Martyrs of Punjab: Sukhdev Thapar

Sukhdev Thapar

Son of Ram Lal, Sukbdev was born at Lyallpur (Now in Pakistao)~ He was an active member of the Revolutionary Party in Lahore and a close associate of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Like Bhagat Singh, he helped a lot in organizing revolutionary cells in the Punjab and outer areas of North India. He was privy to the plot of shooting which resulted in the death of Saumlees, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Lahore on December 17, 1928.
He was arrested at Delhi on April 15, 1929 after the bomb explosions in the Central Legislative Assembly Hall by Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dam He was tried as one of the principal accused in the Second Lahore Conspiracy Case and was srntcooed to deaUL He was hanged in the Lahore Jail on March 23, 1931 along with Bhagat Singh and Rajguru.

Early life
Sukhdev was born in Ludhiana, Punjab.

Revolutionary activities
Sukhdev was famous Indian revolutionary who played a major role in the India's struggle for Independence. Sukhdev Thapar was a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), and organised revolutionary cells in Punjab and other areas of North India. A devoted leader, he even went on to educate the youth at the National College in Lahore. He along with other renowned revolutionaries started the 'Naujawan Bharat Sabha' at Lahore that was an organisation involved in various activities, mainly gearing the youth for the struggle for independence and putting an end to British Imperialism and communalism.

Sukhdev himself took active part in several revolutionary activities like a prison hunger strike in 1929; however, he would always be remembered in the chronicles of the Indian Freedom Movement for his attacks in the Lahore Conspiracy Case (18 December 1928). Sukhdev was the accomplice of Bhagat Singh, and Shivaram Rajguru who were involved in the assassination of Deputy Superintendent of Police, J.P. Saunders in 1928 in response to the death of veteran leader, Lala Lajpat Rai owing to excessive police beating in the Conspiracy case. After the Central Assembly Hall bombings in New Delhi (8 April 1929), Sukhdev and his accomplices were arrested and convicted of their crime, facing the death sentence as verdict.

Special Tribunal
To speed up slow trial, the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, declared an emergency on 1 May 1930, and promulgated an ordinance setting up a special tribunal composed of three high court judges for this case. The ordinance cut short the normal process of justice as the only appeal after the tribunal was at the Privy Council located in England The Tribunal was authorised to function without the presence of any of the accused in court, and to accept death of the persons giving evidence as a concession to the defence. Consequent to Lahore Conspiracy Case Ordinance No.3 of 1930, the trial was transferred from Rai Sahib Pandit Sri Kishan's court to the tribunal composed of Justice J. Coldstream (president), Justice G. C. Hilton and Justice Agha Hyder (members).[1]

The case commenced on 5 May 1930 in Poonch House, Lahore against 18 accused.[2] On 20 June 1930, the constitution of the Special Tribunal was changed to Justice G.C. Hilton (president), Justice J.K. Tapp and Justice Sir Abdul Qadir.[2] On 2 July 1930, a habeas corpus petition was filed in the High Court challenging the ordinance and said that it was ultra vires and therefore illegal, stating that the Viceroy had no powers to shorten the customary process of determining justice. The petition argued that the Act, allowed the Viceroy to introduce an ordinance and set up such a tribunal only under conditions of break down of law-and-order, whereas there had been no such breakdown. However, the petition was dismissed as 'premature'.[3] Carden-Noad presented the government's grievous charges of conducting dacoities, bank-robbery, and illegal acquisition of arms and ammunition amongst others. The evidence of G.T.H. Hamilton Harding, the Lahore superintendent of police, shocked the court, when he stated that he had filed the First Information Report against the accused under specific orders from the chief secretary (D.J. Boyd[4]) to the governor of Punjab (Sir Geoffrey Montmorency[4]) and that he was unaware of the details of the case. The prosecution mainly depended upon the evidence of P.N. Ghosh, Hans Raj Vohra and Jai Gopal who had been Singh's associates in the HRSA. On 10 July 1930, the tribunal decided to press charges against only 15 of the 18 accused, and allowed their petitions to be taken up for hearing the next day. The tribunal conducted the trial from 5 May 1930 to 10 September 1930. The three accused against whom the case was withdrawn included Dutt, who had already been awarded a life sentence in the Assembly bomb case.[5]

