In this article, we have published an Essay on Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Early Life, His Revolutionary Activities.
Bhagat Singh was an Indian Revolutionary who was executed by the British Empire at the age of 23 due to two acts of dramatic violence against the British in India, which turned him into a folk hero for the Indian Independence Movement.
Bhagat Singh was born in 1907 to a Sikh family in the Punjab Province of British India. His family were active participants in the Indian Independence movement and were politically active. His grandfather Arjun Singh was a follower of Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s Hindu reformist movement which greatly influence Bhagat Singh. His father & uncles were the members of the Ghadar Party.
He studied in the Dayanand Anglo Vedic high school unlike the Sikh of his age who attended Khalsa high school since his grandfather did not approve the official’s loyalty to the British government. At the age of 12 years, he visited the site of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre where thousands of people had gathered at a public meeting were killed.
When Mahatma Gandhi called the non-co-operation since it got violent Singh got disillusioned by Gandhi’s philosophy. After which Singh joined Young Revolutionary Movement and began to advocate the violent overthrow of the British Government.
At the age of sixteen in 1923, he joined the National College in Lahore, where he participated in the dramatic society. He formed the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in 1926 inspired by the Young Italy movement of Giuseppe Mazzini. He met Chandrashekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil and Shahid Ashfaqallah Khan when he joined the Hindustan Republic Association.
The Simon Commission was set up by the British Government to study the political situation of the Indian subcontinent, but it was boycotted by some Indian political parties since there were no Indians in its membership. Lala Lajpat Rai led a protest on 20th October 1928 in Lahore against the commission, the police under the order of James A Scott lathi-charged to disperse the crowd.
In the charge Lala Lajpat Rai was assaulted and injured, he died due to a heart attack on 17th November 1928. Singh vowed to avenge Rai’s death and conspired with revolutionaries like Shivram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar and Chandrashekhar Azad to kill Scott. However, in case of mistaken identity, they killed John P Saunders who was leaving the District Police Headquarters. The murder was condemned by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
The police blocked all the exit to and from the city, the CID kept a close watch on young men leaving Lahore. Singh & Rajguru with the help of a Durgawati Devi wife of another HRA member Bhagwati Charan Vohra. Singh cut his hair & shaved his beard and wore a hat and dressed western attire. Singh with Durgawati & her child posed as a young couple and Rajguru carried their luggage and posed as their servant. They boarded a train to Lucknow and escaped Lahore.
1929 Assembly incident
He proposed a dramatic act to HRSA inspired by Auguste Valliant a French anarchist who bombed Chamber of Deputies in Paris. He was determined to explode a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly. The HRSA leadership was initially opposed to Singh’s participation but eventually decided he was the most suitable candidate.
On 8th April 1929, two bombs were thrown in the Assembly Chamber from the public gallery by Bhagat Singh & Batukeshwar Dutt. The bombs were designed not to kill, but some of the members were injured. Even though the bomb filled the assembly with smoke, Bhagat Singh & Batukeshwar Dutt could easily have escaped they stayed, threw leaflets and shouted the slogan “Inquilab Zindabad”. They both were arrested and moved through various jails in Delhi.
Assembly case Trial
Gandhi once again condemned the deed, but Singh was reported to be elated and referred to the legal proceedings as “drama”. In the first week of June, the trial began and on 12th June the men were sentenced to life imprisonment causing an explosion and endangering life.
During the trial, Singh defended himself and Dutt was defended by Asaf Ali. There was a discrepancy in the testimony offered during the trial. The HSRA had set up bomb factories in the Lahore & Saharanpur. The bomb factory in Lahore was discovered by the police which leads to the arrest of the various members of HSRA including Sukhdev, Kishori Lal, and Jai Gopal.
Some of the conspirators became informants which lead to new information, with the help of which Police were able to connect the three strands of Saunders murder, Assembly Bombing, and bomb manufacture. Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and 21 other members were charged with Saunders murder.
Hunger strike and Lahore Conspiracy Case:
Singh was charged with the murder of Saunders and Charan Singh based on the information and statements given by Hans Raj Vohra and Jai Gopal. His life sentence was deferred until the Saunders case was decided. He was sent to Central Jail Mainwali from Delhi jail where he witnessed the discrimination between European and Indian prisoners.
Singh considered himself a political prisoner. Compared to Mianwali he received an enhanced diet in the Delhi prison. He led a hunger strike along with the other Indian prisoners who identified themselves as political prisoners and were felt being treated as common prisoners. They demanded equality in food standards, toiletries, clothing, and other hygienic necessities.
By placing different kinds of food items in the prison cells the government tried to test the resolve of the prisoners. They also filled the pitchers with milk so that other prisoners remained thirsty or broke their strike. The impasse continued as no one faltered. The officials even tried to force-feed but with no result.
The strike started gaining popularity and attention amongst the people nationwide. The government decided to advance the Saunders case which was henceforth called the Conspiracy Case. The Trial began on 10th July 1929 and Singh was transported to Borstal Jail, Lahore. Singh was still on hunger strike and to be carried to the court handcuffed on a stretcher.
Jatindra Nath Das one of the prisoners who were on hunger strike, his health deteriorated and died after 63 days of hunger strike. Almost all national leaders in the country paid tribute to Das’s death.
A successful adjournment motion in the Central Assembly as a censure against the “Inhumane treatment” of the Lahore prisoners was moved by Nehru. Bhagat Singh heeded the resolution of Congress party and on his father’s request ended the hunger strike after 116 days.
To speed up the trial, the Viceroy Lord Irwin declared an emergency and set up a special tribunal composed of three high court judges for the case. The tribunal delivered its judgment based on the evidence and sentenced Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev to be hanged till death. The defense committee planned to appeal to the Privy Council by claiming the tribunal created was invalid. The appeal was dismissed.
Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were sentenced to death and were to be hanged on 24th March 1931. However, the schedule was moved forward by eleven hours and the three were hanged on 23rd March 1931, in the presence of an honorary judge who signed the three death warrants as the original warrants expired.
The execution was widely reported by the press, especially as they took place on the eve of the annual convention of the Congress party at Karachi. A black flag demonstration was carried out in front of Gandhi by the angry youth chanting “Down with Gandhi”. There were theories that Gandhi had an opportunity to stop Singh’s execution but refrained from doing so. Strikes of mourning were called.
Nehru acknowledged that Singh’s popularity was leading to new national awakening. Bhagat Singh remains a significant figure in India. A postage stamp was issued in 1968 in India commemorating the 61st birth anniversary to Singh.
Bhagat Singh was found guilty for killing a British officer and was hanged on March 23, 1931.