the great Indian leaders
Born : 2nd October 1869
Died : 30th January 1948
Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand, called Mahatma
Gandhi (1869-1948), Indian nationalist leader, who established his country's
freedom through a nonviolent revolution.
Gandhi was born in Porbandar in the present state of Gujarat on October 2, 1869, and educated in law at University College, London. In 1891, after having been admitted to the British bar, Gandhi returned to India and attempted to establish a law practice in Bombay, with little success. Two years later an Indian firm with interests in South Africa retained him as legal adviser in its office in Durban. Arriving in Durban, Gandhi found himself treated as a member of an inferior race. He was appalled at the widespread denial of civil liberties and political rights to Indian immigrants to South Africa. He threw himself into the struggle for elementary rights for Indians.
Gandhi remained in South Africa for 20 years,
suffering imprisonment many times. In 1896, after being attacked and beaten by
white South Africans, Gandhi began to teach a policy of passive resistance to,
and noncooperation with, the South African authorities. Part of the inspiration
for this policy came from the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, whose influence on
Gandhi was profound. Gandhi also acknowledged his debt to the teachings of
Christ and to the 19th-century American writer Henry David Thoreau, especially
to Thoreau's famous essay “Civil Disobedience.” Gandhi considered the terms
passive resistance and civil disobedience inadequate for his purposes, however,
and coined another term, Satyagraha (Sanskrit, “truth and firmness”). During the
Boer War, Gandhi organized an ambulance corps for the British army and commanded
a Red Cross unit. After the war he returned to his campaign for Indian rights.
In 1910, he founded Tolstoy Farm, near Durban, a cooperative colony for Indians.
In 1914, the government of the Union of South Africa made important concessions
to Ghandhi's demands, including recognition of Indian marriages and abolition of
the poll tax for them. His work in South Africa complete, he returned to India.
Campaign for Home Rule
Gandhi became a leader in a complex struggle,
the Indian campaign for home rule. Following World War I, in which he played an
active part in recruiting campaigns, Gandhi, again advocating Satyagraha,
launched his movement of passive resistance to Great Britain. When, in 1919,
Parliament passed the Rowlatt Act, giving the Indian colonial authorities
emergency powers to deal with so-called revolutionary activities, Satyagraha
spread through India, gaining millions of followers. A demonstration against the
Rowlatt Act resulted in a massacre of Indians at Amritsar by British soldiers;
in 1920, when the British government failed to make amends, Gandhi proclaimed an
organized campaign of noncooperation. Indians in public office resigned,
government agencies such as courts of law were boycotted, and Indian children
were withdrawn from government schools. Through India, streets were blocked by
squatting Indians who refused to rise even when beaten by police. Gandhi was
arrested, but the British were soon forced to release him.
Economic independence for India, involving the complete boycott of British goods, was made a corollary of Gandhi's swaraj (Sanskrit, “self-ruling”) movement. The economic aspects of the movement were significant, for the exploitation of Indian villagers by British industrialists had resulted in extreme poverty in the country and the virtual destruction of Indian home industries. As a remedy for such poverty, Gandhi advocated revival of cottage industries; he began to use a spinning wheel as a token of the return to the simple village life he preached, and of the renewal of native Indian industries.
Gandhi became the international symbol of a free India. He lived a spiritual and ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and meditation. His union with his wife became, as he himself stated, that of brother and sister. Refusing earthly possessions, he wore the loincloth and shawl of the lowliest Indian and subsisted on vegetables, fruit juices, and goat's milk. Indians revered him as a saint and began to call him Mahatma (Sanskrit, “great-souled”), a title reserved for the greatest sages. Gandhi's advocacy of nonviolence, known as ahimsa (Sanskrit, “noninjury”), was the expression of a way of life implicit in the Hindu religion. By the Indian practice of nonviolence, Gandhi held, Great Britain too would eventually consider violence useless and would leave India.
