The Revolutionaries: Shed Their Blood for India’s Independence (Part-1)
As the nation celebrates “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”, Justice S N Aggarwal takes a detailed and fact-based look on the contributions of the revolutionaries in India’s independence. Their contributions were not only forgotten but the governments that took over after 1947 relegated them to back-burners, often dismissing their contributions as not having any impact on India’s independence. But, as the meticulously collected and documented facts in this book – The Revolutionaries-Part-1 – show these revolutionaries not only performed daring feats against all odds and bore the torture of British government. They also laid their lives without a frown on their heads to liberate their motherland. From the War of Indian Independence to Kuka (Namdhari Movement), to Vasudeo Balwant Phadke, Birsa Munda. From Chapekar Brothers to Shyamji Krishna Varma, Lal-Bal-Pal, and Bengal Revolutionaries. From the Cellular Jail, Editors of Swarajya, V D Savarkar, Delhi Conspiracy Case 1912, to Lala Har Dayal, Supreme Sacrifices of Ghadr Patriots, Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy, Shaheed Udham Singh, and Kakori Conspiracy Case, besides many others, the book recounts the tales of these brave patriots, who were relegated to the backburner of our history books.
This book vividly brings alive the message of revolutionary patriots, who heroically suffered innumerable brutalities and sacrificed their lives for the honour, dignity, freedom, human rights and happiness of their countrymen. The book painstakingly and methodically compiles the contemporary events and spirit of fight for Independence. The title comes from the book titled "Ghadr di Goonj" (the echo of revolution), containing patriotic poems, making a clarion call for heroic uprising against injustice and for freeing the country, first published in Gurmukhi in 1914, by revolutionaries of Ghadr (revolution) movement, in San Francisco. The revolutionaries kissed the gallows as their duty to the nation. We can forget this only at our own peril.
The book draws from numerous works such as Veer Savarkar's "The Indian War of Independence 1857", ML Ahuja's "Eminent Indians: Freedom Fighters", and Harinder Srivastava's "Five Stormy Years: Savarkar in London" (1906-1910).
The book is not merely a historical account of heroism of the freedom movement (while it does give such account par excellence), but beautifully collects text of judgements of historical trials; and includes statements and literature which formed part of judicial record (rare documents, otherwise hard to find).
Furthermore, the book is an attempt to keep the spirit of freedom movement alive for next generations by reminding us that we owe debt and gratitude to the sacrifices of revolutionaries, of which each one of us is proud. The Constitution of India makes it a fundamental duty under Article 51-A (b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom. There is thus a duty for such noble ideals to be fully known and taught to the next generation. The country is passing through difficult times. Patriotism and sacrifices are the tools for providing solution to difficult problems which are on account of crises of character leading to commercialisation when the need is for sacrifice and service. Post-independence India is looking for mission-driven leadership embedded with the ideals of freedom fighters, far beyond selfish motives. It is ironical that our educational system does not fully incorporate the ideals of freedom fighters, depriving the next generation of this valuable knowledge. Rather, it portrays the British as pioneers of liberty and democracy, instead of true portrayal of their being the perpetrators of crimes and atrocities for financial gains and political power. The story of Independence is not accurately presented, to the tremendous loss of future generations.
The book shows how the East India Company and the imperialist- British, motivated solely by the greed for commercial benefit, robbed, exploited and tortured Indians—peasants, artisans, craftsmen—using its superior military power and divisive political strategies. How Indians, who had passion and love for the country and fellow citizens, made supreme sacrifices and fought back for justice, liberty and equality. The sacrifices were made by individuals as well as by collective groups and patriotic local rulers. The heroes were inspired by the success stories of Rana Pratap, Shivaji and Guru Gobind Singh.
Organised revolts began on May 10, 1857. The revolts achieved great success but some rulers, under misleading and false allures by the British, provided them support. This enabled the merciless massacre of thousands of Indians including old men, helpless women and children. No respect for values of civilisation or human rights was shown (otherwise pretended to be professed by the British). Such oppression agitated the minds of all Indians—Hindus, Muslims, all castes, communities and professions—throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Despite and against all efforts to suppress forever the spirit of Indian people, the supreme sacrifices of 1857 struggle heroes thereafter inspired the continued struggle against British atrocities and injustice, led by brilliant trio: "Lal-Bal-Pal" within 50 years of crushing of 1857 struggle.