The ordinance (and the tribunal) would lapse on 31 October 1930 as it had not been passed in the Central Assembly or the British Parliament. On 7 October 1930, the tribunal delivered its 300-page judgement based on all the evidence and concluded that participation of Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru was proved beyond reasonable doubt in Saunders' murder, and sentenced them to death by hanging.[6] The remaining 12 accused were all sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment. The warrants for the three had a black border.

Appeal to the Privy Council
In Punjab, a defence committee drew up a plan to appeal to the Privy Council. Singh was initially against the appeal, but later agreed to it in the hope that the appeal would popularise the HSRA in Great Britain. The appellants objected to the ordinance that created the tribunal as invalid. The government again plead that the Viceroy was completely empowered to create such a tribunal under the said Act (Section 72 ). The appeal was dismissed by Judge Viscount Dunedin.

Reactions to the judgement
After the rejection the appeal to the Privy Council, Congress party president Madan Mohan Malviya filed a mercy appeal before Lord Irwin on 14 February 1931.[7] An appeal was sent to Mahatma Gandhi by prisoners to intervene. In his notes dated 19 March 1931, the Viceroy recorded:

"While returning Gandhiji asked me if he could talk about the case of Bhagat Singh, because newspapers had come out with the news of his slated hanging on March 24th. It would be a very unfortunate day because on that day the new president of the Congress had to reach Karachi and there would be a lot of hot discussion. I explained to him that I had given a very careful thought to it but I did not find any basis to convince myself to commute the sentence. It appeared he found my reasoning weighty."[8]
The Communist Party of Great Britain expressed its reaction to the case:

"The history of this case, of which we do not come across any example in relation to the political cases, reflects the symptoms of callousness and cruelty which is the outcome of bloated desire of the imperialist government of Britain so that fear can be instilled in the hearts of the repressed people."
An abortive plan had been made to rescue Singh and fellow inmates of HSRA from the jail. HSRA member Bhagwati Charan Vohra made bombs for the purpose, but died making them when they exploded accidentally.

Execution
Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case and ordered to be hanged on 24 March 1931.[9] On 17 March 1931, the Home Secretary, Punjab, sent a telegram to the Home Department, New Delhi, fixing the execution on 23 March 1931.[10] Singh was informed that his execution had been advanced by 11 hours on 23 March 1931, just a few hours before his execution.[4][11] Singh was hanged on 23 March 1931 at 7:30 pm[12] in Lahore jail with his fellow comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev. It is reported that no magistrate of the time was willing to supervise his hanging. The execution was supervised by the Honorary Magistrate of Kasur, Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan Kasuri, who also signed Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev's death warrants as their original warrants had expired.[13][14][15] The jail authorities then broke the rear wall of the jail and secretly cremated the three men under cover of darkness outside Ganda Singh Wala village, and then threw the ashes into the Sutlej river,[4] about 10 km from Ferozepore (and about 60 km from Lahore).[4][9][16]

Criticism of the Special Tribunal and method of execution
Singh's trial is generally considered to be an important event in the Indian history, as it went contrary to the fundamental doctrine of criminal jurisprudence.[17] An ex-parte trial was against the principles of natural justice that no man shall be held guilty unless given an opportunity to defend in a hearing.[17] The Special Tribunal was a departure from the normal procedure adopted for a trial. The decision of the tribunal could only be appealed to the Privy Council located in Britain. The accused were absent from the court and the judgement was passed ex-parte.[18] The ordinance, which was introduced by the Viceroy to form the Special Tribunal, was never approved by the Central Assembly or the British Parliament, and it eventually lapsed without any legal or constitutional sanctity.[19]