The Mahatma's political and spiritual hold on India was so great that the British authorities dared not interfere with him. In 1921 the Indian National Congress, the group that spearheaded the movement for nationhood, gave Gandhi complete executive authority, with the right of naming his own successor. The Indian population, however, could not fully comprehend the unworldly ahimsa. A series of armed revolts against Great Britain broke out, culminating in such violence that Gandhi confessed the failure of the civil-disobedience campaign he had called, and ended it. The British government again seized and imprisoned him in 1922.
After his release from prison in 1924, Gandhi withdrew from active politics and devoted himself to propagating communal unity. Unavoidably, however, he was again drawn into the vortex of the struggle for independence. In 1930 the Mahatma proclaimed a new campaign of civil disobedience, calling upon the Indian population to refuse to pay taxes, particularly the tax on salt. The campaign was a march to the sea, in which thousands of Indians followed Gandhi from Ahmadabad to the Arabian Sea, where they made salt by evaporating sea water. Once more the Indian leader was arrested, but he was released in 1931, halting the campaign after the British made concessions to his demands. In the same year Gandhi represented the Indian National Congress at a conference in London.
Attack upon the Caste System
In 1932, Gandhi began new civil-disobedience
campaigns against the British. Arrested twice, the Mahatma fasted for long
periods several times; these fasts were effective measures against the British,
because revolution might well have broken out in India if he had died. In
September 1932, while in jail, Gandhi undertook a “fast unto death” to improve
the status of the Hindu Untouchables. The British, by permitting the
Untouchables to be considered as a separate part of the Indian electorate, were,
according to Gandhi, countenancing an injustice. Although he was himself a
member of the Vaisya (merchant) caste, Gandhi was the great leader of the
movement in India dedicated to eradicating the unjust social and economic
aspects of the caste system.
In 1934 Gandhi formally resigned from politics, being replaced as leader of the Congress party by Jawaharlal Nehru. Gandhi traveled through India, teaching ahimsa and demanding eradication of “untouchability.” The esteem in which he was held was the measure of his political power. So great was this power that the limited home rule granted by the British in 1935 could not be implemented until Gandhi approved it. A few years later, in 1939, he again returned to active political life because of the pending federation of Indian principalities with the rest of India. His first act was a fast, designed to force the ruler of the state of Rajkot to modify his autocratic rule. Public unrest caused by the fast was so great that the colonial government intervened; the demands were granted. The Mahatma again became the most important political figure in India.
When World War II broke out, the Congress
party and Gandhi demanded a declaration of war aims and their application to
India. As a reaction to the unsatisfactory response from the British, the party
decided not to support Britain in the war unless the country were granted
complete and immediate independence. The British refused, offering compromises
that were rejected. When Japan entered the war, Gandhi still refused to agree to
Indian participation. He was interned in 1942 but was released two years later
because of failing health.
By 1944 the Indian struggle for independence was in its final stages, the British government having agreed to independence on condition that the two contending nationalist groups, the Muslim League and the Congress party, should resolve their differences. Gandhi stood steadfastly against the partition of India but ultimately had to agree, in the hope that internal peace would be achieved after the Muslim demand for separation had been satisfied. India and Pakistan became separate states when the British granted India its independence in 1947. During the riots that followed the partition of India, Gandhi pleaded with Hindus and Muslims to live together peacefully. Riots engulfed Calcutta, one of the largest cities in India, and the Mahatma fasted until disturbances ceased. On January 13, 1948, he undertook another successful fast in New Delhi to bring about peace, but on January 30, 12 days after the termination of that fast, as he was on his way to his evening prayer meeting, he was assassinated by a fanatic Hindu.
Gandhi's death was regarded as an international catastrophe. His place in humanity was measured not in terms of the 20th century but in terms of history. A period of mourning was set aside in the United Nations General Assembly, and condolences to India were expressed by all countries. Religious violence soon waned in India and Pakistan, and the teachings of Gandhi came to inspire nonviolent movements elsewhere, notably in the U.S. under the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
|Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)|
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of
Independent India and architect of India's foreign policy, grew from a
anglicized child into a dedicated nationalist par excellence.
