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Saturday, August 1, 2020

remembering the martyrdom - Amritsar to London - this day 80 years ago !!

History is no doubt very interesting ! ~ but sadly, the Indian history was so distorted to represent things in a different perspective.  For example, the man at the helm and who crushed the First Indian War of Independence, which was only titled ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ in our school books was ‘merficul Kawning’ [கருணையுள்ள கானிங்கு]  - he officially was - Charles John Canning, 1st Earl Canning, KG, GCB, KSI, PC .  Our School History lessons included – Khilafat movement, Gandhi returning from south Africa, Round table conferences, Dandi March, Simon Commission, Khilafat movement,  Noncooperation movement, Letters from a Father to His Daughter [written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter Indira Priyadarshini, published by Allahabad Law Journal Press]  

Now some Qs to students of History
·         Do you know or have heard of Frederic John Napier Thesiger,  
·        Do you know the significance of Caxton Hall, a building in the corner of  Caxton Street and Palmer Street, in Westminster, London, England.  
·      Do you that there is a district in Uttarakhand consisting of seven Tehsils named Bajpur, Gadarpur, Jaspur, Kashipur, Kichha, Khatima, Sitarganj. The district is located in the Terai region, and is part of Kumaon Division
·         Ever read about a Politician and scholar, by name S. Sadhu Singh Thind   most notable for serving the longest term as President of the District Congress Committee, Kapurthala.

Today the Nation must remember one of its greatest sons – Udham Singh born on 26.12.1899 and martyred this day 80 years ago !  He is also referred to as Shaheed-i-Azam Sardar Udham Singh (the expression "Shaheed-i-Azam", means "the great martyr").  

He was born as Sher Singh at Sunam, Sangrur district of Punjab, his father  was a farmer and also worked as the railway crossing watchman in the village of Upalli. As his father passed away when he was young, he and his elder brother were raised in Central Khalsa Orphanage Putlighar in Amritsar.  

Sadly, Amritsar is also the place when on 13th April 1919 hundreds of innocents were massacred by the British – the  Jallianwala Bagh massacre, involving the killings of hundreds of Indian civilians on the orders of Reginald Edward Harry Dyer.  No event within living memory, can ever make so deep and painful an impression on the Indian subjects than the history or the very thought of massacre of innocents at Amritsar.  The ruthless execution has no parallels and this Nation suffered economically more severely from the World war despite no direct participation.   It was the cruel General Dyer who had earlier written  a spirited account of his campaign against some nomad tribes on the frontier of South- East Persia and Baluchistan in 1916.

The gory massacre was to occur and make Baisakhi day April 13, 1919, a tragic day on that day, local residents in Amritsar decided to hold a meeting  to discuss and protest against the confinement of Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew, two leaders fighting for Independence.  People were also protesting implementation of the Rowlatt Act, which armed the British government with powers to detain any person without trial. It was no violent crowd – it had a mix of men, women and children,  gathered in a park called the JallianwalaBagh, walled on all sides having  a few small gates.  It was to be a peaceful meeting of peasants and people and included pilgrims visiting the famous Golden temple.

For one man it was not a peaceful assembly - Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer entertained to self,  thoughts of  a major insurrection and thus he banned all meetings. On hearing that thousands had gathered in the park,  Dyer went with fifty riflemen to a raised bank and ordered them to shoot at the crowd. Dyer continued the firing for about ten minutes, till the ammunition supply was almost exhausted; Dyer stated that 1,650 rounds had been fired, a number which seems to have been derived by counting empty cartridge cases picked up by the troops. Dyer was removed from duty and forced to retire. He became a celebrated hero in Britain among people with connections to the British Raj.  For those of us with little knowledge of history – the names are confusing -   there were two of them.  Michael O'Dwyer, the British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab who approved the action and Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer who executed the mindless massacre.

Our hero Udham Singh became involved in revolutionary politics and was deeply influenced by Bhagat Singh.   In 1924, Udham Singh became involved with the Ghadar Party, organising Indians overseas towards overthrowing colonial rule. In 1927, he returned to India on orders from Bhagat Singh, bringing 25 associates as well as revolvers and ammunition. Soon after, he was arrested for possession of unlicensed arms. Revolvers, ammunition, and copies of a prohibited Ghadar Party paper called "Ghadr-i-Gunj" ("Voice of Revolt") were confiscated. He was prosecuted and sentenced to five years in prison. Upon his release from prison in 1931, Singh's movements were under constant surveillance by the Punjab police. He made his way to Kashmir, where he was able to evade the police and escape to Germany. In 1934, he reached London, where he found employment as an engineer.

From that fatefulday in 1919, Udham Singh had been planning his activities meticulously, crossing various countries and finally finding his targeted place, London.    At  Jallianwala Bagh, the most cruel rulers fired 1650 rounds into unarmed peaceful crowd.    No warning was given to disperse before Dyer opened fire. Many died when they jumped into the well at the left-hand side of the maidan, only to be crushed by others who desperately dived on top of them.  .. .. and the Police official was to justify the act before Hunter Commission claiming it to be : -  It was a merciful act that I had given them the chance to disperse (that is, in the morning). The responsibility was very great. I had to make up my mind that if I fired, I must fire well and strong so that it would have its full effect.

