Posted by Anmol Jani
It is not the purpose here to trace the history of the revolutionary movement in India. Up to 1914 there were scattered secret organizations, mostly in the province of Bengal, but some outside it also. On the outbreak of the World War, the various organizations saw an opportunity to raise the standard of rebellion throughout India. With this purpose, such eminent revolutionaries as Rash Bihari Bose, Jatin Mukherjee, Sachin Sanyal, V. G. Pingley, Sardar Kartar Singh, Thakur Prithwi Singh, Baba Sohan Singh and others joined together and made elaborate plans in conjunction with some Sikh and Rajput regiments to bring about an armed revolution in India.
But as destiny ordained it, the whole plan tailed through inner treachery, except a formidable rising at Singapore which was subdued by means of Japanese warships and Japanese mariners. As soon as the authorities got scent of the plan of the revolutionaries, the regiments suspected of complicity in the contemplated risings were disarmed and disbanded, and armed European pickets were posted around them. These soldiers were then sent over to the severest fighting zones in France. The Defense of India Act was at once proclaimed, and more than 7000 persons were arrested in the Punjab, U. P. and Bengal.
By 1916, the revolutionary organizations were scorched, though not actually killed. By this time another influence had appeared in the field of Indian politics in the person of M K Gandhi. His idealism and his sacrifice appealed greatly,to the minds of the youths, many of whom began to join in his non-cooperation movement. But the “Bardoli Retreat,” .as it was termed by the revolutionaries, and the subsequent set-back in the non-cooperation movement again gave impetus to the revolutionary movement. By 1924 we again see the springing up of secret revolutionary organizations. In Bengal, as usual, the old revolutionaries began to organize again, but a heavy blow was dealt to them by the Bengal Ordinance of 1925. In U. P. and the Punjab, the different parties organized by Sachindra Nath Sanyal, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil etc., combined and formed one party.
At a meeting at Allahabad, a constitution was adopted and the name of the party became “Hindusthan Republican Association.” It was this organization that Bhagat Singh joined when he shifted to Cawnpore. His party name then became “Balwant,” under which name he used to contribute articles occasionally to the magazines .Cawnpore was then the headquarters of Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, or Mr. Roy as his party-name was, was the Chief Organizer of the party and it was under Jogesh Chatterjee that Bhagat Singh began to work.
In 1926 (August 1925 is the date) occurred the well-known Kakori train dacoity, in which the members of the H. R. A. held up a running train at Kakori near Lucknow, and looted the government cash that was being carried in that train. Vigorous police investigations into this affair led to ramifications of a wide-spread revolutionary organization, and the subsequent Kakori Conspiracy Case revealed many of their secrets. It was at this time that Bhagat Singh went back to Lahore.
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Posted by Anmol Jani
Sardar Bhagat Singh comes of a well-known Sikh family from the district of Lyallpur. His ancestors were Khalsa Sardars who, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, helped in the spread of the Sikh Kingdom against the turbulent Pathans on the west and the dangerous English on the east. For helping the Sikh rulers with life and blood, this family was rewarded with considerable land.
Bhagat Singh’s grandfather, Sardar Arjun Singh was a big landlord. Though more than 80 years old, he is still strong and used to take keen interest in the proceedings of the Lahore Conspiracy Case. He is full of nationalist spirit. His brother’s son (son of Surjan Singh), Sardar Bahadur Dilbagh Singh and others, through their services to the Government, have grown rich and are now prosperous and men of rank and title. But Sardar Arjun Singh chose another path which inevitably leads to poverty and obscurity. The grandmother of Sardar Bhagat Singh, Smt. Jaikaur, is a typical old woman of Hindu family. It is she who has brought up all her sons and grandsons. She is a very brave lady; still she talks of Sufi Amba Prasad, one of the pioneer nationalists of India, who used to visit them. Once the police came to arrest Sufi Sahib, while he was in the house of Sardar Arjun Singh. But the brave lady saved him by a clever trick.
Sardar Arjun Singh had three sons, Sardar Kishen Singh, Sardar Ajit Singh and Sardar Swaran Singh. All the three brothers are known throughout the Punjab for their sincere love of country. Their patriotism has stood the severest test of imprisonment, banishment and poverty.