Jawaharlal Nehru was born on 14th November 1889, the first child of Motilal and Swarup Rani Nehru. By 1900, the family had moved to Allahabad and Motilal's flourishing practice saw them residing at a Palatial home, complete with swimming pool and tennis courts.
Between 1902-1904, Jawaharlal was tutored by Ferdinand T. Brookes and in 1905, he entered Harrow, one of England's leading schools. Jawaharlal went on to get a degree in natural science from Trinity College, Cambridge and a law degree from the Inner Temple.
Whilst in England, Nehru frequently asked for Indian newspapers, particularly "The Times" and much of his correspondence was based on the Indian National Congress. He was happy at his father's entry into the Congress, though he often expressed more severe views than the moderate Motilal. An only child of 11 years, Jawaharlal was a voracious reader and his areas of interest included literature, history, science, philosophy and economics.
Already a close friend of Annie Besant, Jawaharlal's holiday to Dublin in 1907 acquainted him with the Lrish Republican Movement. Thus by the time Jawaharlal returned to India in 1912, this young man with a very English upbringing, was already full of nationalist ideas.
Jawaharlal, Motilal and Gandhi
Jawaharlal, Motilal Nehru and Gandhi shared a unique relationship and their combined importance to the Congress led to them being called the 'Holy Trinity" by some journalists. Indeed the inclusion of the Nehrus into the National Movement had much to do with the relationship between father and son and Jawaharlal's loyalty to Gandhi.
By the time Jawaharlal was in England, he had become the intellectual partner of his father Motilal. Motilal Nehru, born a posthumus child, had from the age of 26 years, supported his wife and child and the widow and seven children of his brother. A tough, self confident, witty lawyer, Motilal paved his way to the top of the legal profession with tremendous hard work and honour. His home, "Anand Bhavan," at Allahabad was the focal point of attention and Motilal refused to conform to convention over eating separately like other Brahmins or purifying himself after foreign visits etc. His children (Jawaharlal, Swarup Kumari and Krishna) received the best education possible. Practical and gritty, Motilal was a leading member of the Moderates in the Congress but by 1920, he followed his impetuous son to become a staunch supporter of Gandhi. During the 1920 Non Co-operation movement, Motilal grabbed the headlines when he got rid of his horses, cars, carriages, servants, crystal and Seville Row suits and adopted sudh Khadi and the Gandhi cap. Both father and son gave up flourishing legal practices to follow the national movement and in the words of B. R. Nanda,
"what seemed a tryst with destiny in 1947 was, 28 years earlier, a leap in the dark."The relationship between Gandhi and Jawaharlal was still harder to define, as inspite of many differences they remained loyal to each other. Jawaharlal first met Gandhiji at the 1916 Lucknow Session of the Congress and by 1919 had joined the Satyagraha Sabha. Jawaharlal recognized Gandhi's amazing ability to rouse the masses and Gandhi treated Nehru like a son.
1920's and 1930's:
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre (1919) had a profound influence on Jawaharlal and his mother's ties with people in Lahore, brought Nehru face to face with official butchery. During the Non Co-operation Movement (1920), the Nehrus became staunch Nationalists.
In 1926, Jawaharlal and his family (wife Kamala and daughter Indira) spent a year in Europe, during which time Nehru became associated with Socialism. At the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in Brussels (1927), Nehru was elected to a 9 member executive committee along with Romain Rolland, Mme Sun Yat Sen and Albert Einstein of the Russian Revolution.
Returning to India, Jawaharlal threw himself into the anti-Senior Commission Satyagraha and was severely beaten in a lathi charge. At this juncture a letter to Jawaharlal by Gandhi dated Dec 3rd, 1928 said,
" May God spare you for many a long year to come and make you his chosen instrument for freeing India from the yoke" -- a truly prophetic vision".In 1929 Jawaharlal Nehru was elected President of the All India Congress Committee and was given the reception fit for a king at the Lahore session of 1929. As the Civil Disobedience movement began, Jawaharlal and Motilal spent long periods in jail (beginning in 1921, Jawaharlal was arrested several times - spending approximately 10 years under arrest between 1920 - 1947), but the women of the Nehru family threw themselves into the nationalists movement. Tragedy struck Jawaharlal when his father died in 1921 and his wife, Kamala, died in 1936, both after prolonged illnesses.
