India’s Beloved Sons: Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, Rajguru

by Saloni Poddar

“It takes a loud voice to make the dead hear.”

Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary ideals are household stories in our country. It is said that since a very early age, he dreamt of cultivating guns in fields so that he could fight against colonial rule.

The Ghadar Movement, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, left deep marks on his mind. He was a revolutionary writer and knew that his pen was mighty, at the same time, he realized that the might of the sword could not be ignored either. Singh was a man of action having extreme determination, he also possessed a recklessness that prompted him to take risks which made him a martyr.

Having been born in Pune (Maharashtra) in Aug 1908, Shivram Rajguru, became an active member of the Hindustan Socialist Republic Association (HSRA) at an early age with the motive of striking fear in the heart of the British Empire. He joined hands with Bhagat Singh and Satguru and participated in attacks like The Lahore Conspiracy and the bombing of Central Assembly Hall in New Delhi.

Sukhdev Thapar vowed to set India free from the shackles of British rule and became a member of HRSA and organized revolutionary cells in Punjab and other parts of Northern India. Born on 15th May 1907, in Naughara village (Ludhiana, Punjab), he formed the ‘Naujawan Bharat Sabha’ at Lahore, basically aiming at gearing the youth for freedom struggle. He took an active part in ‘Prison Hunger Strike’ in 1929 and is best remembered for the Lahore Conspiracy Case.

The common bond between the three aforementioned revolutionaries was the burning desire to be free of colonial rule. This sentiment led them to plan The Lahore Conspiracy which led them to their destiny. In December 1928, Bhagat Singh and Rajguru shot dead John Saunders, a British police officer, in Lahore, mistaking him for British Police Superintendent, James Scott, who was their target for having been responsible for Lala Lajpat Rai’s death.

Although they managed to escape the scene and remained low-key for a few months, they resurfaced again to throw bombs at the Central Legislative Assembly on April 8th, 1929. On the face of it, this act was in retaliation against the Public Safety Bill and Trade Dispute Act but the underlying intention of the freedom fighters was to be arrested so that, during trial, they could use their appearances to publicize their greater cause. Hence, instead of escaping the confusion in the aftermath of the blast, they stayed and threw leaflets and shouted: “Inqilab zindabad”. They were arrested subsequently.

We hold human life sacred beyond words. We are neither perpetrator of dastardly outrages… not are we ‘lunatics’ as The Tribune of Lahore and some others would have it believed… force when aggressively applied is violence and is, therefore, morally unjustifiable, but when it is used in the furtherance of a legitimate cause, it has its moral justification.”

While Bhagat Singh responded to his ‘terrorist action’ with this statement, the police discovered HSRA’s bomb factory in Saharanpur. Thus, adding up  the three instances; Saunder’s murder, the Assembly Hall bombing and bomb factory, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, and 21 others were charged with Saunder’s murder.

Once in Central Jail at Mianwali, the trio went on a hunger strike to protest against poor conditions in jail. Since the strike and prisoners were gaining both popularity and supporters, the government decided to address the murder charges, which came to be known as ‘The Lahore Conspiracy Case’, at the earliest, even before the Assembly bombing. The accused were then transported to Borstal Jail, Lahore, where the trial began on July 10th, 1929.

Owing to the slow proceedings of the case, and the emerging popularity of the three prisoners as heroes rather than ‘murderers’, the Viceroy, Lord Irwin set up a special tribunal composed of three high court judges for the trial.

We all are aware of the fact that Bhagat Singh and his comrades emerged victorious in the case even though they were sentenced to death by hanging according to a 300-page judgment passed on October 7th, 1930. The courts echoed with slogans of “Inqilab Zindabad ” and “Down with British Imperialism”. People were heartbroken at their heroes’ fate. There was a general sentiment of fury and retaliation amongst them. But their ‘Heroes’ did not seem even a tiny bit perturbed. They looked on at the British defiantly. Their heads held high. Their hearts and eyes are full of love for their motherland. They seemed proud, even vain, as they were led away by British officers.

Saffron was the color of the world as they sang, “Mera rang de basanti chola, ma, mera rang de basanti chola…” It seemed that they had been expecting or maybe even wishing for the death sentence! It symbolized what they had set out to do… sacrifice their lives for their country.

However, what enraged the people of India was the viciousness of the British. The trio were hanged at 7:30 pm on 23rd March 1931, whereas it was supposed to have taken place at 7:00 am on 24th March 1931. The most famous men in India at that time were sneaked out to their deaths. Nonetheless, the heavens paid ode to them. It was a beautiful evening. The skies hoisted a saffron sunset, whilst the lush green trees bowed their heads in respect. And the men? Bhagat Singh looked around himself calmly, undaunted and undeterred as ever, he kissed the hangman’s noose and placed it around his neck as if it was a garland of flowers. He looked as if he had been longing for this moment. His final glory. Sukhdev and Rajguru followed suit.

It was apparent that they were elated at their fate. While walking towards the gallows they said, “Dil se niklegi na mar kar bhi watan ki ulfat. Meri mitti se bhi khushboo-e-watan ayegi.” (There will be patriotism in us even after we die. Even my corpse will emit the fragrance of my motherland).

Everything was over in the blink of an eye. It is said that the bodies were dragged down the dirty passageway, chopped into pieces, and stuffed into bags, which were dumped unceremoniously into a truck and taken to Kasur, about an hour’s drive away. There, along the banks of Sutlej, the martyrs were stacked onto a funeral pyre which burnt as fiercely as desires their hearts to free their motherland. The night was silent and eerie. As dawn threatened to break over and blow the cover of deceit, the fires were put out and the charred remains were hurled into Sutlej. The precise spot is now known as Post Number 201.

However, a large gathering of people led by Lala Lajpat Rai’s daughter, Parvati Devi, and Bibi Amark Kaur, Bhagat Singh’s sister, reached the site and restored the remains, taking them back to Lahore for a cremation, worthy of their actions, along the banks of river Ravi amidst a procession of about forty thousand people.

“They may kill me, but they cannot kill my ideals. They can crush my body, but they will not be able to crush my spirit.”

Bhagat Singh

Thus, the ideals and spirit of these Beloved Sons of India were carried forward by others after them and today, after 76 years of independence, as we reap the fruits of their labor, we bow before them in reverence and gratitude.

Saloni Poddar

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