It was probably for the first time, that executions were carried out in the evening, by advancing the date of execution. The families of the accused were not allowed to meet them before the execution nor were they informed about it, even the bodies of the three were not given to their relatives after the execution to perform last rites, but were removed by demolishing the rear wall of the jail since there was an angry crowd at the front gate and were disposed off by cutting them into pieces and burning with the help of kerosene[20] after which the remains were thrown into Satluj river.[21]

Reactions to the executions

Front page of The Tribune announcing Bhagat Singh's execution
The execution of Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were reported widely by the press, especially as they were on the eve of the annual convention of the Congress party at Karachi.[22] Gandhi faced black flag demonstrations by angry youth who shouted "Down with Gandhi". The New York Times reported:

A reign of terror in the city of Cawnpore in the United Provinces and an attack on Mahatma Gandhi by a youth outside Karachi were among the answers of the Indian extremists today to the hanging of Bhagat Singh and two fellow-assassins.[23]
Hartals and strikes of mourning were called.[24][25] The Congress party, during the Karachi session, declared:

While dissociating itself from and disapproving of political violence in any shape or form, this Congress places on record its admiration of the bravery and sacrifice of Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru and mourns with their bereaved families the loss of these lives. The Congress is of the opinion that their triple execution was an act of wanton vengeance and a deliberate flouting of the unanimous demand of the nation for commutation. This Congress is further of the opinion that the [British] Government lost a golden opportunity for promoting good-will between the two nations, admittedly held to be crucial at this juncture, and for winning over to methods of peace a party which, driven to despair, resorts to political violence.[26]
In the 29 March 1931 issue of Young India, Gandhi wrote:

"Bhagat Singh and his two associates have been hanged. The Congress made many attempts to save their lives and the Government entertained many hopes of it, but all has been in a vain.
Bhagat Singh did not wish to live. He refused to apologize, or even file an appeal. Bhagat Singh was not a devotee of non-violence, but he did not subscribe to the religion of violence. He took to violence due to helplessness and to defend his homeland. In his last letter, Bhagat Singh wrote, " I have been arrested while waging a war. For me there can be no gallows. Put me into the mouth of a cannon and blow me off." These heroes had conquered the fear of death. Let us bow to them a thousand times for their heroism.
But we should not imitate their act. In our land of millions of destitute and crippled people, if we take to the practice of seeking justice through murder, there will be a terrifying situation. Our poor people will become victims of our atrocities. By making a dharma of violence, we shall be reaping the fruit of our own actions.
Hence, though we praise the courage of these brave men, we should never countenance their activities. Our dharma is to swallow our anger, abide by the discipline of non-violence and carry out our duty."[27]

 

Martyrs of Punjab:Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh

He belongs to the front rank of Punjabi heroes martyred for the cause of national movement. He was the scion of a Saadhu Jat family which originally resided in the village Khatkar Kalan in District Jullundur but. at the time of Bhagat Singh's birth, wits settled at the village Bangs (Chak No. 105) in District Lyallpur. He was born on September 27, 1907. His grandfather Arjan Singh, his father Kishan Singh and his uncle Ajit Singh were all well-known for their advocacy of reforms and their revolutionary activities. His mother Vidya Vati had the reputation of being a pious and devoted woman. Professionally, his father was en insurance agent, incharge of the Punjab branch of the Industrial-Prudential and Wulhan Insurance Company.
Bhagat Singh received his early education at the primary school in his village. Having passed the fifth class examination front that school, he joined the D.A V. School, Lahore in 1916. Here he came into contact with some well-known political leaders of his time. namely Anand Kishore Mehta, Lala Pindi Das, Sufi Amba Parsad, Lala Lajpat Rai, Ras Bihari Bose, etc. Kartar Singh Sarabha's supreme sacrifice and the proceedings of the Lahore Conspiracy Case left a deep impact on his sensitive mind. A similar effect was produced on him by the Jallianwala Ragh Tragedy (1919) and the Khilafat Movement. In response to Mahatma Gandhi's call for noncooperation in 1921, Bhagat Singh left his school and joined the Nations College. newly opened at Lahore. At this college which was a centre of revolutionary activities, he cane into contact with revolutionrics such as Bhagwati Charan. Sukhdev, Ranbir Singh, Ram Kishan and Tirth Ram.

