28th September is remembered as the birth date of Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
Bhagat Singh a charismatic Indian revolutionary was born on 28 September 1907, he was involved in the assassination of a British junior police officer, avenging the death of an Indian nationalist. He later participated in the largely symbolic bombing of the central parliament in Delhi and a hunger strike in prison, which, thanks to favourable coverage in Indian-owned newspapers, made him popular in the freedom struggle of India. His hanging at the age of 23 made him a martyr and a folk hero in India. Borrowing ideas from Bolshevism and anarchism, he electrified the growing nationalism in India in the 1930s and provided a poignant introspection into the Indian National Congress’s non-violent but ultimately successful campaign for Indian independence.
Since his early days, Bhagat Singh has been fond of becoming a revolutionary, he started attending freedom struggle meetings with his father and uncle from a young age. He was inspired by the ideas of Kartar Singh Sharaba, an extremist revolutionary. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre made a huge impact on the life of Singh and initiated him to join the Indian National Movement as a front-line revolutionary. For his notable contribution, he met Chandrashekhar Azad in 1925 and joined the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.
Assassination of Saunders
In December 1928, Bhagat Singh and his partner Shivaram Rajguru, both members of a small revolutionary group, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, shot and killed a 21-year-old British policeman, John Saunders in Lahore, but they intended to assassinate James Scott. They held Scott responsible for the death of popular Indian nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai and ordered a lathi charge in which Rai was wounded and died of a heart attack two weeks later. As Saunders left the police station on a motorcycle, gunman Rajguru fell across the road with a single bullet. Wounded, Singh shot him several times at close range, with eight gunshot wounds in the postmortem report. Another of Singh’s associates, Chandra Shekhar Azad, shot Indian police chief Channan Singh, who was trying to pursue Singh and Rajguru as they fled.
Bomb in Central Assembly
After escaping, Bhagat Singh and his associates used pseudonyms to publicly announce that they would avenge Lajpa Rai’s death by putting up posters that they killed John Saunders instead of James Scott. Appearing in April 1929, he and another associate, Batukeshwar Dutt, detonated two low-powered homemade bombs on empty benches in the Delhi Central Assembly. They sprayed leaflets from the gallery at the legislators below, chanted slogans and allowed the authorities to arrest them. The arrest and subsequent publicity highlighted Singh’s involvement in the John Saunders case. Singh, who is awaiting trial, won public sympathy when he joined accused Jatin Das in a hunger strike and demanded better prison conditions for Indian prisoners. The strike ended with Das starving to death in September 1929.
Bhagat Singh was convicted of the murders of John Saunders and Channan Singh, for which he was hanged in March 1931 at the age of 23. He became a popular personality hero after his death. Jawaharlal Nehru said: “Bhagat Singh became popular not because of his act of actions, but because he seemed at the moment to defend the honour of Lala Lajpat Rai and through him the honour of the people. He became a symbol; the deed was forgotten. The symbol remained, and within a few months every town and village in Punjab and to a lesser extent, everywhere in northern India was named after him.”
Even in his later years, an atheist and socialist in adulthood, Singh gathered admirers in India from across the political spectrum, including both communists and right-wing Hindu nationalists. Although many of Singh’s associates, like many of India’s anti-colonial revolutionaries, engaged in acts of bravery and were executed or died violent deaths, few remained in popular art and literature like Singh, who is sometimes referred to as Shaheed-e-Azam.