party
MovementIndian Independence movement

Bhagat Singh (Punjabi pronunciation: [pə̀ɡət̪ sɪ́ŋɡ] ( listen) 1907[a] – 23 March 1931) was an Indian socialist and a revolutionary. He is considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian Independence Movement.

Early life

He was born to Vidyavati kaur and Sardar Kisan Singh Sandhu, 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 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:

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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 didn't move or did anything in respect of the governor. They treated him as a normal citizen. 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.

During his time in the National College, he studied European revolutionary movements. He read Marxists Books also to know about that side too. It was said that this attracted him but that is still not proven.

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:

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Dear 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.

Your Son

Bhagat

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:

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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.

Your Father,

Kishan Singh

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 October, when the Dussehra festival fair was held in Lahore Tyohar Maidan. At 8:10 pm a bomb exploded in crowded section of Maidan. About 10 people died in this explosion and about five times of that were injured. Many people got overwhelmed due to the fall of the plaster statue of the Ravana. People rushed out of the Maidan and ran towards the streets to save their lives as the whole Maidan had caught fire because the fire on the statue and covered the whole ground.

Next day, the The Tribune was published as follows-

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LAHORE, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1926

Bomb Explosion at Tyohar Maidan

Yesterday at about 8 pm a tragic bomb Explosion took place at Tyohar Maidan. According to the sources luckily the explosion hasn't caused much massive harm to 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 local terror organisation who wanted to blame the revolutionary as they received bribe from the British Government.

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.

Activities

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 year. The comission 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 marchs and rallies wherever the comission went using the slogan 'Simon Go Back'. The Comission after touring Amritsar reached Lahore on 30 October 1928. The protest march was lead by Lala Lajpat Rai. As the members of comission 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 Alexander 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:

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'Each and every baton that rained down on me will be 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 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 went to the area of Police Headquarters and 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.

Bhagat, Rajguru and Jaigopal then escaped from the traffic police Walter James George Fern by running from DAV College backdoor.

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.

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 4:00 am Bhagat along with Durga Bhabhi 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 Arsenals and other weopans 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 March, 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%.

To protest against this the Bombay mill workers announced a strike on 1 April 1929 against these bills. Mill worker Raju Malik took the lead of the strike. The protests began early morning on 1 April. Hundreds of mills workers gathered outside to stop the owner of mill who had lowered the wages of the workers on the order of British Government. Raju halted the owner and announced:

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All my friends and companions who work in this mill are being treated like animals by this stone hearted mill owner. He is just a slave of the firangis with whom he is trying to crush us down. We shall not obey to him now. We talk of our children, our family. Which is much important for us. For them we work here day and night. For them, we earn to meet the basic needs of our household food and water, And what we get in return. The harsh treating of this owner. We hereby announce a strike against the British rule. We shall not work till our wages are met. We will not let him enter the godown till he agrees to our demands. As we already know, Mr Kelly (Police Comissioner of Bombay) has already made preparations for our arrests today. Look there, The owner is standing with the firangi. Just don't fear, if we are right and honest in our efforts, nobody can stop us.

Soon Patrick Kelly ordered the large cavalry he had brought with him, to disperse the crowd with lathi charge. Many were injured in this strike and many were crushed to death under the horse hooves. There was a total chaos near the Bombay Mill. The lathi charge went on, till the cavalry was able control the horses.

As the bills were to passed in a few days, many mill workers soon began to protest against the bills. Many strikes broke out all over the country. Many mill workers left their work due to low wages paid by the millowners loyal to the British. On 3, 4 & 6 April a total of 10 strikes were held all over the country.

Due to mass protests occuring in the country the British decided to pass the bill in a week on 8 April.

Bhagat Singh decided to protect the rights of the farmers of his country and decided to halt the passing of bills.

He made a plan to bomb the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi. He partnered with Batukeshwar Dutt for this task. 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 9 April to 13 June.

The trial for Delhi Assembly Bomb case began on 7 May with an introductory hearing. 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.

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 Lahore Jail.

The police then took Bhagat and Batukeshwar Dutt to Lahore through the van.

The next day, they reached Lahore Jail. Bhagat and Dutt became happy as many other members of HSRA who were his friends were together jailed there including Sukhdev and Jatindranath Das.

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.

At last, on 5 October the authorities agreed to their demands and the prisoners halted their strike.

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.

The Lahore Conspiracy Case trial began on 10 July 1929. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Jaigopal were the main accused in the case.

The 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 the judge ordered all of them to be handcuffed but they did not budge. The police started beating them and forced to be handcuffed.

A special tribunal was appointed by the government to justify the case in 1930. Three judges presided over 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 ! Batukeshwar Dutt ! Mahavir Singh ! Gaya Prasad ! Kishori Lal ! Vijay Kumar Shukla ! Kamal Nath Tiwari

3. Termed Imprisonment ! Prem Dutt-5 Years ! Kundan Lal Mehta-7 Years

4. Released due to lack of evidence ! Des Raj ! Ajay Kumar Ghosh ! Jatindra Nath Sanyal

Bhagat Singh along with Rajguru and Sukhdev was to be hanged 24 March 1931 on 6:30 am sharp.

Many of the mercy appeals were filed by wellwishers and politicians who thought if Bhagat will be hanged riots would break out in the country.

Especially, Mahatma Gandhi asked the Viceroy Lord Irwin to cancel the hanging of three revolutionaries but he refused to do so.

On 23 March, the jail authorities decided to hang the three that evening because they feared that riots would break out.

So, at 7:30 pm Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were martyred at the Lahore Central Jail.

Bhagat Singh was one of the greatest freedom fighters of India who devoted his life to the freedom of our motherland. Bhagat Singh is always reverred as a brave son of Mother India.

References

  • Chopra, R. M., an article on Bhagat Singh in "The Legacy of the Punjab", 1997, Punjabi Bradree, Kolkata

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 The date of Singh's birth is subject to dispute. Commonly thought to be born on either 27[1] or 28[2] September 1907, some biographers believe that the evidence points to 19 October 1907.[3]