Provoked by the article "Empire Saved by Deeds of Heroism” published on May 6, 1907, in Daily Telegraph, London, Savarkar organised the "Operation Hit Back" at India House in London. He published pamphlets titled "0 Martyrs" addressed to the martyrs of 1857, assuring them of the continued mission of the revolutionary war to end slavery and achieve liberty and freedom. It stated that blood of martyrs was not shed in vain. Sons of India could not betray their fathers. Call was given to Indians to unite forgetting selfishness and narrow differences for higher love for mother India, inspired by the patriotism of freedom-fighters in the 1857 struggle—Mangal Pande, Rani of Jhansi Laxmibai, Nana sahib Peshwa, Tatya Tope, Bahadurshah Zafar, Azim Ulah and Pir Shah and many others.
The book refers to the famous trials and records the manner in which the heroes of the freedom movement fought and suffered in the aftermath of 1857. Two Lahore Conspiracy cases are prominently mentioned. The first—King Emperor Vs. Anand Kishore and others— involved trial of 81 revolutionaries with the charge of conspiracy to wage war against the King Emperor from 1913 to 1915. The patriots settled in different countries returned to India in the wake of First World War to organise revolt to free India at the cost of their lives. Their mission could not succeed because of leakage of their plan by traitors. By the judgement dated 13.9.1915, 24 patriots were given death sentence, 27 patriots life sentence. Death sentence of 17 having been commuted to life sentence, seven patriots were hanged, including Kartar Singh Sarabha aged 19 and Vishnu Ganesh Pingale on 17.11.1915. Forty suffered transportation for life to the cellular jail in Andamans, involving inhuman tortures. In the course of the trial, proceedings of various meetings and motivating literature of the revolutionaries was produced. The said statements and literature are important to show the spirit of the revolutionaries and their determination. The heroic stories of these patriots captured in books of that time are also referred to by the author.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 became a further watershed moment with pledge of the patriots to avenge the atrocities.
The second Lahore Conspiracy case followed the Kakori Conspiracy case, Jallianwala Bagh massacre and a chain of events. It involved trial of 15 patriots for conspiracy to wage war against the King Emperor from 1921 to 1929 at Lahore, Delhi, Saharanpur, Agra and other places, murder of Saunders on 17.12.1928 at Lahore, leading to the hanging of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev, Rajguru on March 23, 1931 and several patriots being given life imprisonment for which they were sent to the Andamans Cellular jail, a centre for atrocities. There is a dire need to disseminate this material in appropriate manner to inform and motivate next generations towards service to the nation instead of pursuing selfish ends.
Other important events captured in the book include Kuka movement under Satguru Ram Singh, Hardinge bomb case, Jallianwala bagh tragedy, Kakori conspiracy case, Delhi Assembly Bomb case, heroic acts of Vasudeo Balwant Phadke, Chapekar Brothers, Lala Har Dayal, Shyamji Krishan Verma, Ajit Singh, Madan Lal Dhingra, Veer Savarkar, Birsa Munda, Lajpat Rai, BG Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Bengal revolutionary patriots including Aurobindo Ghose, Editors of Swarajya, Chandra Sekhar Azad, Udham Singh, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, trial of soldiers of INA and heroic stories of numerous patriots. The book concludes with Prime Minister Modi's inspiring speech on March 12, 2021, on the occasion of "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav" which also commemorated the contribution of revolutionary patriots, along with Mahatma Gandhi.
The author rightly concludes that if the country respects and remembers its martyrs, it prospers. Hallowed memory of martyrs makes the countrymen patriotic, ready to die for the country. This is the revolutionaries' message to the Countrymen.
