Nicknamed ‘Shaheed’ (martyr), Bhagat Singh will always be remembered for his courage and defiance even in the face of death. Born in 1907, he was a true son of the Punjabi soil and heavily moved by the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919.
The event would eventually push him to become a symbol of revolutionary zeal ending with his martyrdom at the young age of 23 years.
He left the school during the Non-Cooperation Movement but later studied European History at Lahore National College. Inspired by the exploits of Ghadar movement and leaders like Kartar Singh, Bhagat Singh was a man in a boy’s body.
At an age when most young adults seek fun and games, he sought sacrifice and struggle to help achieve freedom and liberation from foreign rule. He even said the freedom was his bride and renounced domestic bliss for a life dedicated to national service.
He went to jail in 1927 was writing anti-British content. However, it did not deter him and he continued to travel and meet with other leaders that shared his plan of action.
It was under the leadership of Chandrasekhar Azad, that he joined the Hindustan
Socialist Republican Army (HSRA). This showed his commitment to both the independence and establishment of a socialist regime in India.
Here he would join forces with Sukhdev and Rajguru and concocted the plan to kill officer Saunders (in place of General Scott who killed Lala Lajpat Rai).
In 1929, they drop two bombs in the central legislative assembly, shouting the slogan “Inquilab Zindabad” (long live the revolution) and threw leaflets.
The idea was not to injure or kill people but to show defiance. He also envisaged a high profile battle in the courts to provide a stage to exhibit his notions of freedom and inform and inspire the Indian masses. He went on a hunger strike to add misery to the British cause and was eventually tortured and force-fed in prison.
He was a man of wisdom beyond his years. A voracious reader, his prison cell was filled with books. He famously said ’education is the whetting stone for the sword of revolution’. He was also wary of the divisive forces within the society. Therefore, he openly condemned Indians who espoused sectarian ideas.
The three leaders were put to death by hanging in 1931. 23 rd March is still celebrated as the ’martyr’s day’ in India.