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Saheed Bhagat Singh

Born: September 27, 1907
Martyrdom: March 23, 1931
Achievements: Gave a new direction to revolutionary movement in India, formed ‘Naujavan Bharat Sabha’ to spread the message of revolution in Punjab, formed ‘Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha’ along with Chandrasekhar Azad to establish a republic in India, assassinated police official Saunders to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, dropped bomb in Central Legislative Assembly along with Batukeshwar Dutt.

Bhagat Singh was one of the most prominent faces of Indian freedom struggle. He was a revolutionary ahead of his times. By Revolution he meant that the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice must change. Bhagat Singh studied the European revolutionary movement and was greatly attracted towards socialism. He realised that the overthrow of British rule should be accompanied by the socialist reconstruction of Indian society and for this political power must be seized by the workers.

Though portrayed as a terrorist by the British, Sardar Bhagat Singh was critical of the individual terrorism which was prevalent among the revolutionary youth of his time and called for mass mobilization. Bhagat Singh gave a new direction to the revolutionary movement in India. He differed from his predecessors on two counts. Firstly, he accepted the logic of atheism and publicly proclaimed it. Secondly, until then revolutionaries had no conception of post-independence society. Their immediate goal was destruction of the British Empire and they had no inclination to work out a political alternative. Bhagat Singh, because of his interest in studying and his keen sense of history gave revolutionary movement a goal beyond the elimination of the British. A clarity of vision and determination of purpose distinguished Bhagat Singh from other leaders of the National Movement. He emerged as the only alternative to Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, especially for the youth.

Bhagat Singh was born in a Sikh family in village Khatkar Kalan in Nawanshahar district of Punjab. The district has now been renamed as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar in his memory. He was the third son of Sardar Kishan Singh and Vidyavati. Bhagat Singh’s family was actively involved in freedom struggle. His father Kishan Singh and uncle Ajit Singh were members of Ghadr Party founded in the U.S to oust British rule from India. Family atmosphere had a great effect on the mind of young Bhagat Singh and patriotism flowed in his veins from childhood.

While studying at the local D.A.V. School in Lahore, in 1916, young Bhagat Singh came into contact with some well-known political leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and Ras Bihari Bose. Punjab was politically very charged in those days. In 1919, when Jalianwala Bagh massacre took place, Bhagat Singh was only 12 years old. The massacre deeply disturbed him. On the next day of massacre Bhagat Singh went to Jalianwala Bagh and collected soil from the spot and kept it as a memento for the rest of his life. The massacre strengthened his resolve to drive British out from India.

In response to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for non-cooperation against British rule in 1921, Bhagat Singh left his school and actively participated in the movement. In 1922, when Mahatma Gandhi suspended Non-cooperation movement against violence at Chauri-chaura in Gorakhpur, Bhagat was greatly disappointed. His faith in non violence weakened and he came to the conclusion that armed revolution was the only practical way of winning freedom. To continue his studies, Bhagat Singh joined the National College in Lahore, founded by Lala Lajpat Rai. At this college, which was a centre of revolutionary activities, he came into contact with revolutionaries such as Bhagwati Charan, Sukhdev and others.

To avoid early marriage, Bhagat Singh ran away from home and went to Kanpur. Here, he came into contact with a revolutionary named Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, and learnt his first lessons as revolutionary. On hearing that his grandmother was ill, Bhagat Singh returned home. He continued his revolutionary activities from his village. He went to Lahore and formed a union of revolutionaries by name ‘Naujavan Bharat Sabha’. He started spreading the message of revolution in Punjab. In 1928 he attended a meeting of revolutionaries in Delhi and came into contact with Chandrasekhar Azad. The two formed ‘Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha’. Its aim was to establish a republic in India by means of an armed revolution.

In February 1928, a committee from England, called Simon Commission visited India. The purpose of its visit was to decide how much freedom and responsibility could be given to the people of India. But there was no Indian on the committee. This angered Indians and they decided to boycott Simon Commission. While protesting against Simon Commission in Lahore, Lala Lajpat Rai was brutally Lathicharged and later on succumbed to injuries. Bhagat Singh was determined to avenge Lajpat Rai’s death by shooting the British official responsible for the killing, Deputy Inspector General Scott. He shot down Assistant Superintendent Saunders instead, mistaking him for Scott. Bhagat Singh had to flee from Lahore to escape death punishment.

Instead of finding the root cause of discontent of Indians, the British government took to more repressive measures. Under the Defense of India Act, it gave more power to the police to arrest persons to stop processions with suspicious movements and actions. The Act brought in the Central Legislative Assembly was defeated by one vote. Even then it was to be passed in the form of an ordinance in the “interest of the public.” Bhagat Singh who was in hiding all this while, volunteered to throw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly where the meeting to pass the ordinance was being held. It was a carefully laid out plot, not to cause death or injury but to draw the attention of the government, that the modes of its suppression could no more be tolerated. It was decided that Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt would court arrest after throwing the bomb.