He passed his F.A. examination bus left his studies while he was a B.A. student- He went to Kanpur early in 1924 where he met Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, B.K. Dun, Chander Shekhar Arai and some Bengali revolutionaries. He row became member of the Hindustan Republican Association formed by the revolutionaries of Uttar Pradesh and was initiated into revolutionary activities,

On the request of his father, He returned to lahore ray in 1925. On reaching his village, he arranged for the reception of an Akali Jatha which was on its way to Jaito Morcha. Thercafter,He worked for a newspaper of Delhi, Vir Arjan but only fur about five or six months. He returned to Lahore and joined the Kirti Kisan Party founded by Sohan Singh Josh and Santokh Singh Shortly after. in association with other revolutionaries, he founded a new association known as Nau Jawarn Bharat Sabha, with himself as its Secretary.

In October, 1927 Bhagat Singh was arrested for his objectionable activities and was bound for Rs. 60,000. In July 1928 prominent rcvolutiorauics of India decided to accentuate their activities and held a meeting in September 1928 at Kotla Feroz Shah in Delhi. Bhagat Singh was race of the key figures in this meeting. When the country was in the trip of 'Simon, go bac agitation, lain Lljpat Rai organised a procession to register the protest of Lahore people against the Simon Comsnissiun. Bhagat Singh and his co-workers marcbod in the (ore¬front of this procession. The brutal attack of the police on Lain Lajpat Rat caused his death on November 17, 1928. The whole of the Punjab was in rage at the death of their beloved leader and Bhagat Singh determined to avenge his death by shooting Scott and other British officials responsible fee this foul deed. He shot down Assistant Superintcr4cnt Sounders mistaking him for Scott and making a dramatic escape from Lahore travelled to Calcutta in the guise of a rich man acconpsnied by his wife and a servant.

After some time. he left Calcutta and established a bomb factory at Agra. Having no faith in Gandhijis nonviolence, the nevohnionaries decided to attack the attention of people by throwing bombs in the Central Assembly Hall. In pursuance of this decision Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dull threw two bombs while the Assembly was in session. Bhagat Singh was arrested on the spot
D,sring his trial. Bhstynt Singh refused to employ any defence counsel. In the Jail, he went on hunger strike to secure humanitarian treatn,er.t for fellow-political prisoners. Bhagat Singb along with Sukh Den an4 Raj Guru was awarded death sentence by a special tribunal on October 7, 1930. Despite great popular pressure and numerous appeals by pnlitical leaders of India, Bhagat Singh and his associates were hanged in the early hours of 23rd March, 1931. Their bodies were cremated on the bank of the Sutiej in Fcrozcpur. Then he was Just 23 years 5 months and 27 days old, but when he died be had lived lung enough to become a legend. a symbol and a source of inspiration for all future freedom-tighten of India.

Articles by on Shaheed Bhagat Singh

Martyrs of Punjab: Jawala Singh ( Baba)

Jawala Singh, a Unique Ghadri Baba

Baba Jawala Singh, also known as Santa Singh, was a unique personality. Known as the Potato King, he founded scholarships at the University of Calfornia at Berkeley, he was granthi of the Stockton gurdwara, first vice president of the Hindustan Ghadar Party for independent India, and president of the Kisan Sabha of Punjab, a peasant union.

Jawala Singh was born in 1866 to a kumhar, or potter, family in village Thathian of Amritsar District. His father, Ghanaia Singh, was a small farmer. Under the British rule, Punjabi farmers were treated as lease holders of the land they had owned during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s regime. They had to pay exorbitant lease charges, in cash, which they had to borrow from moneylenders who charged high interest rates. This economic hardship forced many Punjabis to go abroad to earn a living.

Jawala Singh left his village, in 1905. He worked his way through many countries, including Panama and Mexico, before reaching San Francisco in 1908.