Independence and after
Jawaharlal remained at the forefront of the National movement and became the Chief Negotiator of the Congress for the Transfer of power. A close friend of Lord Mountbatten, Nehru became the P.M. of the Interim government and on 15th August 1947, became the first Prime Minister of Independent India.
Along with Vallabhai Patel as Interior minister, Jawaharlal Nehru ensured the accession of the Princely states to India and extended a hand of friendship to other Afro - Asian Countries. The architect of India's foreign policy, Nehru defined it as anti-imperialist, anti-arpatheid and anti-colonial. Nehru also believed that the newly independent states in Asia and Africa had the right not to join either the Soviet or Capitalist Power Blocs. Thus he along with Tito (Yugoslavia) and Nasser (Egypt) founded the Non-Aligned Movement. Nehru did not consider the "Non Aligned Policy" to be neutral but he believed it allowed Nations to accept aid and maintain good relations with Nations from both Power Blocs.
The only blot on Nehru's foreign policy was the breakdown of the "Panchasheel" agreement signed with China -- In 1962, the Chinese Aggression on India was a huge blow to Nehru. But Nehru's numerous trips abroad, India's membership in the commonwealth and commitment to anti-apartheidism and anti-colonialism were well received.
In December 1929, Nehru had declared that "our economic programme must be based on a human outlook, and must not sacrifice men to money". In keeping with this, Nehru's economic policy was socialist in leaning, giving India a mixed economy and five year planning. Unlike Gandhi who believed that village development was more important, Nehru concentrated on industrialization, refeuing to dams and power units as India's new Temples.
Nehru died in 1964, plunging India into mourning. By no means a perfect leader, Nehru was an introspective, sometimes impetuous man. Passionately fond of children, his birthday is celebrated as children's Day in India.
Much has been written in hindsight criticizing Nehru's economic policy, questioning his foreign policy and speculating on his friendship with Edwura Mountbatten. But few who knew him were immune to Jawaharlal's deeply passionate love for India and his dreams for her future. In the words of Rabindranath Tagore, Nehru was
"the Rituraj representing the season of youth and triumphant joy of an invincible spirit of fight and uncompromising loyalty to the cause of freedom."
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Born : 1875
Indian nationalist leader, born in Gujarat.
He studied law in England but returned (1915) to India and practiced in
Ahmadabad. Influenced by the nationalist leader Mohandas Gandhi, he joined the
civil disobedience movement and successfully organized (1928) the landowners of
Bardoli against British tax increases. In 1931 he served as president of the
Indian National Congress. The British imprisoned Patel a number of times for his
As home minister, minister of states, and deputy prime minister (1947-50) under Jawaharlal Nehru, Patel adroitly achieved the peaceful integration of the princely Indian states into the Union. His swift, cool reaction to Gandhi's assassination in 1948 is widely believed to have averted a possible civil war.
BAL GANGADHAR TILAK
Bal Gangadhar Tilak (29th Couplet) Described by British as "The Father of Indian Unrest " Tilak was born on 23.07.1856. His slogan, "Swaraj (Self Rule) is my birthright", inspired millions of Indians. His book "Geetarahasya"a classic treatise on Geeta in Marathi was written by him, in prison at Mandalay.Great journalist- editor, an authority on Vedas, Sanskrit Scholar, mathematician and a natural leader of India. Died 01.08.1920 "Swaraj is our birthright," thundered Tilak, the Lion of India.He founded schools andpublished newspapers, all for his motherland. He rotted in a distant jail at Manda lay, in Burma. he wore himself out till his last breath, to awaken his countrymen.