I recommend the book to every Indian and hope that its salient contents will be made part of the syllabus in an appropriate form. This will help inspire the next generation with high ideals to serve the nation, instead of wasting their lives in pursuit of materialism at the cost of high ideals of service-spirited life, dedicated to the country's forward march. The revolutionaries deserve their due place in national life by wide dissemination of their life stories and such inspiring literature.
I wish the book and the endeavours of its celebrated author, Justice SN Aggarwal, a great success in achieving their noble mission.
Right at the outset, I submit my apology to those selfless revolutionaries who did not find a place in this book owing to my lack of knowledge about them.
This book narrates the heroic deeds and the zeal of revolutionaries for freeing the country from the foreign stranglehold, even at the cost of their own lives. It begins with revolutionaries of the Indian War of Independence in 1857 until the advent of Netaji Bose and the INA trials, which ultimately led to the freedom of the country.
Our revolutionaries from all religions, regions and segments of society fought the Indian War of Independence in 1857. They imposed an iron clad secrecy on their plans and fought for Swaraj and Swadharma as the movement virtually spread all over India. But the bigoted, barbaric face of British imperialists stood exposed in all its nakedness before the entire world, when they killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and the old and infirm, not even sparing new-born babies! These inhuman rulers felt no shame in hanging their bodies from the branches of trees. The Indian War of Independence 1857 was lost because of multiple factors.
We may have lost but did not give up. Soon, other revolutionaries like Satguru Ram Singh, Vasudeo Balwant Phadke, Birsa Munda, Chapekar brothers and Shyamji Krishna Varma boldly stepped forward to continue with the battle. They also suffered at the hands of the British and sacrificed their lives.
Towering leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Maharashtra), Lala Lajpat Rai (Punjab) and Bipin Chandra Pal (Bengal), all from the Congress, took over. Of a revolutionary bent of mind, their approach was radically different from that of the policy of futile prayers and petitions adopted by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and continued by Gandhiji. Sri Aurobindo, the prophet of nationalism, had made a very pertinent observation about the Congress: “If the blind leads the blind shall not both fall in to the ditch?”
The revolutionary fervour at the turn of the 20th century threw up many fiery leaders like VD Savarkar, Lala Har Dayal, Madan Lal Dhingra and towering patriots like Aurobindo Ghose and Ullaskar Dutta from Bengal. They continued with fierce commitment to the heroes of 1857, miscalled ‘mutiny’ by the British. But then, VD Savarkar, after perusing the archives at the British library in London, boldly described it as ‘The Indian War of Independence 1857’.
Savarkar, a born revolutionary, celebrated the golden jubilee of the martyrs of 1857 in London on May 10, 1907, and lauded their role in an ode called ‘O Martyrs’ published on May 10, 1908. It inspired hundreds of Indians residing and studying in London.
Inspired by Savarkar’s patriotism, Madan Lal Dhingra, also studying in London, shot dead Jackson on July 1, 1909. Jackson had once served as the deputy commissioner in Maharashtra and was known to harass revolutionaries. Arrested, tried and sentenced on July 25, Dhingra kissed the gallows on August 17, 1909. His last message was very patriotic as were his deeds.
Thousands of Bengali patriots willingly embraced the hangman’s noose with ‘Bande Mataram’ on their lips. Mortally scared of their activities, the Crown decided to shift the Capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912. How could their equally fiery counterparts in Delhi allow a celebratory function to pass through Chandni Chowk with Lord Hardinge, riding an elephant, unchallenged? In a daring feat, some of the revolutionaries led by Rash Behari Bose hurled a bomb at the Viceroy. Surprisingly, Hardinge survived. One or two persons including the mahout died. This has been covered in detail later in this book.
On March 25, 1913, Lala Har Dayal met Sohan Singh Bhakna and other Punjabis settled in America and Canada to form the Ghadr Party. The two were elected as the general secretary and president, respectively, with headquarters in San Francisco. They started the Ghadr Weekly on November 1, 1913, in Urdu to arouse Indians settled in Canada, America and elsewhere. Young Kartar Singh Sarabha, pursuing higher studies in America, published the first issue of Ghadr Weekly in Punjabi, on December 8, 1913. Sarabha later proved a role model for Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh.