There he met Visakha Singh Dadehar, who also reached San Francisco in 1908. Originally was from Amritsar, he served as a granthi in the Indian cavalry. In 1907 he left home and reached Shanghai, where he served as a policeman for nine months before leaving for California.

Together, Jawala Singh and Visakha Singh leased a 500-acre ranch in Holtsville, near Stockton. Visakha Singh spent all his time on the farm, while Jawala Singh attended to outside duties, including public relations. They became successful potato growers. And Jawala Singh became known as the Potato King.

Jawala Singh was a very foresighted nationalist who understood the value of education. He built good relations with UC Berkeley and, incredibly, founded scholarships for Indian scholars within four years of his arrival to the United States.

Echoes of Freedom, a 2001 publication of the UC Berkeley library, published the notification of the scholarships issued on Jan.1, 1912, with his signature, and included his picture. The scholarships were to cover the cost of two-way transportation from India and meet all expenses here, including room and board at 1731 Allston Way, Berkeley.

This home, purchased by the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society, was called ‘Guru Nanak Dev Vidyarthi Ashram’. Smoking and drinking were prohibited.

Jawala Singh enlisted support of his friends Santokh Singh, Sohan Singh and Wisakha Singh, to underwrite the scholarships. Though underwritten by Sikhs and named Sri Guru Govind Singh Educational Scholarships, the scholarships were open to men and women of all communities hailing from anywhere in India.

The 1912 awardees of the scholarships included a Christian, a Sikh, a Muslim and three Hindus. They were the first and only awardees. The scholarship project ended because of financial problems. The sponsors had to assume increased responsibility for the Sikh Temple in Stockton and for the Ghadar Party.

The Holtsville farm had one room reserved for Sri Guru Granth Sahib. A vast majority of the East Indians in California were Sikhs. In the beginning, they held congregational prayers at different farms, by rotation. The first Sikh congregational prayer in the United States, in presence of the Guru Granth, was held on November 1, 1911, almost 100 years ago, at Sardar Nand Singh camp near Stockton.

Soon, congregation formed the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society with Sant Teja Singh as its founding president. The society was incorporated on May 27, 1912, and functioned from Berkeley until October 1, 1917. The society purchased the 1930 South Grant Street residential lot in Stockton in September 1912.

Hundreds of American people protested the hoisting of the Nishan Sahib but they were pacified and satisfied when Teja Singh explained its religious importance for the Sikhs. The first prayer was held there on October 24, 1912, in a small pre-existing frame building.

This first Gurdwara in the United States is now a historical landmark of California. Jawala Singh and Visakha Singh served as its first Granthis.

A new wooden structure, including a prayer hall and a langar hall, was completed in 1915. Its dedication was held on 426th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, on November 21, 1915. Both Jawala Singh and Visakha Singh had left for India to carry out the mission of the Ghadar Party. Professor Arthur U. Pope, of the philosophy department, delivered the keynote address and spoke of Sikhism’s pure and lofty monotheism, strong opposition to idol worship, rejection of the caste system, equality of all, sharing and tolerance of other religions.


In 1929, the wooden building of 1915 was moved for use as a library, and a new brick building of the Gurdwara was built in its place. It had an elevated seat for Sri Guru Granth Sahib. With permission from the Shiromani Gurdwar Parbandhak Committee, the western system of sitting on chairs, wearing shoes and leaving heads uncovered, was adopted. This system was also adopted when a Japanese Church in El Centro was converted into a gurdwara in 1948, and at the Tierra Buena Road Gurdwara, in Yuba City, built in 1973.

However, now-a-days with the arrival of large numbers of Sikh immigrants from India since mid 1980s, all California Gurdwaras have switched to the Indian tradition of removing shoes and covering heads before entering the prayer hall, and sitting on the carpet. But many Gurdwaras do have a few benches or chairs on the side or in the back, for the physically challenged.

