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The Life and Struggle of Great Indian Revolutionary – Bhagat Singh

The day Vidyavati gave birth to her son in the quaint little village of Banga was also the day her husband, Kishan Singh, and his two brothers were released from jail. The trio where were serving term for taking part in the Indian independence movement.

Bhagat Singh's Mother

 No one who heard the little child’s first cries that day would have imagined that he would grow up to be the legend the nation so fondly remembers today as the great revolutionary Bhagat Singh.

Bhagat's Sings Father, Grand Father and Uncle

 Bhagat Singh was born on 28 September 1907 into a family that had been involved in revolutionary activities against the British Raj. This would go on to prove just how true he was to his name in the coming years. Bhagat means ‘bhakt’ or ‘devotee’. From an early age Bhagat was devoted to the cause of his motherland and her freedom.

Bhagat Singh's Primary School

 Bhagat, no stranger to the independence movement or the plight of the country, was greatly influenced by his grandfather, Arjun Singh.  Arjun Singh was an ardent follower of Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s Hindu reformist movement, Arya Samaj. He instilled values like love for ones motherland and a desire for freedom from the tyrannical British Raj in little Bhagat’s mind. He refused to let his grandson attend the Khalsa High School in Lahore like the other Sikh boys of his age. Arjun Singh didn’t approve of the school officials' loyalty to the British authorities and he definitely didn’t want his grandson to learn any of that. He instead enrolled Bhagat in the Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School, an Arya Samaji institution.

As A Kid Bhagat Singh Sowing Guns To Fight British Raj

 A born revolutionary, even as a child, running around the fields playing with his friends Bhagat mused about growing guns in the fields so he could fight the British with them. He even scoffed at the idea of getting married saying that anybody could get married but, him? He would free India.

Young Bhagat Singh Collecting Blood Soaked Mud From Jallianwala Baug

Then the fateful day arrived, jolting even the most ignorant from their slumber and opening their eyes. The barbaric act, killing of hundreds gathered for a peaceful meeting at the Jallianwala Bagh. The incident disturbed a 12 year-old Bhagat enough to make him skip school the day after and visit the Bagh. There he collected mud soaked in blood of innocent men, women children, in a bottle and took the bottle home. He worshiped that bottle of mud every day after that. 

 

As a teenager Bhagat Singh devoured books on European revolutionary movements and was very impressed and attracted to anarchist and Marxist ideologies. A bright and talented student Bhagat joined the National College in Lahore in 1923. 

National College in Lahore

Being a gifted actor he raked in praises for his performances in ‘Rana Pratap’, ‘Samrat Chandragupta’and ‘Bharata-durdasha’ from his teachers and fellow classmates. So passionate was he towards the cause of freedom and so deep was his understanding of the plight of his people that he also won an essay competition set by the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, writing on the problems in the Punjab.

He was a great orator and no one could put to words the woes of the nation like he could. He could inspire the masses with his words which is also one of the reasons he was so famous among both his countrymen and his fellow party workers alike. He used his skills to write and edit for a number of papers in Urdu and Punjabi published from Amritsar, and briefly for Veer Arjun newspaper published from Delhi. He also contributed to Kirti, the journal of the Kirti Kisan Party.  

Non Cooperation Movement

The calling off of the non-cooperation by Mahatam Gandhi served two purposes One, Bhagat Singh became disillusioned with Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence and second, after witnessing the Hindu–Muslim riots that broke out after Gandhi disbanded the Non-Cooperation Movement. Bhagat began to question religious ideologies. He dropped his religious beliefs after that, since he believed religion hindered the revolutionaries' struggle for independence. He became an atheist.

Bhagat Singh joined the Hindustan Republican Association and quickly rose through the ranks. Proving himself to be a capable member of the organization. Even the name of the organisation was changed to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) at his insistence. True to his word and his believes he left his home and ran away to escape an early marriage. He still had a lot to do for his motherland and he couldn't be encumbered with the responsibility of raising a family.

Simon Go Back

The tragic death of Lala Lajpat Rai was another turning point in Bhagat Singh’s life. The independence movement was in full heat. The Simon Commission was set up to look into the state of Indian constitutional affairs. It left the Indian public outraged and insulted that the Commission which was to determine the future of India, did not include a single Indian member in it.

Simon Lala Lajpat Rai

Lala Lajpat Rai who was leading a non-violent protest against the Simon Commission when the Commission visited Lahore on 30 October 1928, got grievously injured when the police under orders from James A. Scott, lathi charged on the unsuspecting crowd. Lalaji died on 17 November 1928.

 John P. Saunders

Singh vowed to take revenge for Lalaji’s murder and joined other revolutionaries, Shivaram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar and Chandrashekhar Azad, in a plot to kill Scott. However, in a case of mistaken identity Bhagat Singh and Rajguru shot Assistant Superintendent of Police John P. Saunders on 17 December 1928. 