The First World War was about to begin in 1914 with Britain as a key participant. The Ghadr Party leaders and workers chose to return to India and fight the Crown. The successful publication of the Ghadr Weekly had awakened patriotic sentiments and sent an unmistakable message to the British that nothing short of Independence would be acceptable.
The Ghadr patriots composed small poems not only to honour past revolutionaries, whose example they followed, but also to inspire future generations to serve the country. These poems were collected in an anthology titled Ghadr-Di-Goonj (Echo of Revolt).
The Ghadr leaders and workers flocked to India in 1914. They landed with a single-minded goal to incite rebellion among the sepoys against their white masters. The police swooped on Ghadrites arriving in ships at the Calcutta port, assaulting, killing and maiming hundreds of them. Many went missing. However, the determined Ghadr cadres changed their routes and landed in Punjab. Rash Behari Bose, a towering revolutionary of Bengal, reached Lahore to lead them. They fixed February 21, 1915, as the date of the uprising. The leaders were allotted army stations where they were to provoke the sepoys.
But traitors betrayed them by informing the British about the actual date of action. Ghadrites, getting wise to the betrayal, rescheduled the date of uprising to February 19, 1915, but they were backstabbed again, resulting in large scale arrests, trial and conviction. Young Kartar Singh Sarabha, Vishnu Ganesh Pingley and five other revolutionaries were hanged on November 17, 1915, and forty other Ghadr patriots were deported to the Andamans to undergo horrific torture in the Cellular Jail.
On April 13, 1919, which was the Baisakhi Day, hundreds of innocent protestors fell to bullets in a savage firing ordered by Gen Dyer at the Jallianwala Bagh. Udham Singh avenged the heinous act by shooting O’ Dwyer dead on March 13, 1940, in London, as it was under his tenure as the Lt Governor of Punjab that the massacre had taken place. Udham Singh was tried and hanged to death on July 31, 1940, becoming a martyr.
Similarly, the revolutionaries had looted the government treasury in a running train near Kakori on August 9, 1925, to buy weapons and ammunition to fight the British. They were involved in the Kakori Conspiracy Case, Ram Prasad Bismil, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, Ashfaqullah, Rajendra Lahiri, Chandra Sekhar Azad and Manmathnath Gupta were arrested, tried, convicted and some of these patriots were sentenced to death. They embraced the gallows and joined the ranks of martyrs. Some of their compatriots were sentenced to jail terms.
On October 30, 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led a huge crowd towards the Lahore railway station to protest peacefully against the arrival of Simon Commission. But the patriots including Lala Lajpat Rai were lathi-charged, which caused grievous injuries on the person of Lala Lajpat Rai. He succumbed to these injuries, thereby attaining martyrdom on November 17, 1928. ‘Khoon Ka Badla Khoon,’ rang out from the lips of Bhagat Singh (Shaheed-e-Azam), who, along with Rajguru, Sukh Dev and some other revolutionaries, shot dead on December 17, 1928 Saunders, ASP, responsible for Lajpat Rai’s death. Later on Shaheed-e-Azam and his associate Batukeshwar Dutt hurled two bombs in the Legislative Assembly of Delhi on April 8,1929, to ‘make the deaf hear.’ They were tried and sentenced to deportation for life. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukh Dev were sentenced to death in the Saunders’s Murder case, while eight other compatriots were sentenced to deportation for life and term imprisonment to Andamans.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, another towering revolutionary, made his entry at this stage. He, however, radically differed from the policies followed by Gandhiji. Bose was imprisoned for the eleventh time on July 2, 1940. He resorted to a hunger strike and secured his transfer to his residence in Calcutta (now Kolkata) where he was kept under house arrest and strict watch.
However, Bose disguised himself and escaped from his residence on January 17, 1941, to re-appear in Germany by mid-June, 1941. He started a movement there and coined the slogan Jai Hind as a greeting mantra. Members of his League addressed Bose for the first time as Netaji. Bose felt that Japan would be more suitable as a base to carry on the war of Independence where he landed in June 1943 from Germany.