Jawala Singh’s patriotic spirit made him very popular and he was elected president of the California branch of the Indian Association, an organization set up by the Indian pioneers to guard their interests. Discriminatory treatment meted out to them by the locals and the unsympathetic attitude of the representatives of the British-Indian government created a strong desire to overthrow the British government in India at the earliest. This led to Jawala Singh playing an important role in the Ghadar Movement.

The Holtville farm became the center of activities of the Ghadar Party. Jawala Singh played a key role in organizing a conference of the Ghadar Party in Sacramento on Dec. 31, 1913, which was attended by thousands. Here, he was elected first vice president of the party.

Soon after the start of the World War I on July 28, 1914, the Ghadar Party decided that its members must go to India to fight against the British government in India. Jawala Singh and Sohan Singh Bhakna, the president of the Ghadar Party, toured the Western states to recruit volunteers to go to India. His farm served as a camp for training revolutionaries on their way to India. Eventually, he and his partner, Visakha Singh, donated their entire property to the Ghadar Party. Jawala Singh was one of the leaders of the first large group that sailed for India on August 29, 1914, aboard the S.S. Korea. From Hong Kong, he went on another ship, Tosha Mans, which reached Kolkata on Oct. 29, 1914.

On the way, in Singapore, Jawala Singh tried unsuccessfully to win over the loyalty of Indian regiments and to incite them for a national revolt against the British. On arrival at Kolkata, he was arrested from the ship and taken to Ludhiana by train, where was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Jawala Singh served 18 years in Montgomery Jail. On his release in 1933, he identified himself with farmers and workers and voiced their grievances through a newspaper called ‘Kirti’. He worked for the Desh Bhagat Pariwar Sahaik Committee, which collected funds and helped the families of freedom fighters. He also became the first president of the Punjab Kisan Sabha, a peasants’ union, formed to negotiate with the colonial government regarding farming practices and land revenue.

For his new activities he was rearrested in 1935 and sentenced to another year in prison. After his release, he led the tenant movement of Nili Bar, an area of Montgomery district, now the Sahiwal district of Pakistan, commanded by the lower Bari Doab canal.

During his travel to the attend the All-India Kisan Conference, a conference of representatives of farmers of all states of India, at Comilla in Bengal, his bus met with an accident, resulting in serious injuries. He died on May 8, 1938.

Onkar Singh Bindra

Martyrs of Punjab: Madan Lal Dhingra

Madan Lal Dhingra

Early life
Dhingra Studied at Amritsar in MB Intermediate college up-till 1900 and then went to Lahore to study in Government College Lahore. In 1904 he led a student protest against the principal's order to have college blazer made out of imported cloth from England. He was thrown out of college. At that time he was Student of Masters of Art. He was under the influence of Nationalist Movement of Swadeshi. He deeply studied the literature concerning the cause of Indian Poverty and famines, as solution to these problems Swaraj and Swadeshi became key issues. Then Dhingra had to work as a clerk, at Kalka in A Tonga Service being run for British family's transport to Shimla Tonga (horse-driven cart) puller, and a factory labourer. Dhingra attempted to organise a union there, but was sacked. He worked for sometime in Mumbai, before acting upon the advice of his elder brother Dr Bihari Lal and going to England for higher studies. In 1906, Madan Lal departed for England to enroll at University College, London, to study Mechanical Engineering. He was supported by his elder brother and some nationalist activists in England.

With Savarkar
Dhingra came into contact with noted Indian independence & political activists Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Shyamji Krishna Varma, who were impressed by Dhingra's perseverance and intense patriotism which turned his focus to the freedom struggle. Savarkar believed in revolution by any means, and supposedly gave Dhingra arms training, apart from membership in a secretive society, the Abhinav Bharat Mandal. He was also a member of India House, the base for Indian student political activity.

During this period, Savarkar, Dhingra and other student activists were enraged by the execution of freedom fighters such as Khudiram Bose, Kanhai Lal Dutt, Satinder Pal and Pandit Kanshi Ram in India. It is this event that is attributed by many historians as having led Savarkar and Dhingra to exact direct revenge upon the British.