On April 8, 1929 Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs in the Central Assembly Hall while the Assembly was in session. The bombs did not hurt anyone. After throwing the bombs, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt, deliberately courted arrest by refusing to run away from the scene. During his trial, Bhagat Singh refused to employ any defence counsel. In jail, he went on hunger strike to protest the inhuman treatment of fellow-political prisoners by jail authorities. On October 7, 1930 Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru were awarded death sentence by a special tribunal. Despite great popular pressure and numerous appeals by political leaders of India, Bhagat Singh and his associates were hanged in the early hours of March 23, 1931.

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Back in India

Evets of  Gandhiji in India …
 
Year
Month
Date
Event
1933
February
11
Founds the weekly paper Harijan, published in English and Hindi.
 
May
8
Commences at noon 21 days’ fast for self-purification; released unconditionally at 9 p.m.
 
 
9
Announces suspension of Civil Disobedience movement for six weeks and calls on the Government to withdraw its Ordinances.
 
 
29
Breaks fast.
 
July
26
Disbands Satyagraha Ashram.
 
 
30
Informs Government of Bombay of his decision to march from Ahmedabad to Ras with 33 followers to revive Civil Disobedience movement.
 
 
31
Arrested and imprisoned without trial.
 
August
4
Released and rearrested for breaking a restraint order.
 
 
16
Goes on fast on being denied facilities to carry on anti-untouchability propaganda.
 
 
23
Released and reasserted for breaking a restraint order.
 
November
7
Commences Harijan-uplift tour.
1934
September
17
Announces decision to retire from politics from October I to engage himself in development of village industries, Harijan service and education through basic crafts.
 
October
26
Inaugurates All-India Village Industries Association.
1936
April
30
Settles down at Sevagram, a village near Wardha in the Central Provinces, Making it his headquarters.
1937
October
22
Presides over Educational Conference at Wardha and outlines his scheme of education through basic crafts.
1939
March
3
Commences ‘fast unto death’ at Rajkot to secure Ruler’s adherence to promise given to reform administration, and ends it on March 7 on Viceroy’s intervention.
1940
July & Sept
 
Meets Viceroy by invitation in connection with war situation.
 
October
 
Sanctions individual civil disobedience; suspends Harijan and allied weeklies following official demand for pro-censor-ship of reports and writings in Harijan on the subject of satyagraha.
1941
December
30
At his own request is relieved of hi leadership of Congress by Working Committee.
1942
January
18
Restarts Harijan and allied weeklies.
 
March
27
Meets Sir Stafford Cripps in New Delhi; later declares Cripps proposals to be a ‘post-dated cheque’.
 
May
 
Appeals to British Government to quit India.
 
August
8
Addresses A.I.C.C. session in Bombay on implications of Quit India resolution.
 
 
9
Arrested and interned in Aga Khan’s Palace at Poona.
 
 
15
Death of Mahadev Desai, Gandhiji’s personal secretary, from heart failure, in Aga Khan’s Palace.
 
Aug-Dec
 
Corresponds with Viceroy and Government of India regarding disturbances.
1943
February
10
Commences 21 days’ fast, which he breaks on March 3.
1944
February
22
Kasturba Gandhi dies in Aga Khan’s Palace.
 
May
6
Released unconditionally.
 
September
9-27
Carries on talks with M. A. Jinnah regarding Pakistan.
 
October
2
Presentation of purse of 110 lakhs of rupees (£ 8,25,000) for Kasturba Memorial on occasion of 75thbirthday.
1945
April
17
In a statement regarding the ensuing San Francisco Conference says that peace is impossible without equality and freedom of India. Also demands a just peace for Germany and Japan.
 
December
19
Lays foundation stone of C. F. Andrews’ Memorial Hospital at Shanti Niketan.
1945-46
Dec-Jan
 
Tours Bengal and Assam.
1946
Jan & Feb
 
Tours Southern India for anti-untouchability and Hindustani propaganda.
 
February
10
Revives Harijan and allied group of weekly journals.
 
April
 
Participates in political talks with Cabinet Mission in Delhi.
 
May
5-12
In Simla; Simla Conference in session; deliberations prove infructuous.
 
 
16
Cabinet Mission announces Plan.
 
 
18-19
Discusses Plan with Cabinet Mission.
 
 
26
Considers Plan best document produced by British Government under circumstances.
 
June
6
In Missouri.
 
 
7
Returns to Delhi.
 
 
10
Refuses to enthuse over Allied victory as not being ‘victory of truth over false-hood’.
 
 
11
Viceroy interviews Gandhiji, moots proposal of Coalition Government at Centre.
 
 
16
Cabinet Mission negotiations discontinued; Viceroy proposes Interim Government.
 
 
18
Congress Working Committee decides to accept Interim Government scheme.
 
 
20-1
Attends Working Committee meeting. Gandhiji is seen by Cripps.
 
