Tuesday, September 1, 2020

remembering the martyrdom of Madanlal Dhingra ..

Brutal killings have been part of History -    ever read about the Battle of Samugarh,  a decisive battle in the struggle for the throne during the Mughal war of succession (1658–1659) between the sons of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan after the emperor's serious illness in  1657.  It was fought between his sons Dara Shikoh (the eldest son and heir apparent) and his two younger brothers Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh (third and fourth sons of Shah Jahan). There have been political assassinations too  - the killing of Rajiv Gandhi in Indian soil was ghastly. 

In our School days in History books – we read about : ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ (see the name); Lord Dalhousie, Lord Curzon, Simon Commission, Dehradun prison, Minto-morley reforms and the like .. .. did we ever read about anyone who fought the British or about the brutalities of the British and to cap them all – ‘freedom was obtained without bloodshed’ .. ..

George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, KG, GCSI, GCIE, PC, FBA (1859 – 1925), was known commonly as Lord Curzon, was a British Conservative statesman who served as Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905, during which time he created the territory of Eastern Bengal and Assam, and fought with the British military commander Lord Kitchener. During the First World War he served in the small War Cabinet of Prime Minister David Lloyd George as Leader of the House of Lords (from December 1916), as well as the War Policy Committee. He served as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1919 to 1924.

India House is a large Victorian Mansion at 65 Cromwell Avenue, Highgate, North London. It was inaugurated on 1 July 1905 by Henry Hyndman in a ceremony attended by, among others, Dadabhai Naoroji, Charlotte Despard and Bhikaji Cama.  When opened as a student-hostel in 1905, it provided accommodation for up to thirty students.  In addition to being a student-hostel, the mansion also served as the headquarters for several organisations, the first of which was the Indian Home Rule Society (IHRS).   Patrons of India House published an anti-colonialist newspaper, The Indian Sociologist, which the British Raj banned as "seditious".  A number of prominent Indian revolutionaries and nationalists were associated with India House, including Vinayak Damodar Savarkar,  Bhikaji Cama, V.N. Chatterjee, Lala Har Dayal, V.V.S. Aiyar, M.P.T. Acharya and P.M. Bapat.    It declined after that famous assassination that shook England 111 years ago. 

William Hutt Curzon Wyllie KCIE CVO (5 October 1848 – 1 July 1909) was a British Indian army officer, and later an official of the British Indian Government. Over a career spanning three decades, Curzon Wyllie rose to be Lieutenant Colonel in the British Indian Army and occupied a number of administrative and diplomatic posts. He was the British resident to Nepal and the Princely state of Rajputana, and later, the political aide-de-camp to the Secretary of State for India, Lord George Hamilton. Curzon Wyllie was assassinated on 1 July 1909 in London ! 

Shaheed Madan Lal Dhingra (18 September 1883 – 17 August 1909) the man to be remembered is the hero of the Nation, subject of this post.

Madan Lal Dhingra was born on 18 Sept 1883 in Amritsar, in an educated and affluent Hindu Punjabi Khatri family. His father, Dr. Geeta Mal Dhingra, was a civil surgeon, and Madan Lal was one of seven children (six sons and one daughter). All six sons, including Dhingra, studied abroad. Dhingra studied at Amritsar in MB Intermediate College until 1900. He then went to Lahore to study at the Government College University. Here, he was influenced by the incipient nationalist movement, which at that time was about seeking Home Rule rather than independence. Dhingra was especially troubled by the poverty of India, in contrast to the wealth of the ruling British. He studied the literature concerning the causes of Indian poverty and famines extensively, and felt that the key issues in seeking solutions to these problems lay in Swaraj (self-government) and Swadeshi. He found that the industrial and finance policies of the colonial government was calculated to suppress local industry and favour British manufacturing, and that this was a major reason for the endemic poverty of India in that era.  

From his student days he was a revolutionary and had to suffer many a times due to his faith and policies.   In 1906 his family sent him to England  to enroll at University College, London, to study mechanical engineering. Dhingra arrived in London a year after the foundation of Shyamaji Krishnavarma's India House in 1905. This organization was a meeting place for Indian revolutionaries located in Highgate. Dhingra came into contact with noted Indian independence and political activists Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Shyamji Krishna Varma, who were impressed by his perseverance and intense patriotism which turned his focus to the freedom struggle.  Dhingra was disowned for his political activities by his father Gitta Mall, who was the Chief Medical Officer in Amritsar, who went so far as to publish his decision in newspaper advertisements