Curzon Wyllie's assassination
On the evening of 1 July 1909, a large number of Indians and Englishmen had gathered to attend the annual day function of the Indian National Association. When Sir Curzon Wyllie, political aide-de-camp to the Secretary of State for India, entered the hall with his wife, Dhingra fired five shots right at his face, four of which hit their target. Cowasji Lalkaka, a Parsee doctor who tried to save Sir Curzon, died of Madan Lal's sixth and seventh bullets, which the latter fired because Lalkaka caught hold of him.

Later he stood without regretting for his action and was caught by the police.

Trial
Dhingra was tried in the Old Bailey on 23 July. He stated that he did not regret killing of Curzon Wyllie as he had played his part in order to set India free from the inhuman British rule. Also, that he had not intended to kill Cowasji Lalkaka. He was sentenced to death. After the judge announced his verdict, Dhingra's said to have stated, "I am proud to have the honour of laying down my life for my country. But remember we shall have our time in the days to come". Dhingra was hanged on 17 August 1909. Madan Lal also made a further statement which is rarely mentioned. According to John Laurence in A History of Capital Punishment on page 138, H. A. Pierrepoint, his executioner, gave him an unnecessarily and inhumanely cruel long drop of eight feet, three inches at the execution. The reasons behind this remain unknown and can only be speculated at.

Statement of Dhingra in the court
Dhingra had given the following statement[3] before the court:

"I do not want to say anything in defence of myself, but simply to prove the justice of my deed. As for myself, no English law court has got any authority to arrest and detain me in prison, or pass sentence of death on me. That is the reason I did not have any counsel to defend me."

"And I maintain that if it is patriotic in an Englishman to fight against the Germans if they were to occupy this country, it is much more justifiable and patriotic in my case to fight against the English. I hold the English people responsible for the murder of 80 millions of Indian people in the last fifty years, and they are also responsible for taking away ₤100, 000, 000 every year from India to this country. I also hold them responsible for the hanging and deportation of my patriotic countrymen, who did just the same as the English people here are advising their countrymen to do. And the Englishman who goes out to India and gets, say, ₤100 a month, that simply means that he passes a sentence of death on a thousand of my poor countrymen, because these thousand people could easily live on this ₤100, which the Englishman spends mostly on his frivolities and pleasures. Just as the Germans have no right to occupy this country, so the English people have no right to occupy India, and it is perfectly justifiable on our part to kill the Englishman who is polluting our sacred land. I am surprised at the terrible hypocrisy, the farce, and the mockery of the English people. They pose as the champions of oppressed humanity—the peoples of the Congo and the people of Russia—when there is terrible oppression and horrible atrocities committed in India; for example, the killing of two millions of people every year and the outraging of our women. In case this country is occupied by Germans, and the Englishman, not bearing to see the Germans walking with the insolence of conquerors in the streets of London, goes and kills one or two Germans, and that Englishman is held as a patriot by the people of this country, then certainly I am prepared to work for the emancipation of my Motherland. Whatever else I have to say is in the paper before the Court I make this statement, not because I wish to plead for mercy or anything of that kind. I wish that English people should sentence me to death, for in that case the vengeance of my countrymen will be all the more keen. I put forward this statement to show the justice of my cause to the outside world, and especially to our sympathisers in America and Germany."

"I have told you over and over again that I do not acknowledge the authority of the Court, You can do whatever you like. I do not mind at all. You can pass sentence of death on me. I do not care. You white people are all-powerful now, but, remember, it shall have our turn in the time to come, when we can do what we like."

Verdict of court
While he was being removed from the court, he said to the Chief Justice- "Thank you, my Lord. I don't care. I am proud to have the honour of laying down my life for the cause of my motherland." [4]

In response, the Chief Justice said: I have been instructed to watch this case on behalf of the family of the man who has just been convicted. I here been instructed to say that they view this crime with the greatest, abhorrence, and they wish to repudiate in the most emphatic way the slightest sympathy with the views or motives which have led up to the crime. Further, I am instructed to say, on behalf of the father of this man and the rest of his family, that there are no more loyal subjects of the Empire than they are.