It was Sardar Ajit Singh who is reputed to have drawn Lala Lajpat Rai to the field of political service for the motherland. Though quite rich, Sardar Ajit Singh forsook the comforts of a home-life and began to organize the Punjab for political emancipation. At this time, i.e., about 1904 and 1905, the partition of Bengal came as Godsend. The violent and continued agitation in Bengal over this act of Lord Curzon had reverberations in the distant Punjab where Lala Lajpat Rai, Sardar Ajit Singh and Sufi Amba Prasad (a great friend of Ajit Singh) began to rouse up the country by eloquent speeches. In this agitation Sardar Kishen Singh, the eldest of the brothers and father of Sardar Bhagat Singh, and Swaran Singh the youngest, took a legitimate share. Though Sardar Kishen Singh did not figure brilliantly on the platform, his services to the cause of the regeneration of the country were more solid. Both the father and the uncles of Bhagat Singh, with the willing consent of the grandfather, contributed generously to the national fund.
The year 1907 saw for the first time in the history of modern India the application of the arbitrary Regulation III of 1818, which has since then rendered so much service to the British Government in India. Both Bengal and Punjab were the scenes of the application of this drastic measure, and Sardar Ajit Singh and Lala Lajpat Rai were recipients of this honor. After suffering imprisonment without trial for about a year in the distant and unhealthy Burma, Sardar Ajit Singh came back to Punjab. It was about the same time that Bhagat Singh’s father and uncle, Sardars Kishen Singh and Swaran Singh, were arrested and imprisoned for seditious speeches, and were thus the pioneers in the line. The uncle, Swaran Singh, who was then hardly 28, soon died in the Jail (1910). And this was the propitious time when Sardar Bhagat Singh, the second son of the family, was born, on a Saturday, 28th September, 1907, in the early hours of the morning. Was it a mere coincidence or the hand of God!
Of his boyhood not much is known except that he loved the field much better than the class room. He, with his eldest brother, Jagat Singh, joined the Primary School at Banga, district Lyallpur, which was his birth place.
Jagat Singh died at the age of 11 years, a loss which was keenly felt by the boy Bhagat Singh. After this Sardar Kishen Singh shifted to Nawankot near Lahore where he had some land. Bhagat Singh had now to be admitted to some High School. Though it was customary for the Sikhs to join the Khalsa High School, Sardar Kishen Singh had no liking for the School owing to the loyalist tendencies of its authorities. So Bhagat Singh joined the D. A. V. School, Lahore. Although the incident is so simple yet it is significant that though a pious Sikh, Bhagat Singh’s father withdrew his son from a Sikh institution and preferred an Arya Samajist School. From this School, he passed the Matriculation Examination and joined the National College which is now in the building of the Bradlaugh Hall. When he was in the 9th class he went to attend the Cawnpore Congress. (Actually his father took him to Balgaum Congress held in 1924, presided by M K Gandhi) While in the College he was very intimate with Sukhdeo and Yashpal. (when hardly 12 year old he went to Amritsar following Jallianwala Bagh killings by General Dyer and brought blood socked soil)
When not yet fourteen, Bhagat Singh’s enthusiasm for the service of country brought him into touch with some revolutionary organization in the Punjab. After the failure of the non-cooperation movement in 1921, many impatient young men sought to resort to other methods than those advocated by M K Gandhi for the realization of their ideal. In the Punjab a sect had arose, known as Babbar Akalis. They advocated the use of violent methods for the emancipation of the country. Though they resorted to means which may not be approved by many, the Babbar Akalis contained among them some truly noble characters. Moreover, the heroic sacrifices of the Sikhs in the Lahore Conspiracy Cases of 1914 and 1915 had great influence on the imaginative youths of the period. That they had very great effect on the emotional nature of Sardar Bhagat Singh is very well proved from the later writings of his. It should also be remembered that Bhagat’s father, Sardar Kishen Singh also, was actively helping the revolutionary organizations of 1914-15. In the book, “India as I knew It” by Sir Michael O’Dwyer, there are definite references to it, so much so that it is definitely stated that Sardar Kishen Singh advanced thousands of rupees to the revolutionary leaders. It is for these alleged crimes that Sardar Kishen Singh was interned under the Defense of India Act. Like father, like son, and it is no wonder that young Bhagat Singh drifted towards the violent revolutionary path of the Babbar Akalis.
As usually happens with secret organizations, the police got clue of the activities of this party and most of its members were arrested. It was partly to avoid police scrutiny, partly to find out a new field of activity that Bhagat Singh left the Punjab and went to reside at Cawnpore. Here he came into touch with Shri Ganesh Shanker Vidyarthi, and the two formed a life-long friendship. This was a turning point in his life, as since then he became part and parcel of a well-organized revolutionary party in India. Henceforth his life was part of a story of the revolutionary movement in India, and it now behooves us to give some account of this revolutionary organization to which Bhagat Singh dedicated his heart and soul.