.. and went on to claim that if  armoured cars   had been there, the possibility is that he would have opened fire with them.  TO this day, no one knows how many died. The Punjab Government first asserted that 291 people were killed, but this figure was promptly challenged by the Allahabad-based Sewa Samity, which produced a list of 500 verified deaths, based partly on its work in aiding the injured and cremating bodies. An enquiry by Amritsar Deputy Commissioner F.H. Burton later raised the official toll to 379, but by many accounts, the death toll of innocents were much more than 1000. Jallianwala Bagh was only the beginning of a prolonged phase of appalling brutality. In Gujranwala town, an attempt to provoke a communal riot on April 14 by hanging up the leg of a pig and a dead calf came to nothing: the police were held responsible, and fighting followed.  From April 19 to 24, Dyer enforced the notorious 'crawling order', forcing all those using the street where Marcella Sherwood was assaulted to pass on all fours, their noses to the ground. Martial Law Order 7 even mandated that in the presence of Europeans Indians must dismount, and "salute with their right hand respectfully."

The Hunter Committee split down the middle, with its three Indian members, Jagat Narayan, C.H. Setalvad and Sultan Ahmad, authoring a dissent. The majority condemned Dyer, arguing that in "continuing firing as long as he did, it appears to us that General Dyer committed a grave error," but broadly endorsed other acts of violent repression, even failing to indict the pilots of the aircraft used at Gujranwala. The dissenting members, understandably, argued that the martial law regime's use of force was wholly unjustified. "General Dyer thought he had crushed the rebellion and Sir Michael O'Dwyer was of the same view," they wrote, "(but) there was no rebellion which required to be crushed."

On 13 March 1940, Michael O'Dwyer was scheduled to speak at a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Central Asian Society (now Royal Society for Asian Affairs) at Caxton Hall, London.  Udham Singh concealed inside his jacket pocket a revolver he had earlier purchased from a soldier in a pub,  then entered the hall and found an open seat. As the meeting concluded, Singh shot O'Dwyer twice as he moved towards the speaking platform. One of these bullets passed through O'Dwyer's heart and right lung, killing him almost instantly. Others injured in the shooting included Sir Louis Dane, Lawrence Dundas, 2nd Marquess of Zetland, and Charles Cochrane-Baillie, 2nd Baron Lamington. Singh surrendered immediately and Said take him in custody as he taken avenge of Jaliawala Masscare.

On 1 April 1940, Udham Singh was formally charged with the murder of Michael O'Dwyer, and remanded in custody at Brixton Prison. Initially asked to explain his motivations, Singh stated: I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it. I don't belong to society or anything else. I don't care. I don't mind dying. What is the use of waiting until you get old? ... Is Zetland dead? He ought to be. I put two into him? I bought the revolver from a soldier in a public house. My parents died when I was three or four. ... Only one dead? I thought I could get more.  While awaiting his trial, Singh went on a 42-day hunger strike and was force fed. On 4 June 1940, his trial commenced at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, before Justice Atkinson, with V.K. Krishna Menon and St John Hutchinson representing him. G. B. McClure was the prosecuting barrister.

Singh was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. On 31 July 1940, Udham Singh was hanged at Pentonville Prison. His remains are preserved at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab. On every 31 July, marches are held in Sunam by various organisations and every statue of Singh in the city is paid tribute with flower garlands. Following his conviction, he made a powerful speech which the judge directed should not be released to the press.   He started the speech with a denunciation of British Imperialism and continued to say - "I do not care about sentence of death. It means nothing at all. I do not care about dying or anything. I do not worry about it at all. I am dying for a purpose.’ Thumping the rail of the dock, he exclaimed, ‘We are suffering from the British Empire.’

In 1940s, India was different and a few years later, India got Independence, but the Govt that ruled ensured that everything else was hidden and kept in dark.  We read, Congress fought, Gandhi obtained freedom from merciful rulers without drop of blood !  - immediately after his hanging too, Udham Singh’s actions were deplored and condemned in India, with Mahatma Gandhi referring to Singh's actions as "an act of insanity", stating: "The outrage has caused me deep pain. I regard it as an act of insanity ... I hope this will not be allowed to affect political judgement." The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army condemned Mahatma Gandhi's statement, considering this to be a challenge to the Indian Youths.  The Punjab section of Congress in the Punjab Assembly led by Dewan Chaman Lal refused to vote for the Premier's motion to condemn the assassination. 

In 1974, Singh's remains were exhumed and repatriated to India at the request of MLA Sadhu Singh Thind. Thind accompanied the remains back to India, where the casket was received by Indira Gandhi, Shankar Dayal Sharma and Zail Singh. Udham Singh was later cremated in his birthplace of Sunam in Punjab and his ashes were scattered in the Sutlej river. Some of his ashes were retained; these retained ashes are kept inside a sealed urn at Jallianwala Bagh.  A 10 ft tall statue of him was installed by International Sarv Kamboj Samaj at the main entrance of Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar on 13 March 2018. The statue was unveiled by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Frederic John Napier Thesiger,  was the viceroy of India at the time of Jallianwala Bagh massacre.  Upon the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 he rejoined his regiment and was posted to India.  In Mar  1916, he succeeded  Lord Hardinge. As Viceroy he was invested as Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire and a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India in 1916 and was also Grand Master of the orders   He was 1st Viscount Chelmsford, and we read about Montagu-Chelmsford reforms.    On his return to Britain on 15 June 1921, he was elevated to Viscount as 1st Viscount Chelmsford of Chelmsford, County of Essex.

Freedom was gotten with great difficulty with blood of many martyrs .. .. Remembering those who fought for our Nation and who got us freedom

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

1 comment:

  1. Very nice..... These history all should be remembered .. In our Indian history these all should be taught to our children...