Several weeks before assassinating Curzon Wyllie, Dhingra had tried to kill Curzon, Viceroy of India. He had also planned to assassinate the ex-Governor of Bengal, Bampfylde Fuller, but was late for a meeting the two were to attend could not carry out his plan. Dhingra then decided to kill Curzon Wyllie. Curzon Wylie had joined the British Army in 1866 and the Indian Political Department in 1879.  On the evening of 1 July 1909, Dhingra, along with a large number of Indians and Englishmen had gathered to attend the annual 'At Home' function hosted by the Indian National Association at the Imperial Institute. When Sir Curzon Wyllie, political aide-de-camp to the Secretary of State for India, was leaving the hall with his wife, Dhingra fired five shots right at his face, four of which hit their target. Cawas Lalcaca, a Parsee doctor who tried to save Sir Curzon, died of Dhingra's sixth and seventh bullets, which he fired because Lalcaca had come between them.

Dhingra's suicide attempt failed and he was overpowered. He was arrested immediately by the police.  Dhingra was tried in the Old Bailey on 23 July. He represented himself during his trial but did not recognize the legitimacy of the court.  He stated that he did not regret killing Curzon Wyllie, as he had played his part in order to set India free from the inhumane British rule, and as revenge for the inhumane killings of Indians by the British Government in India. He also stated that he had not intended to kill Cawas Lalcaca. He was sentenced to death. After the judge announced his verdict, Dhingra is said to have stated: "I am proud to have the honour of laying down my life for my country. But remember, we shall have our time in the days to come". Madan Lal Dhingra was hanged on 17 August 1909 at Pentonville Prison.

Dhingra made the following statement before the court: I do not want to say anything in defence of myself, but simply to prove the justice of my deed. As for myself, no English law court has got any authority to arrest and detain me in prison, or pass sentence of death on me. That is the reason I did not have any counsel to defend me. And I maintain that if it is patriotic in an Englishman to fight against the Germans if they were to occupy this country, it is much more justifiable and patriotic in my case to fight against the English. I hold the English people responsible for the murder of eighty millions of Indian people in the last fifty years, and they are also responsible for taking away £100,000,000 every year from India to this country. I also hold them responsible for the hanging and deportation of my patriotic countrymen, who did just the same as the English people here are advising their countrymen to do. I have told you over and over again that I do not acknowledge the authority of the Court, You can do whatever you like. I do not mind at all. You can pass sentence of death on me. I do not care. You white people are all-powerful now, but, remember, it shall have our turn in the time to come, when we can do what we like.

Guy Aldred, the printer of The Indian Sociologist, was sentenced to twelve months hard labor. The August issue of The Indian Sociologist had carried a story sympathetic to Dhingra. Dhingra's actions also inspired some of the Irish, who were fighting their own struggle at the time. It is obvious that the trial was   grossly unfair and biased.  However, back in India, the man admired as Father of the Nation Gandhi Gandhi condemned Dhingra's actions, stating : It is being said in defence of Sir Curzon Wyllie’s assassination that...just as the British would kill every German if Germany invaded Britain, so too it is the right of any Indian to kill any Englishman.... The analogy...is fallacious. If the Germans were to invade Britain, the British would kill only the invaders. They would not kill every German whom they met....

After Dhingra went to the gallows, The Times of London wrote an editorial titled "Conviction of Dhingra". The editorial said, "The nonchalance displayed by the assassin was of a character which is happily unusual in such trials in this country. He asked no questions. He maintained a defiance of studied indifference. He walked smiling from the Dock."  After his execution, Dhingra's body was denied Hindu rites and was buried by British authorities. His family having disowned him, the authorities refused to turn over the body to Savarkar. Dhingra's coffin was accidentally found while authorities searched for the remains of Shaheed Udham Singh, and re-patriated to India on 12 Dec 1976.  His remains are kept in one of the main squares, which has been named after him, in the city of Akola in Maharashtra.  


In 1909, following Madan Lal Dhingra's assassination of William Hutt Curzon Wyllie, an aide to the Secretary of State for India, Scotland Yard arrested several key activists living in Great Britain, among them Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. In 1910, Savarkar was ordered to be returned to India for trial. When the ship Savarkar was being transported on docked in Marseilles harbour, he squeezed out through a porthole window and jumped into the sea. Reaching shore,  French authorities  returned him to  British custody.  Sad, that we have not honoured our martyrs as we were denied of knowing their patriotic deeds and martyrdom.  Only because of hundreds of such noble persons fighting for the cause of freedom, we are today able to enjoy freedom. 

Jai Hind. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

17.8.2020. 

1 comment:

  1. Very nice.நாம் அறியாத தியாகிகளின் சரித்திரங்களில் இதுவும் ஒன்று...இவைகளை நாம் அறியாதது மிக வருத்தமாக உள்ளது. மிக்க நன்றி...

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