 
23
Advises Congress not to enter Interim Government, but only Constituent Assembly.
 
 
24
Meets Cabinet Mission.
 
 
28
Leaves Delhi for Poona; attempts made to derail train en route.
 
July
7
Addresses A.I.C.C. meeting at Bombay; Congress accepts Cabinet Mission plan of May 16.
 
 
31
Jinnah threatens sanctions of ‘Direct Action’.
 
August
12
Viceroy announces invitation to Congress to form provisional Government.
 
August
16-18
The ‘Great Calcutta Killing’.
 
 
24
Viceroy Wavell broadcasts Plan.
 
 
27
Gandhiji cables warning to British Government against repetition of ‘Bengal tragedy’; also writes to Wavell.
 
September
4
Interim Government formed.
 
 
26
Has interview with Wavell.
 
October
9
Jinnah’s 9-point demands conveyed to Congress.
 
 
10
Noakhali Massacre.
 
 
15
Muslim League agrees to enter Interim Government.
 
 
28
Leaves for Calcutta. Riots break out in Bihar.
 
November
6
Leaves for Noakhali; issues statement on ‘Partial Fast’.
Noakhali tour begins.
 
 
20
Starts tour without party.
 
December
20
Completes month-long sojourn at Srirampur.
 
 
25
At Noakhali, says: “I am being tested through and through….”
 
 
30
Jawaharlal Nehru calls on Gandhiji, who says: “My reason wholly supports my heart”.
1947
January
2
Says: “All around me is utter darkness”.
Leaves Srirampur on walking tour.
 
 
3-29
In Bihar, touring riot-affected areas.
 
 
30
Leaves Patna for Delhi.
Mountbatten, new Viceroy, arrives in Delhi.
 
April
1-2
Gandhiji addresses Asian Relations Conference in Delhi.
 
 
15
Issues with Jinnah joint appeal for communal peace.
 
 
29
In Bihar.
 
May
1
Congress Working Committee accepts Partition in principle.
 
 
5
in interview, Gandhiji denies that communal division of India is inevitable.
 
 
24
Leaves Bihar for Delhi.
 
 
31
Declares peace must precede partition, he would not be party to India’s vivisection.
 
June
2
Viceroy’s Partition plan revealed; Congress Working Committee conveys acceptance.
 
 
3
Indian leaders broadcast on Mountbatten Plan.
 
 
6
Gandhiji writes to Mountbatten, with Pakistan conceded, to persuade Jinna to amicably settle all outstanding points with Congress.
 
 
12
Addresses Congress Working Committee.
 
July
 
‘Independence of India Bill’ passed.
 
 
27
Appeals to Princes to regard people’s paramountcy as a privilege.
 
August
14
Hails following day as one of rejoicing for deliverance from, British bondage; but deplores Partition. Pakistan is born.
 
August
15
Hindu-Muslim fraternization in Calcutta.
 
 
16
Hails ‘Miracle of Calcutta’.
 
September
1
Considers Calcutta peace nine-day’s wonder, decides on fast.
 
 
2
Is mobbed in Calcutta house; gives up idea of Noakhali visit. Peace efforts intensified.
 
 
4
Breaks fast.
 
 
7
Leaves Calcutta for Delhi; commences daily visits to riot-racked areas.
 
 
24
Pakistan raiders invade Kashmir.
 
 
25
Kashmir accedes to Indian Union.
 
 
26
Criticizes Churchill’s ‘holocaust in India’. Statement.
 
November
1
Indian troops enter Junagadh
 
 
8
Junagadh accedes to India.
Addresses A.I.C.C.
 
 
11
‘Defends Junagadh’s accession to India.
 
December
25
Pleads for amicable settlement between India and Pakistan.
 
 
30
India refers Kashmir dispute to U.N.
1948
January
12
Decides to fast for communal peace in Delhi; Mountbatten fails to dissuade Gandhiji.
 
 
15
Enters ‘danger zone’. Hails Indian Cabinet’s decision to release Pakistan dues of Rs. 550 million. Fast continues for establishment of communal peace.
 
 
17
Doctors warn fast must be ended. Central Peace Committee formed, decides on ‘Peace Pledge’.
 
 
18
Peace Committee signs, presents ‘Peace Pledge’ to Gandhiji, who breaks fast.
 
 
20
Bomb explodes at prayer meeting.
 
 
27
Visits Mehrauli Muslim Fair.
 
 
29
Angry refugees ask Gandhiji to retire to the Himalayas.
 
 
30
Drafts constitution of a Congress transformed into Lok Sevak Sangh.
Is assassinated on way to evening prayer.

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