Although Bhagat Singh and Rajguru managed to escape after killing Saunders, all thanks to Chandrashekhar Azad’s unwavering aim, the police were still on the lookout for Singh and Rajguru. It is then that Sukhdev, Bhagat Singh’s best friend, called on Durgawati Devi’s assistance. Bhagat Singh dressed in western attire and carrying Devi's sleeping child passed off as Durga Devi’s husband while Rajguru carried their luggage and pretended to be their servant. Interestingly it is also Bhagat Singh’s this avatar as a ‘saheeb’ with short hair, a neatly cropped moustache and a smart hat tipped slightly to the right that comes rushing to mind when we think of him. Inspired by a French anarchist who had bombed the French Chamber of Deputies Bhagat Singh came up with the idea of throwing explosives inside the Central Legislative Assembly to protest the Defence of India Act 1915 which gave the police a free hand. 

Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev Executed

 Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw two bombs inside the assembly on 8 April 1929. As the smoke from the blast filled the Hall the duo threw leaflets while chanting the slogan "Inquilab Zindabad!" (Long Live the Revolution) a phrase Bhagat Singh had coined himself. The leaflets that they threw claimed that the act was done to oppose the Trade Disputes and the Public Safety Bill being presented in the Central Assembly and the death of Lala Lajapath Rai. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt were charged with attempt to murder. While Dutt was defended by Asaf Ali, Singh defended himself in the court during the trial. Their appeal however was turned down and they were sentenced to 14 years life imprisonment.

It was then that the police discovered the Lahore bomb factory. This discovery led to the arrest of other members of HSRA, out of which seven turned informants. Thus, betrayed by his own, the police connected Bhagat Singh to the murder of Saunders with the help of the HSRA members turned informants. Singh was sent to the Mianwali jail from the Delhi jail. During his time in the jail he witnessed the glaring discrimination between European and Indian prisoners. He demanded that all prisoners be treated equally. He coined the term “political prisoner” and led other prisoners in a hunger strike to protest against this discrimination. The Government tried everything to break the strike, from placing water pitchers filled with milk, so that the prisoners will be forced to drink when thirsty and not water, to force feeding through a tube. But none of the government’s tricks would suffice to break the revolutionaries’ morale. The valiant revolutionaries continued their strike. 

Jatindra Nath

But the issue came to a head only when Jatindra Nath Das died on 13 September 1929 after a 63-day hunger strike. After the death of Das, Motilal Nehru moved a successful adjournment motion in the Central Assembly as a censure against the inhumane treatment of the Lahore prisoners. Bhagat Singh finally ended his, never heard of before, 116-day hunger strike on 5 October 1929. Then came the grim day of 7 October 1930 when Bhagat Singh and his friends, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to death for the murder of John P. Saunders. 

The way the death sentence of the three brave crusaders of freedom was carried out is still a controversy. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged to death 11 hours prior to the original time their sentenced was to be carried out. Their hanging was scheduled on 24 March 1931 but they were hanged on 23 March 1931 at 7:30 pm in Lahore jail. The jail authorities then broke the rear wall of the jail and secretly cremated the three martyrs under cover of darkness outside Ganda Singh Wala village, and then threw their ashes into the Sutlej River.

Even after fighting so valiantly and sacrificing his life at the young age of 23 for the freedom of this country, Bhagat Singh is still not represented as a martyr in government records. Responding to an inquiry under Right to Information Act the Home Ministry said that it possesses no record to prove that Bhagat Singh has been declared a martyr. There might be no record to prove him a martyr but that doesn’t take away from his greatness and try as we may we can never really forget the cries of

"Inquilab Zindabad!"

 

Our Tshirts as a Tribute To Legendary Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and Rajguru

 

Indian Super Hero Chandra Shekar Azad

Sitaram Tiwari married Jagrani Devi after his two previous wives died young and it was as if fate was conspiring to bring them together, for a purpose far greater and bigger than either of them could have ever imagined. The couple welcomed their first born, Sukhdev, in Badarka and soon moved to Alirajpur State and it is here, in a village called Bhawra that the story actually starts.  

Home of Chandra Shekar Azad

In the quite village of Bhawra on the 23rd of July 1906 Jagrani Devi birth to another child, a son who was going to re-write the history of India forever. Born Chandra Shekhar Tiwari, the greatest revolutionary India has ever seen was a devout Brahmin and believed it was his “dharma” to fight for others and that is exactly what he did, throughout his life.  

Chandra Shekhar received his early schooling in Bhawra district in Jhabua. Jagrani wanted her son to be a great Sanskrit scholar and that’s how Chandra Shekhar found himself in Kashi Vidyapeeth in Banras. Chandra Shekhar came from a generation of Indians who were deeply inspired by the launch of Non-Cooperation Movement by Mahatma Gandhi in the year 1920. Deeply troubled by the Jalianwalabagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, Chandra Shekhar took an active part in the Non-Cooperation Movement when he barely 15 years old.  

Chandra Shekhar Azad's Family

He was arrested for taking part in the movement and was sentenced to fifteen day’s imprisonment. This arrest would become the most defining moment of his life because when the magistrate asked for his name he replied “Azad” and thus was born the great revolutionary we all know as Chandra Shekhar Azad. He was sentenced to 15 lashes for this but every time the whip lashed at him he shouted “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. That was the day 15-year-old Chandra Shekhar Tiwari became Chandra Shekhar Azad. It was also the day when Azad vowed that the British would never capture him alive.  