Netaji took charge of the Indian Independence League from Rash Behari Bose on July 4, 1943. He inspected the INA parade on July 5,1943, at the City Hall Square, Singapore. Bose exhorted his soldiers to fight for the liberation of the country and took over as its supreme commander on August 26, 1943, appearing in military uniform for the first time.
Netaji formed the provisional Azad Hind government on October 21, 1943, to which Japanese authorities handed over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Bose visited Andaman for two days as the Head of the State. On December 29, 1943, Bose hoisted the flag of Independent India atop the Cellular Jail. On December 30, he hoisted the flag at the Chief Commissioner’s residence. A huge gathering sang the national song ‘Jana Gana Mana’. He hoped that the flag of Independent India would someday flutter from the Red Fort in Delhi.
Japan surrendered in the Second World War and advised Bose to leave immediately. He with his INA was fighting in Burma. But before leaving, Netaji addressed the INA on August 16, 1945. He said: “INDIA SHALL BE FREE AND BEFORE LONG.” On August 23, 1945, Japan announced Bose’s death in an air crash in Taipei (now Taiwan) on August 18, 1945. The wonderful story of Netaji Bose is so inspiring and emotional that the heart and mind never feel tired hearing and re-hearing it. His very presence was such that it could infuse blood in a dying man and inspire him to pick up the sword and kill the enemy.
The trial of INA officers at the Red Fort, Delhi, proved to be the last nail in the coffin of British Empire in India. Indians were seething with indignation and issued a dire warning that the execution of even a single INA officer would result in the killing of hundreds of English people. The Crown was terribly shaken by the mortal threat and hastily granted India its freedom on August 15, 1947. The last message of Netaji Bose on August 16, 1945, was prophetic and fulfilling.
Nehru became the first Prime Minister of the country and not Sardar Patel. To find out the reasons, read the book Had Sardar Patel Been the First Prime Minister by Justice SN Aggarwal.
After Independence, matters were not going on well, as corruption reared its ugly head and national interest became secondary. Immediately after Independence, on January 12, 1948, Gandhiji received two complaints from his followers in Andhra Pradesh, which he read out in his post-prayer speech on January 13, 1948. He spoke about the moral degradation into which the Congressmen had sunk. It was reported by the Daily Tribune on January 14, 1948.
Pandit Nehru committed a number of colossal blunders by following a soft approach and policy of appeasement. For a more detailed account, read the book, Nehru’s Himalayan Blunders: The Accession of Jammu and Kashmir by SN Aggarwal. Nehru compounded his folly by discounting the sterling contribution of the revolutionaries.
Shri Narendra Modi, elected as Prime Minister in May 2014, often said that we may not die like Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, but we should live like him and serve the country and countrymen. His principle is ‘Country First’. His theme is to treat equally every Indian of any faith, religion or region and his slogan is ‘Sabh Ka Sath, Sabh Ka Vikas, Sabh Ka Vishvash’. He is working for the poor by providing them with pukka houses, toilets, medical insurance, spreading the message of cleanliness, grant of quarterly financial help to the farmers and many other schemes for their welfare.
In his speech titled Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, on March 12, 2021, PM Modi, while paying tributes to Gandhiji, also recalled the sterling contribution of revolutionaries towards freeing the country. The PM said he saluted even those who had laid even a brick in the struggle for Independence.
The first 21 chapters deal with the fight of the revolutionaries for the Independence of our country. With their sacrifices the Independence of the country was achieved on August 15, 1947. The situation in the country after Independence has also been dealt with in chapters 22 to 23 while chapter 24 is on the speech of PM Modi at the launch of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav made on March 12, 2021. In the last chapter 25, the message of the Revolutionary patriots for the youth of the country and future generations has been communicated that they should love their country. The youth has also been advised to feel proud of their heritage and they must work for the upliftment of the country and serve their countrymen in whatever field they are, or they opt to be, in order to bring smile on the faces of all Indians.
I most humbly hope that this book would add to the knowledge of the readers about the extreme sacrifices made, tortures undergone and the kissing of gallows by the revolutionaries for the Independence of our country. I also hope that the book would inspire them to do something to serve the country and countrymen.