'Swaraj -- Our Birth-Right' "We want equality. We cannot remain slaves under foreign rule. We will not carry for an instant longer, the yoke of slavery that we have carded all these years. Swaraj is our birth right. We must have it at any cost. When the Japanese, who are Asians like us, are free, why should we be slaves? Why should our Mother's hands be hand- cuffed?"
Swaraj's alter blazed. The government was again alarmed and troubled.
As days passed, Tilak began to stamp the slogan 'Swaraj is our birthright' on the minds of every Indian. Lokaman ya Tilak's popularity grew rapidly.
|Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)|
Swami Vivekananda became one of India's
leading social reformers of the modern era and was a champion of
humanitarianism and service to God through service to others. He is
revered both in the East and West as a rejuvenator of mankind through
the eternal truths of Hinduism. He spoke widely on Hinduism and its true
meaning as written in the vedas and founded the Ramkrishna Mission, one
of India's leading charitable institutions.
Swami Vivekananda was born on 12th January 1863 in Calcutta to Bhuvaneshwari and Vishwanath Datta. Bhuvaneshwari had many daughters and longed for a son. And it is said that a son was born after long worship of Lord Shiva. Bhuvaneshwari believed that her son was gift from Vireshwar Shiva and so named him Bireshwar. As the name was too long, everyone began calling Biley.
As a child, Biley was strong-willed but restless. But his mother knew to control him. She would pour a few pots of water on his head saying all the while, "Shiva, Shiva, Shiva!". This would immediately quieten him and he would start meditating. Biley was always fascinated by the sanyasis (monks) in their saffron dress. He would give anything to them which was handy. He would love to play with his friends "king and court" where he would always become king. Sometimes they would play the game of meditation. Whenever he used to do this, he used to forget everything and would only think of God.
Biley was a sharp boy and before he was six, he knew all the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharta by heart. Biley used to remember everything that he heard once. This was because he used to give complete concentration to it. Biley always told the truth and always wanted to test the truth of what he was told. In times of danger, Biley always kept a cool head and did his duty.
Influence of Ramkrishna
When Biley grew up, he was given the name of Narendranath Datta. By adolescence, he had stopped meditating mindlessly in front of images as he could not accept religion on blind faith. He began asking many questions such as "who is God?", "Where is God". He would go to all the religious people he met and ask them just one question - "Have you seen God?" But no one would reply him.
Soon he met Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa (1836-1886) who was a scholar of the Vedas, Upanishads, Sufism, the Bible, Sikhism and Buddhism. In him, Narendra found the spiritual teacher he was searching for and so he became his disciple. One night, Narendranath went into deep meditation and had a spiritual experience which filled him with bliss. Ramkrishna stressed "not mercy, but service" and encouraged Narendranath to change his name to Vivekananda. It was on August 16, 1886 Sri Ramkrishna left his body. After the death of Ramkrishna, Vivekananda committed himself to serving humanity for the rest of his life.
Lal Bahadur Shastri
Small of stature, simple and soft-spoken, Lal Bahadur proved to be one of the heroes of the history of India. A great general in Gandhi's army of peaceful soldiers of freedom. He became the symbol of India's valor and self-respect.After Nehruji's demise the big question in front of nation was who will take the responsibility of leading the nation.Finally all the leaders came to the decision that Lal Bahadur Shastri was the only person to pilot the nation at such critical times.