Non-Cooperation Movement

Azad was disappointed when Gandhiji suspended the Non-Cooperation Movement. While Gandhiji saw the Chauri Chaura incident, where a crowd of people participating in the Non-Coperation Movement burned down a police station leading to the massacre of 22 policemen, as appalling, Azad felt that violence was not unacceptable in a struggle, especially after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. So, after Gandhiji suspended the movement Azad was attracted by more violent and revolutionary ideas.  

Azad committed himself to complete independence and was the first among many Indian revolutionaries to use arms in the fight for independence. Azad also believed that India’s future lay in socialism. It was around this time that Azad met a young revolutionary called Pranvesh Chatterji. Chatterji introduced him Ram Prasad Bislmil and they became life-long friends. 

Ram Prasad Bismil

Ram Prasad Bismil had formed the revolutionary organization Hindustan Republican Association (HRA). HRA’s aim was to create an independent India, an India with equal rights and opportunity to everyone without discrimination of caste, creed, religion or social status.  Azad was very impressed by Ram Prasad Bismil and HRA. But it wasn’t just Azad who was impressed with this meeting, Azad himself made quite an impression on Bismil when he put his hand over a lamp and did not remove it till his skin burnt.  

Thereafter Azad became an active member of HRA. He used to collect funds for HRA by robbing government property. Azad and his compatriots planned and executed several acts of violence against the British and most of them were executed from Ram Prasad Bismil’s hometown Shahjahanpur. 

 

Kakori Train robbery of 1925 was a part of these revolutionary activities to raise funds. The Number 8 Down train that was travelling from Saharanpur to Lucknow was carrying the money-bags belonging to the British Government Treasury in the guard's cabin. The robbery conceived by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan was supposed to fulfill three purposes. One, to get money for the purchase of weaponry from the British Administration itself. Second, to get some public attention by creating a positive image of the HRA among Indians to overcome their bad image that British had been propagating and lastly to shake the British Administration by taking away money from them. 
The robbery was executed by Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Chandrashekhar Azad and other  HRA members. The revolutionaries got to loot just bags of money but not a single Indian was looted.  One passenger was accidently killed and the revolutionaries escaped to Lucknow. Several of the revolutionaries involved in the HRA were arrested following the robbery. Both Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan were sentenced to death and were hanged to death. After the arrest and sentencing of  Ram Prasad Bismil, Azad reorganized the HRA. He then along with Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru, transformed the HRA into the HSRA in 1928 so as to achieve their primary aim of an independent  India based on socialist principle.
In the same year, headed by Sir John Simon British Government sent a commission to assess the political situation in India. Political parties boycotted the commission as it did not include a single Indian and did not serve the Indian voice. The Commission visited Lahore on 30 October 1928, a silent protest was held under the leadership of Lajpat Rai. This was not taken with good spirits by British and superintendent of police, James A. Scott, ordered the lathi-charge. During the lathi-charge, Lalaji got severely injured and even in this condition he addressed the crowd and said "I declare that the blows struck at me today will be the last nails in the coffin of British rule in India". He never recovered from the injuries and attained martyrdom on 17 November 1928. To this Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar and Chandrashekhar Azad took a vow to kill Scott. However, in a case of mistaken identity, Bhagat Singh shot John P. Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police. A constable followed them while they were running away. Chandrashekar Azad warned the head constable to back off and fired a warning shot missing him by distance, the constable did not stop to which Azad fired again, fatally injuring him.

Jhansi was very special for Azad. Jhansi had been his organization’s hub for some time. The forest of Orchha, some 15 kilometers from Jhansi, was where he practiced his shooting making him an expert marksman. It was also here where he trained other members of his group. Azad, an ardent devotee of Lord Hanuman, built a hut near to a Hanuman Temple on the banks of the river Satar. In fact, Azad who was an expert in wearing disguises is once said to have disguised himself as a priest in a Hanuman temple to escape a British police dragnet. Here he lived under the alias Harishankar Brahmachari for a long period. He even started teaching the children from the nearby village of Dhimarpura. He created a good rapport with the locals there that now the village has been renamed Azadpura by the Madhya  Pradesh government. Azad also learned to drive a car when he was in Jhansi. 
In Azad’s own words Jahnsi was a safe place for him. He left Jhansi and he was betrayed by one of his own former group members. It was February 27, 1931, Azad was in Alfred Park (now Chndrashekhar Azad Park), Allahabad, where he had gone to meet with fellow revolutionary Sukhdev. One of his former group members saw him at the park and tipped off the police about Azad’s location. The police who were desperate to capture Azad surrounded the whole park within minutes. In the initially exchange of fire Azad was injured by a bullet to his thigh. This made it impossible for Azad to escape but he managed to cover for Sukhdev who escaped. Azad fought a valiant lone battle against the British officers. He killed three policemen and injured some others. At last when he was left with only one bullet in his pistol, he shot himself, thus keeping the promise he made to himself of never letting the British capture him alive.

 

Our tribute to the Legendary Hero Chandra Shekhar Azad: