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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Remembering the 3 great martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev

Today ~ 23rd March is a very important day for the Nation .. .. . .. and do by chance you know the relevance of a small town Khed in Pune in Indian history ?

Today  marks the 86th  year of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru. They symbolise the best example of sacrifice to free India from the imperial clutches of British rule. Indian history books perhaps have provided lesser  exposure to their visionary battle against British rule. These revolutionaries envisioned India’s future were not in the same stream of Congress and did not garner that attention that the party gotten. 

They are the very  definition of martyr and would eternally motivate the youngsters for the Nation Cause.   Before that have you heard of Kartar Singh Sarabha.  In the leaflet he threw in the Central Assembly on 9 April 1929, he stated: "It is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas. Great empires crumbled, while the ideas survived.   While in prison,  he and his 2 friends wrote to Lord Irwin,  asking to be treated as prisoners of war and consequently to be executed by firing squad and not by hanging.  He declined to sign letter for clemency…….
-        that is Shaheed Bhagat Singh

From his early days, he had been attracted by revolutionary activities against oppressive British Raj.  Seeking revenge for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai at the hands of the police, Singh was involved in the assassination of British police officer John Saunders. He eluded efforts by the police to capture him. Together with Batukeshwar Dutt, he undertook a successful effort to throw two bombs and leaflets inside the Central Legislative Assembly while shouting slogans of Inquilab Zindabad. Subsequently they volunteered to surrender and be arrested. Held on this charge, he gained widespread national support when he underwent a 116 day fast in jail, demanding equal rights for British and Indian political prisoners. He was convicted and subsequently hanged for his participation in the murder, aged 23. His legacy prompted youth in India to begin fighting for Indian independence and he continues to be a youth idol in modern India.

Sadly, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case and ordered to be hanged on 24 March 1931; but Singh was informed that his execution had been advanced by 11 hours on 23 March 1931, just a few hours before his execution.  Singh was hanged on 23 March 1931 at 7:30 pm in Lahore jail with his fellow comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev. It is reported that no magistrate of the time was willing to supervise his hanging. The jail authorities then broke the rear wall of the jail and secretly cremated the three martyrs under cover of darkness outside Ganda Singh Wala village, and then threw the ashes into the Sutlej river.  An ex-parte trial was against the principles of natural justice that no man shall be held guilty unless given an opportunity to defend in a hearing.  It was probably for the first time, that executions were carried out in the evening, by advancing the date of execution. The families of the accused were not allowed to meet them before the execution nor were they informed about it, even the bodies of the three were not given to their relatives after the execution to perform last rites. 

Even lesser is known about the other two daring colleagues of Bhagat Singh.  Shivaram Hari Rajguru (24 August 1908 – 23 March 1931) was  born at Khed, near Pune.  He was a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, who wanted India to be freed from British rule by any means necessary. He believed that ferocity against oppression was far more effective against British rule than the nonviolent civil disobedience preferred by Mahatma Gandhi.

Rajguru became a colleague of Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev, and took part in the assassination of a British police officer, J. P. Saunders, at Lahore in 1928. Their actions were to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai who had died a fortnight after being hit by police while on a march protesting the Simon Commission. The three men and 21 other co-conspirators were tried under the provisions of a regulation that was introduced in 1930 specifically for that purpose. All three were convicted of the charges and hanged on 23 March 1931.

Years later, his  birthplace of Khed has since been renamed as Rajgurunagar in his honour. Rajguru Market, a shopping complex at Hisar, Haryana, was named in his honour in 1953.

Almost a century ago, there were different ideologies - the paths Gandhi and Bhagat Singh.  Were they complementary could not be commented now ..   in some ways, the Gandhian path was focussed on the transfer of political power but Bhagat Singh's vision was to transform independent India into better society.  There has been criticism that Gandhi and other national leaders of that time, did not do much to prevent or reduce the sentence of 3 martyrs.  Lord Irwin, in a report to the Secretary of State, penned his position on the issue of commutation: He (Mahatma Gandhi) did not plead for commutation, although he would, being opposed to all taking of life, take that course himself. He also thought it would have an influence for peace. But he did ask for postponement in present circumstances. I contented myself with saying that, whatever might be the decision as to exact dates, I could not think there was any case for commutation which might not be made with equal force in the case of any other violent crime.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
23rd Mar 2017


Pic Credit :  By Alicia Nijdam from Cordoba, Argentina - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14889056

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