Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Udham Singh: The man who died for a purpose


There are many who live for a purpose.

There have been a few in human history who have died for a purpose.

However, there have been very few heroes in Indian history who were brave and cerebral enough to have declared before their death that they were dying for a purpose.

One was Bhagat Singh. And another was his follower Udham Singh.

Udham Singh, an ardent follower of Bhagat Singh, too married death some 10 years after his hero was hanged by the British.

He is a hero who alone avenged Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 by shooting Sir Michael O’Dwyer through the heart at point-blank range in London, only a few blocks away from the Houses of British Parliament.

His hero Bhagat Singh was hanged on 23 March 1931. Udham Singh too followed his path and was executed on July 31, 1940.

From the death row Bhagat Singh had written an essay “Why I am an Atheist’.

He wrote:

“If you have no belief in Him, then there is no alternative but to depend upon yourself. It is not child’s play to stand firm on your feet amid storms and strong winds … I know that will be the end when the rope is tightened around my neck and the rafters move from under my feet. To use more precise religious terminology, that will be the moment of utter annihilation. My soul will come to nothing … Without any selfish motive of getting any reward here or in the hereafter, quite disinterestedly have I devoted my life to the cause of freedom. I could not act otherwise.”

Bhagat Singh knew there will be no reward for him thereafter. Yet, he chose to die for the country.

His follower too knew why he had chosen to die. He knew his purpose too.

Anita Anand writes in The Patient Assassin: A True Tale of Massacre, Revenge and the Raj:

“Udham lost his belief in God the day his guru died. In the future, whenever anyone asked him what his religion was, he would open his wallet and show a picture of Bhagat Singh, which filled the place where Lupe’s image had once lived. ‘This is what I believe in now,’ he would say, jabbing the picture of Bhagat with barely contained emotion. Something about the way Bhagat had sacrificed himself touched him deeply. The man had committed the ultimate selfless act, stood his ground when he could have run, and done it for the freedom of his nation. He had done it to inspire countless other Indians to rise up for the cause. He had done it to avenge Lala Lajpat Rai. When his own time came, Udham hoped he would be half the man Bhagat Singh had been.”

It is sad that India has already forgotten those cerebral and selfless youths who had laid down their lives for a Dream Country.

Not many among young Indians know about how Chandrashekhar Azad had declared his name to be ‘Azad’, his father’s name as ‘Swatantrata’ and his residence as ‘prison’ and that he shot himself in the head to fulfil his vow of dying as a free man and not as a British prisoner.

Not many know that Prafulla Chaki had shot his last bullet in his mouth.

Very few know that on being read out the death sentence, Khudiram Bose had smiled, prompting the judge to ask him whether he understood his punishment. Bose naughtily replied that he not only understood the punishment, but he was even ready to teach the judge the art of bomb-making, if given time.

Khudiram Bose was 18, Prafulla Chaki was 19. Bhagat Singh was 23. Chandrashekhar Azad was 24. Udham Singh was 20 when Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place. He waited patiently and planned meticulously for 20 years to avenge that massacre. He was executed at 40.

These were the heroes we have had in this very country.

Today what do we do usually at 18, 19, 23, 24 and 40?

It gives shivers to even think about the mindfulness and awoken rationality that those young heroes had shown at such young age.

In a country besotted with mindless Bollywoodian fare, these really are the two questions we need to ask ourselves today.

Do we deserve them? Did they deserve us?

On this day, while paying our respects to those heroes, it would be apt to read what Udham Singh had said before a British jury.

‘I do not care about sentence of death. It means nothing at all. I do not care about dying or anything. I do not worry about it at all. I am dying for a purpose.’

‘We are suffering from the British Empire. I am not afraid to die. I am proud to die, to have to free my native land and I hope that when I am gone, I hope that in my place will come thousands of my countrymen to drive you dirty dogs out; to free my country.’

‘I am standing before an English jury. I am in an English court. You people go to India and when you come back you are given a prize and put in the House of Commons. We come to England and we are sentenced to death.’

‘I never meant anything; but I will take it. I do not care anything about it, but when you dirty dogs come to India there comes a time when you will be cleaned out of India. All your British Imperialism will be smashed.’

‘Machine guns on the streets of India mow down thousands of poor women and children wherever your so-called flag of democracy and Christianity flies.’

‘Your conduct, your conduct – I am talking about the British government. I have nothing against the English people at all. I have more English friends living in England than I have in India. I have great sympathy with the workers of England. I am against the Imperialist Government.’

‘You people are suffering – workers. Everyone are suffering through these dirty dogs; these mad beasts. India is only slavery. Killing, mutilating and destroying – British Imperialism. People do not read about it in the papers. We know what is going on in India.’

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