What You Must Know about Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev
March 23, 1931. Time: 7.30 pm. Place: Lahore Jail. It was a Monday. On this day, Bhagat Singh aged 24, Sukhdev 23 and Rajguru 23 were hanged to death by the British.
This cruelty and heartlessness of the British Raj was directed towards instilling fear in the hearts of other freedom fighters, but in vain. A thousand Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev sprang up from across the country. In the long run, the British had to leave India! A true Indian indeed experiences goose bumps at the very utterance of the names of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for Mother India.
Every Shaheed fought for the freedom we enjoy today. At an age, when we pursue our studies and career, they dedicated their entire time and energy to gain freedom of Bharat. We breathe free and live free because of the collective sacrifices of our freedom fighters. We owe them every breath, every moment.
Do you know Shaheed Sukhdev’s father died when he was a toddler? He was brought up by his uncle Lala Achintram. Since a young age, Sukhdev was actively involved in several revolutionary movements. Besides being an active senior member of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), he organized revolutionary cells not only in Punjab but also other areas of North India.
The HSRA was established in Kanpur in 1924 by Sachindra Nath Sanyal to carry out armed resistance against the British. Sanyal was a senior leader and a close associate of Rash Behari Bose, who was one of the key organizers of the Ghadar mutinee that saw thousands of Indians settled abroad rise in armed rebellion against British to end British rule. He mentored Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad.
Since his childhood, Rajguru could not tolerate the atrocities meted out to the Indians by the British. There is an interesting story behind Rajguru leaving his home. He failed in English in school. His brother punished him in front of his new bride by making him read aloud a chapter in English. Annoyed, Rajguru left his home with only 11 paise in his pocket.
Rajguru was a scholar in the scriptures. He joined the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association as an active member. He was also called Raghunath. He soon became an ace shooter, earning the title of ‘Gunman of HSRA’. Such was Shaheed Rajguru’s love for Bharat that he even tested himself touching a hot iron rod. When Chandrasekhar Azad asked him about his insane act, he replied that if he was caught by the police, they would certainly torture him. Hence he was testing if he could bear a torture!
Shaheed Bhagat Singh was only 12 years old when the Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place where thousands of unarmed people were killed by the British. He was witness to the dead bodies lying amid pools of blood in the site. The sight deeply disturbed him. Thenceforth, he pledged to offer himself for the cause of the freedom of Bharat. He joined the Young Revolutionary Movement at the age of 15; the youth in the group vowed to overthrow the British using violence. And his journey of revolutionary activities against the British started subsequently.
When Bhagat Singh was 20, his parents fixed his marriage. He ran away to Kanpur to avoid the wedding, leaving behind a letter that read: “My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore, there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now”.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were against Gandhiji’s concept of non-violence and the non-cooperation movement. The trio, along with other freedom fighters, was actively involved in several revolutionary activities.
It was the Lahore conspiracy case that led to the execution of the trio. James A. Scott was then the Superintendent of Police in Lahore. During this time, Lala Lajpat Rai and his followers protested against the Simon Commission, as it had no Indian members. He led a protest march on 30 October 1928 in Lahore. Scott ordered lathi charge of the protesters. Lala Lajpat Rai and thousands of other protesters were injured. Rai died of injuries 17 days later. To avenge Lala Lajpat Rai’s death, Bhagat Singh along with Chandrashekhar Azad, Shivaram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar, and others planned to kill Scot. But they accidentally killed Saunders in Lahore. The group escaped safely.
The next big attempt that Bhagat Singh planned was exploding a bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly to protest against the anti-Bharat Trade Dispute Act and the Public Safety Bill. It was 8 April 1929. Along with Batukeshwar Dutt, Singh succeeded in the attempt injuring few British officials and disrupting the assembly proceedings. Both shouted slogans of Inqalab Zindabad. They did not run away. They were subsequently arrested and jailed. They were sentenced for life following trial.
Meanwhile, the HSRA had set up bomb factories in Lahore and Saharanpur. On 15 April 1929, the police discovered the Lahore unit followed by discovery of the Saharanpur factory few days later. Several HSRA members including Sukhdev, Kishori Lal, and Jai Gopal were arrested. Few of the members like Hans Raj Vohra, P.N. Ghosh and Jai Gopal turned hostile, thus changing their role to informers for the police. Based on their information, 21 conspirators including Bhagat Singh, Jatin Das, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were arrested on account of three interconnected cases: Lahore murder (Saunders), Assembly bombing, and bomb manufacture.
During their stay in jail, Jatin Das and Bhagat Singh sat on a hunger strike, revolting against vast discrimination shown between Indian and European prisoners besides illegal detention of prisoners. After a 64-day hunger strike, Jatin Das became Shaheed on 13 September 1929.
On 14th February 1931, a mercy appeal was filed before Lord Irwin to save Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev, who were given death sentence. The appeal was filed by Madan Mohan Malviya, then President of the Indian National Congress (who later left the party in 1934). But his efforts failed. That was followed by implementation of a plan to rescue Singh and fellow inmates from the jail. But that attempt failed too. A final effort was made by Bhagwati Charan, who attempted to manufacture bombs for the purpose. He was the husband of Durga Devi, an HSRA member. Unfortunately, before he could give shape to his plan, the bombs exploded accidentally, leading to his death. Such was the patriotism and love for fellow patriots and Mother India!
Eventually, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged. Their bodies were secretly cremated early at dawn outside Ganda Singh Wala village; the ashes were thrown into the Sutlej River. Three of the patriots were acquitted and the rest given lesser sentences.
The death sentence was given based mainly on the evidence provided by Hans Raj Vohra, P.N. Ghosh and Jai Gopal. Had they not turned hostile, history would have been different!
Salute to the sacrifices of every Shaheed and every freedom fighter, who fought for the cause of Bharat! Jai Hind!