Sons of The Soil: Part 1- Shaheed Udham Singh

Jalianwala Bagh massacre Amritsar

The Jalianwala Bagh massacre

13th April 1919, General Dyer mounted on a canon and dragged a few dead bodies of the people he had just killed. The disgraceful Jallianwala Bagh massacre had ended. The onlookers couldn’t believe that within 15 minutes, over 800 people were massacred. The 1650 rounds of bullets that were fired at the gathering sounded like raining thunder. Hundreds of people who decided to meet for a peaceful discussion on opposing the Rowlatt Act were now dead. One of the onlookers was a young boy who was drenched in tears, full of fury and fuming with agony. Young Udham Singh now had a purpose in life- revenge.

Aged only 19 when the massacre happened, Udham Singh decided that one of the two people who were responsible for the bloodbath, General Dyer and Colonel O’Dwyer, had to be murdered. Coming from a poor family and losing his parents at a very young age, Udham Singh was raised in the Central Khalsa Orphanage. Months after finding his purpose, he left the institution to proceed with his desire for revenge. With hardly a few pennies in his pocket, Singh decided to work as a carpenter. The motive of him working was aimed at collecting money for his purpose, there were days when he had money and still didn’t consume food at all.

In 1924, he joined the Ghadr party initiated and pioneered by Kartar Singh Sarabha. He worked with Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary group as well and focused of eradicating the British rule. Soon, he became a known persona amongst Indian freedom fighter’s ranks. Contributing to the Ghadr party, he went overseas to get Indian liberation acts together. Though he went to prison in 1927 for possessing unlicensed arms on return to India, he resumed his revolutionary activities once he was released in 1931. He was then vigilantly watched by the Punjab police but nothing notorious was in Udham Singh’s intentions.

Udham Singh kill O' Dywer

Shaheed Udham Singh

In three years leading up to 1934, Singh had collected enough money to go to London. In a daredevil act, he managed to flee to Kashmir and escaped from the grasps of the Punjab Police and British Royal Army. Going to London was no easy task especially with the outspread rule of the British. For years, Singh struggled at distant lands trying to make way into British territory. In 1940, he succeeded in doing so. He somehow reached Germany and cleverly escaped to England on a ship in which he hid. Sadly for him, General Dyer had died of cardiac arrest 13 years ago.

The target was now clear. Colonel O’Dwyer, the person who ordered the massacre with the power of being the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, had to be assassinated. The opportunity arrived for Singh on 13th March 1940 at Caxton Hall where O’Dwyer was scheduled to speak on several issues. Singh intelligently hid his revolver in a book; he carved the pages in a way that the revolver would fit in, without being noticed. The target was on the stage. O’Dwyer, who was promoted after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, was welcomed with a round of applause. Udham Singh calmly walked towards the first bench where major signatories were seated. The 21 year wait had come to the boiling point.

Udham Singh removed his revolver the moment the crowd silenced for O’Dwyer to speak. In a flash, 3 bullets were fired to his chest and the perpetrator of the Amritsar Massacre started to bleed incessantly. A shocked security force amidst the uncontrollable crowd couldn’t reach their decorated officer quickly enough; O’Dwyer soon succumbed to the bleeding and died. All the faces had shock written on them, but one face kept calm. Udham Singh did not flee, though he had a chance to do so as there was a lot of confusion. When the security force inched towards him to try and arrest him, he dropped his weapon and put forth his hands for the arrest.

Udham Singh was immediately termed as a terrorist by British officials. But, the witnesses saw a man who intended no harm. Udham Singh’s purpose was fulfilled. Finally, the pain of seeing the dead bodies being dragged on Dyer’s canon disappeared. Singh completely cooperated with the British police till he was put on trial and eventually executed on 31st July 1940. Udham Singh expressed that he had no guilt over what he did; he believed that O’Dwyer’s actions were far more brutal than his. In Singh’s opinion, O’Dwyer deserved the assassination.

This incident not only tells us a story of perseverance but also brings to light the supreme values that our revolutionaries believed in. Like Udham Singh, many Indian revolutionaries surrendered after achieving their objective. Never did they kill to terrify nor hurt an innocent soul. Udham Singh’s story epitomizes those values that were bigger than all the laws imposed by the British.

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