A short man. A lean body. Eyes wide as the wheels of a cart. His clothes were simple, his voice soft and almost inaudible. But there was always a smile, which overarched his words. There was not the slightest sign of pride or authority in his bearing. Could he administer a nation of five hundred million people, doubted some.Lal Bahadur never praised himself. On the contrary he used to say: "I am an ordinary man and not a very bright man." He never aspired to power. He never worked for it.And yet power and authority came in search of him. Fame set a crown on his head. The short man grew into a colossus. He showed by his work that, though he was tender like a flower, he could be hard as diamond, too. He filled the Four Corners of the world with the fame of India. At a time when the world sang his praises as a hero, an incomparable patriot-hero and as the architect of peace, and just as he touched the peak of his life, Lal Bahadur passed away all too suddenly. He came to power unexpectedly, and he left the world equally suddenly.The 27th of May 1964 is an unforgettable day in the history of India.On that day the citizens of Delhi woke and attended to their routine work.During the day came shocking news from Teen Moorti Bhavan. Thefirst Prime Minister of free India, Jawaharlal Nehru, lived in Teen MoortiBhavan; the citizens learnt that he had a heart attack.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS OF FREEDOM
Subhas Chandra Bose
( Top )
Indian nationalist leader, who fought against the British in World War II. Born in Cuttack, Bengal, and educated at the universities of Calcutta and Cambridge, he left a career in the Indian civil service to fight for India's independence and was imprisoned a dozen times by the British. He shared leadership of India's youth and peasant societies with Jawaharlal Nehru and became president of the Indian National Congress in 1938. Bose was opposed, however, by Mohandas Gandhi, whose principle of nonviolence he did not accept, and was forced to resign the following year. In 1941, hoping to take advantage of the war to free India of British rule, Bose fled to Germany. From there he went to Malaya, where he set up (1943) a Provisional Government of Free India and, with Japanese help, organized the so-called Indian National Army. Bose led his troops against the British on the Burma-India frontier until 1945; he was killed in a plane crash while fleeing to Japan in August of that year.
|Subhash Chandra Bose|
"Patriot of Patriots", this is what Mahatma Gandhi described Subhash
Chandra Bose. Subhash Chandra Bose was a brilliant young man set for a
glittering future in the Indian Civil Services when he chose to dedicate
himself to the Indian National movement instead. Beginning as youth
Congressman, Bose tired of Gandhian politics and organised the Azad Hind
Fauj to defeat the British during World War II. Inspite of the defeat of
the Azad Hind Fauj, Subhash Chandra Bose won an immortal place in Indian
History. "Jai-Hind" was his battle cry and he roused the nation to a
great patriotic heights.
Early Life of Subhash Chandra Bose
Born in a Bengali family on January 23, 1897, at Cuttak in Orissa, Subhash Chandra Bose spent sixteen years of his life there. His father Jankinath Bose was an able public lawyer and believed in orthodox nationalism. He was a public prosecutor in Cuttak and later became a member of the Bengal Legislative Council. With eight brothers and six sisters, Subhash's family was large bust a disciplined one. Subhash loved to read and was fascinated with religious truth and self-control. He used to do social service. After reading Vivekananda's writings, selfless service became his motto.
Subhash Chandra Bose was even expelled from the college which at it turned out was the turning point of his career. Recognising his son's intellect, Subhash Chandra Bose's father was determined that Bose should become a high ranking Indian Civil Servant. He went to England for further studies. In 1920, Bose passed the Civil Service open examination and stood fourth. Though Bose excelled at all the prescribed courses in India and England, he was determined to join the struggle for India's freedom. Bose joined the Congress and was particularly active in its youth wing. He resigned from the Indian Civil Service in April 1921.
After returning to India, Subhash went to Gandhiji. But his ideas did not match with that of Gandhiji's belief in non-violence. So he left and returned to Calcutta to work under CR Das, the Bengali freedom fighter. In 1921, Bose organised a boycott of the celebrations to mark the Prince of Wales' visit to India. This led to his being imprisoned. In April 1924, Bose was elected the Chief Executive Officer of the newly constituted Calcutta Corporation. Later, in October, Bose was arrested as one of the suspected terrorist. First, he was in Alipore jail and later exiled to Mandalay in Burma.
In June 1925, Bose was deeply struck by the sudden loss of his leader CR Das. In end-1926, he was nominated as a candidate for the Bengal Legislative Assembly. On May 16, 1927 he was released from jail due to ill-health. The two years in Mandalay gave him lot of confidence and strength. By December 1927, Bose with Jawaharlal Nehru became the the General Secretary of the Congress. In January 23, 1930, Bose was once again arrested for leading an "Independence " procession. After released from jail on September 25, he was Mayor of Calcutta.