And then Dhingra replied: The Lord Chief Justice. Mr. Tindal Atkinson, although the course may have seemed somewhat unusual, having regard to the nature of this crime and the wicked attempt at justification in some quarters, I am very glad you should have said that on behalf of the members of the family.

Reactions
While most of the British press, and some liberal and moderate Indians condemned Dhingra's act, it nevertheless excited the Indian community in England and back in India.[citation needed] Guy Aldred, the printer of The Indian Sociologist was sentenced to twelve months hard labour. The August issue of The Indian Sociologist had carried a story sympathetic to Dhingra. Dhingra's actions also inspired some in the Irish, who were fighting their own struggle at the time.

Some modern historians claim that the trial was grossly unfair and biased. Dhingra was not given a defence counsel (though this was at his own request, in support of his contention that no British court had authority to try him), and the entire process was completed in a single day. Some legal experts claim that it was not the business of the court at the time to decide the time and location of execution.

Gandhiji condemned Dhingra's actions. To quote,

It is being said in defence of Sir Curzon Wyllie’s assassination that...just as the British would kill every German if Germany invaded Britain, so too it is the right of any Indian to kill any Englishman.... The analogy...is fallacious. If the Germans were to invade Britain, the British would kill only the invaders. They would not kill every German whom they met.... They would not kill an unsuspecting German, or Germans who are guests.

Even should the British leave in consequence of such murderous acts, who will rule in their place? Is the Englishman bad because he is an Englishman? Is it that everyone with an Indian skin is good? If that is so, there should be [no] angry protest against oppression by Indian princes. India can gain nothing from the rule of murderers—no matter whether they are black or white. Under such a rule, India will be utterly ruined and laid waste.

After Dhingra went to the gallows, the Times, London wrote an editorial (24 July 1909) titled "Conviction of Dhingra". The editorial said, "The nonchalance displayed by the assassin was of a character, which is happily unusual in such trials in this country. He asked no questions. He maintained a defiance of studied indifference. He walked smiling from the Dock."

Grudging admiration from the British Cabinet
Dhingra's martyrdom evoked the respect of some members of the Cabinet. This was disclosed later to Blunt by Winston Churchill. Blunt writes (My Diaries, Vol.2, p. 288, entry for 3 October 1909), "Again we sat up late. Among the many memorable things Churchill said was this. Talking of Dhingra, he said that there has been much discussion in the Cabinet about him. Lloyd George had expressed to him his highest admiration of Dhingra's attitude as a patriot, in which he shared…He will be remembered two thousand years hence, as we remember Regulus and Caractacus and Plutarch's heroes and Churchill quoted with admiration Dhingra's last words, as the finest, ever made in the name of patriotism…"

Last words from gallows
The following are said to be Madan Lal Dhingra's last words, just before he died at the gallows:

"I believe that a nation held down by foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to a disarmed race, I attacked by surprise. Since guns were denied to me I drew forth my pistol and fired. Poor in wealth and intellect, a son like myself has nothing else to offer to the mother but his own blood. And so I have sacrificed the same on her altar. The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die, and the only way to teach it is by dying ourselves. My only prayer to God is that I may be re-born of the same mother and I may re-die in the same sacred cause till the cause is successful. Vande Mataram!"

Remembrance
At the time, Dhingra's body was denied Hindu rites and was buried by British authorities. His family having disowned him, the authorities refused to turn over the body to Savarkar. Dhingra's body was accidentally found while authorities searched for the remains of Shaheed Udham Singh, and re-patriated to India on 13 December 1976. His remains are kept in one of the main squares of Akola city in Maharashtra, India, which has been named after him. Dhingra is widely remembered in India today, and was an inspiration at the time to revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad, and there is a demand to convert his ancestral home into a museum.

Sikh Matrimonials

Sikh Matrimonials
In association with SHAADI.COM

Sikh Matrimonials
Donate to AllAboutSikhs.com

Your donations will keep Allaboutsikhs.com in Chardikala

Subscription Options