23rd March is the day that Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev attained martyrdom. One example of the resoluteness of Bhagat Singh and his associates remains inspirational even today. In order to disgrace Bhagat Singh and his associates, the then British Government informed them,’ If you feel that you should be spared from being hanged, then you must apply for mercy.’ The spirited answer to that advice, as given by Bhagat Singh, was: “The government says that we should apply for mercy. But why should we do so? Are we thieves or dacoits or goondas? We are political prisoners in this war for freedom. The blood of complete freedom is circulating in every blood vessel of ours. Whatever bold action we did was for the sake of freedom alone! We may not be worshippers of non-violence; our path may not be devoid of atrocities but is it not true that we are freedom-fighters? If the government has even a fraction of justice left within it, it has to treat us as political prisoners. We will never beg for mercy.
We do not intend to face this death sentence by saying ‘Do whatever you like but spare us from being hanged’. We dislike even climbing on the foot board meant for hanging. We are brave soldiers and true men!Hence treat us like that by either shooting us with bullets or blast us with cannons. Who wants to face such a feeble sentence as hanging? We request you to respect this last wish of ours!”
Bhagat Singh | Born: 27th Sept. 1907, Punjab | Hanged on 23rd March 1931
As a freedom fighter, he was considered to be one of the most famous revolutionaries of Indian Independence movement. For this reason, he is often referred to as Martyr Bhagat Singh. At such a young age, if anyone was smiling just before being hanged to death, it was Martyr Bhagat Singh. His uncle, Sardar Ajit Singh as well as his father, were both great freedom fighters, so Bhagat Singh grew up in a patriotic atmosphere.
At an early age, Bhagat Singh started dreaming of uprooting the British Empire. Never afraid of fighting during his childhood, he thought of ‘growing guns in the fields’, so that he could fight the British. The Ghadar Movement left a deep imprint on his mind. Kartar Singh Sarabha, hanged at the age of 19, became his hero. The massacre at Jallianwala Bagh on 13th April, 1919 drove him to Amritsar, where he kissed the earth sanctified by the martyrs’ blood and brought back home a little of the soaked soil. At the age of 16, he used to wonder why so many Indians could not drive away a fistful of invaders.
In search of revolutionary groups and ideas, he met Sukhdev and Rajguru. Bhagat Singh, along with the help of Chandrashekhar Azad, formed the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA). The aim of this Indian revolutionary movement was now defined as not only to make Bharat independent, but also to create a socialist Bharat.
A brutal attack by the police on veteran freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai at an anti-British procession caused his death on 17th November 1928, in Lahore. Bhagat Singh was determined to avenge Lajpat Rai’s death by shooting the British official responsible for the killing, Deputy Inspector General Scott.
However he shot down Assistant Superintendent Saunders instead, mistaking him for Scott. Then he made a dramatic escape from Lahore to Calcutta and from there to Agra, where he established a bomb factory.
The British Government responded to the act by imposing severe measures like the Trades Disputes Bill. It was to protest against the passing of the Bill that he threw bombs in the Central Assembly Hall (now our Loksabha) while the Assembly was in session. The bombs did not hurt anyone, but the noise they made was loud enough to wake up an enslaved Nation from a long sleep.
After throwing the bombs, Bhagat Singh and his friend deliberately courted arrest by refusing to run away from the scene. During his trial, Bhagat Singh refused to employ any defense counsel.
Despite great popular pressure and numerous appeals by political leaders of Bharat, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were accorded the death sentence and hanged in the early hours of 23rd March 1931. Their bodies were cremated on the bank of the Sutlej in Ferozepur. Bhagat Singh was just 23 years old at that time. Old timers say that in many places, not a single hearth fire burned that day.
The last paragraph of the leaflet that he distributed (and wrote) in the Assembly Hall said: “We are sorry that we who attach such great sanctity to human life, we who dream of a very glorious future when man will be enjoying perfect peace and full liberty, have been forced to shed human blood. But sacrifice of individuals at the altar of the Revolution will bring freedom to all, rendering exploitation of man by man impossible. Inquilab Zindabad (Long live the Revolution).”