In 1932, Bose visited Vienna for medical reasons and there he was deeply influenced by Vithaldas Patel, another Indian freedom fighter. They recognised the need for collaboration between Indian nationalists and countries opposed to Britain and in their joint manifesto they proclaimed, "Non-co-operation cannot be given up but the form of non-co-operation will have to be changed into a more militant one and the fight for freedom waged on all fronts." In October 1933, Vithalbhai Patel died and left Bose with lot of money for spreading the knowledge of India abroad.
He is the symbol of the heroism of the youth of India. A revolutionary He threw a bomb when the Legislature was in session to warn the British Government. He was put to death but lives in the hearts of his countrymen.
Author - Eswarachandra
One evening a boy of three was out for a walk with his father. There was also an elderly man with the father. Chatting they walked on and went beyond the village. Green crop delighted the eyes. The elders were walking along the edge of a field. Not hearing the footsteps of the boy, the father looked back. The boy was sitting on the ground and seemed to be planting some thing. The father became curious.
"What are you doing?" said he.
"Look, father, I shall grow guns all over the field" was the innocent reply of the boy. His eyes shone with the strong faith that guns would grow in the field. Both the elders were struck with wonder at the little boy's words.
The boy was Bhagat Singh who later fought like a hero for India's freedom and sacrificed his life.
Banga was a village in Layalpura district of Punjab province. A brave man, Sardar Kishan Singh by name, lived there. Vidya vati was his wife. Kishan Singh's family was noted for bravery and love of adventure. Many heroes of his family had fought to free India from the British. Such fighters are called revolutionaries. Kishan Singh too was a revolutionary. His younger brothers, Ajit Singh and Swaran Singh, too, had fought to drive the British out of India. Kishan Singh, Ajit Singh and Swaran Singh had all been sent to prison by the Government.In those days such a revolution hadspread all over the country. People were full of determination to win freedom. It was at such a time that Bhagat Singh was born (on September 28, 1907). He was the third son of Sardar Kishan Singh and Vidyavati. At the same time, Kishan Singh and the Uncle Swaran Singh were freed from the jail. It was learnt that another uncle of his, Ajit Singh, too, would be freed. As he thus brought good fortune to his family the child was named Bhagat Singh. 'Bhagat Singh' means 'the fortunate'.
In The Stream of Revolution
Even at home, Bhagat Singh could not sit idle. At that time the Akali Dal arranged a procession. But in order to prevent it, the District Collector Dil Bagh Singh issued an order: Nobody should supply either food or drink to the members of the Akali Dal.
Even at home, Bhagat Singh could not sit idle. At that time the Akali Dal arranged a procession. But in order'-to prevent it, the District Collector Dil Bagh Singh issued an order: Nobody should supply either food or drink to the members of the Akali Dal.The Collector who issued the order belonged to Bhagat Singh's family. But being a government officer, he hated the revolutionaries.
Bhagat Singh thought of helping the Akali Dal people visiting his village. He explained the situation to the villagers and arranged to supply food secretly to the Akali Dal people at night. Thus a week passed. The Dal's program went on continuously and successfully. Throughout the day, there used to be talks on the country's freedom and the duty of the people. Bhagat Singh also used to speak.The Collector grew angry that the people had helped the Dal against his orders, He issued a warrant to arrest Bhagat Singh. Then Bhagat Singh was only seventeen. So he was a minor and could not be arrested.The Collector grew angrier. "Bhagat Singh may be too young but his brain is not too young!" he grumbled.
