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‘Shaheed Diwas’ – A day dedicated to Indian freedom fighters!

The Fact News Service
Shaheed Diwas, observed on March 23, marks the day when Indian freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were executed by the British Government for their acts of ‘violence’, and their role in the struggle for Indian independence. The trio was hanged in the Lahore Central Jail, located in Pakistan today. Their contributions towards the country continue to be honoured till date, and generation after generation is educated on their sacrifices by means of texts, tales, films, plays, etc. On the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, sharing a video on the incidents that led to Bhagat Singh joining the fight for freedom, mainly the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which thousands of peaceful protesters were gunned down on orders of the acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were tried and then executed for fatally shooting a 21-year-old British police officer by the name of John Saunders, whom they had mistaken for British police superintendent James Scott, whom they had originally targeted. The trio believed Scott was responsible for the death of the popular nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai, who succumbed to injuries sustained during a lathi charge. While Singh, who had publicly announced avenging Rai’s death, went into hiding for many months after this shootout, he resurfaced along with an associate Batukeshwar Dutt, and the two, in April 1929, set off two explosive devices inside the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi, and then allowed themselves to be arrested, while shouting the famous slogan: “Inquilab Zindabad“, or “Long live the revolution”. His time in the prison was spent protesting, seeking better living conditions for inmates. During this time, he gained the sympathy of the public, especially when he joined fellow defendant Jatin Das in a hunger strike. The strike ended with Das’ death from starvation in September 1929. Two years later, Singh was convicted and hanged at the age of 23. Such was his popularity that even after his death, he continued to make waves in the country, which was stunned after his passing. In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru even wrote about him: “Bhagat Singh did not become popular because of his act of terrorism, but because he seemed to vindicate, for the moment, the honour of Lala Lajpat Rai, and through him, of the nation. He became a symbol; the act was forgotten, the symbol remained, and within a few months each town and village of the Punjab, and to a lesser extent in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name.”  
Lesser known facts about the Legend Shaheed Bhagat Singh
  • Bhagat Singh left home for Kanpur when his parents tried to get him married, saying that if he married in slave India, “my bride shall only be death” and joined Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.
  • He along with Sukhdev planned to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai and plotted to kill the Superintendent of Police James Scott in Lahore. However, in a case of mistaken identity, John Saunders, the Assistant Superintendent of Police was shot.
  • Although a Sikh by birth, he shaved his beard and cut his hair to avoid being recognised and arrested for the killing. He managed to escape from Lahore to Calcutta.
  • A year later, he and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs in the Central Assembly Hall in Delhi, and shouted “Inquilab Zindabad!” He did not resist his arrest at this point.
  • During interrogation, the British came to know about his involvement in the death of John Saunders a year earlier.
  • At the time of his trial, he didn’t offer any defence, rather used the occasion to propagate the idea of India’s freedom.
  • During his stay in jail, he went on a hunger strike against the policy of better treatment for prisoners of foreign origin.
  • India’s most famous freedom fighter was only 23-year-old when he was hanged. His death inspired hundreds to take up the cause of the freedom movement.