Revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Che Guevara fought for the cause of others until the end of their lives. I am sure no Indian would need introduction of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. But for those who don’t know about him, Bhagat Singh was one of the most influential revolutionaries during India’s struggle for independence from British Rule. This young man was hanged by the British at the age of 23 when he was arrested for killing a police officer to revenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.
Bhagat Singh was born in a Jat Sikh family in Layallpur, Punjab (of erstwhile Hindustan) and he became associated with the revolutionary activities from a very early age. He went to an Arya Samaj school and began to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation movement aimed to force the British out of India. Bhagat Singh burnt his government school books and imported school clothing as part of Swadesi Movement. However, Mahatma Gandhi withdrew the movement because he was hurt by the killing of policemen in Chauri Chaura village of Uttar Pradesh. Bhagat Singh felt disillusioned due to this withdrawal and his faith shifted from non-violence to revolutionary tactics.
On 30 October 1928, the Simon Commission visited Lahore only to meet silent and non-violent protests led by Lala Lajpat Rai. The police reacted violently and lathi-charged the protesters. Lala Lajpat Rai was badly beaten up on chest and he died due to injuries. It is said that Bhagat Singh was an eyewitness of this event. Later Bhagat Singh, Shivram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar vowed to take revenge of Lalaji’s murder by killing the Lahore police chief James A. Scott. However, by mistake, instead of Scott, his deputy J.P. Saunders was killed by the trio. Bhagat Singh immediately left Lahore to avoid arrest. At this point of time he shaved his beard and cut his hair to avoid recognition. This was a violation of the sacred tenets of Sikhism. Afterward, Bhagat Singh donned a felt-hat and other Western clothing. His photograph taken in this getup at the age of 21 is his most famous photograph which has gained an iconic photograph status. The name of the photographer is unknown.
Prof. Jagmohan Singh, nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, recalls that the martyr got his long hair cut in the Tudi Bazaar of the Shahganj mohalla in Firozpur. Head hair are among the five sacred articles of faith in Sikhism. Bhagat Singh let his hair go so he could disguise himself as he was preparing to explode a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly. Later, Gajju, the barber who cut Bhagat Singh’s hair, turned a witness for the British government. Gajju, the witness number 295, identified Bhagat Singh.
On 9 April 1929 Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw a non-lethal bomb in the corridors of Central Legislative Assembly while shouting the slogans of Inquilab Zindabad. They also showered leaflets stating that it takes a loud voice to make the deaf hear. The bomb neither killed nor injured anyone in the assembly. After exploding the bomb, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt gave themselves up for arrest. Later Rajguru and Sukhdev were also arrested along with many other revolutionaries. Several of these arrested men turned police informants. As a result, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were charged with the murder of Saunders. The trio was sentenced to be hanged till death.
On 23 March 1931, these three revolutionaries were hanged. Bhagat Singh was immediately titled as Shaheed (martyr).
Besides this iconic photograph, very few other photographs of Bhagat Singh are available. I am giving these photographs of Bhagat Singh below:
Did you know?
- “Inquilab Zindabad” slogan was first used by Maulavi Hasrat Mohani at a labour strike in Kolkata. It was popularized by Bhagat Singh and his colleagues.
- In 1931, Bhagat Singh was an atheist and wrote a famous essay Why I am an Atheist when he was in condemned cell in the prison.
- Some people claim that Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged only to be semi-conscious. The the trio was taken out of the jail and were shot dead by the members of Saunders family. There are no supportive evidence available for this theory.
- Bhagat Singh kept a diary while he was in jail. He wrote 404 pages. These pages primarily contain quotations from other people.
We, Indians, must salute all those who sacrificed their lives to get us the most precious gift of the Independence. Freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose had different ideologies but their goal was one —to get India rid of the British rule.
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