Arrest and Release
Bhagat Singh was a fountain of zeal. His village was too small for his activities. He went to Lahore. There a union of revolutionaries by name 'Naujavan Bharat Sabha' was founded. Bhagat Singh became the Secretary.Like the Kranti Dal in Bengal, the new union started teaching lessons of revolution to the people of Punjab. Outwardly its objects were to spread Indian culture, to make the youth strong and so on. But the real purpose was to bring about a revolution for the country's freedom.Within a few days, it started branches in different places. The celebration of the birthdays of revolutionaries became an important part of the program of the union. The members would take out pictures of revolutionaries, decorated with Khadi garlands, in processions. They would cut their fingers and put a mark of blood on the foreheads of the heroes in thepictures. They would lecture about them. It was in these days that Bhagat Singh gained good practice in public speaking. Within a few days he became a good speaker. He got into touch with the students' unions of colleges. He spread the message of revolution everywhere. By this time, Bhaaat Singh had caught the eye of the police. His movements were carefully watched by spies.Once, as he was just leaving the train at Amritsar, the spies followed Bhagat Singh. Trying to escape from them, he began to fun. But where ever he went he could not escape. At last he rushed into a lawyer's house and escaped from the police. Then he traveled to Lahore. When the train reached Lahore, he was caught by the police and pushed into the Lahore Fort Jail.Bhagat Singh did not know why he was arrested. A few days earlier some rogues had thrown a bomb on procession during the Dussara Festival.It killed some people. The police suspected the hand of revolutionaries in it. That was why they arrested Bhagat Singh and pushed him into jail. To find out the secrets of other revolutionaries, they tortured him in many ways. They flogged him with a knot and gored with a spear. But Bhagat Singh did not open his mouth.Finally, a Magistrate decided that Bhagat Singh could be released only on a bail of sixty thousand rupees who would be prepared to bear such a responsibility? Yet, out of sheer affection for Bhagat Singh, two rich persons came forward. They were Duneechand and Daulatram. On their surety, Bhagat Singh was set free.If Bhagat Singh participated inrevolutionary activities during the period of bail, the two wealthy men would have to pay sixty thousand rupees to the Government. Bhagat Singh did not wish that others should be troubled on his account. That was why he decided to keep quiet during the period of bail. At this time his father built a cowshed in his native place, so that Bhagat Singh could run a small diary. Bhagat Singh took up that work in earnest.Every day he got up at four. Then he fed the cows, removed the cow dung and cleaned the shed. Next he milked the cows and sold the milk. It was all systematic, and tidily done. Whatever he undertook Bhagat Singh did a good job.
The entire day he was busy with his dairy, but the night brought thoughts of revolution. He joined his friends for discussions. At the same time, he got into touch with the newspapers, 'Kirtee' and 'Akalee'. He wrote articles for them. A journal brought out a special issue to honor fighters who had been hanged; Bhagat Singh himself introduced some of the revolutionaries.
The Dussara Bomb case involving Bhagat Singh was still going on. ' At last he was released. He was not even on bail. At once Bhagat Singh closed the milk center. He returned to work for the revolution. After attending a meeting of revolutionaries in Delhi in 1928, he never returned home.
In Delhi, Chandrasekhar Azad, a young revolutionary, was introduced to Bhagat Singh. It was as if fire and wind were united. The activities of the revolutionaries gained new strength. Bhagat Singh removed his beard and had a closer crop, so that the police might not recognize him. All these days he had been a hero of the Sikhs; he now became a national hero.There was a revolutionary party called the 'Hindustan Prajatantra Sangha' (The Indian Republic Party). The name was changed to 'Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha' (The Indian Socialist Republican Party). Its aim was to establish a republic in India by means of an armed revolution.
When a bomb is thrown to the ground, it explodes causing a deafening sound, and destroys everything near-by. The revolutionaries needed any number of bombs to drive out the British. But where could they get them? Bhagat Singh went to Calcutta to learn to make bombs. There he bought as many bombs as he needed. He also learnt from Jatindranath Das, a revolutionary, how to make bombs.The revolutionaries set up a factory secretly at Agra to make bombs. But how could they get the money they needed? Sometimes for three days together they lived only on a cup of tea. They did not have beds or rugs though it was biting cold. They were starving. And all the while the thought of the police plagued them. In the midst of all this they went on with their sacred work. And, for money they would sometimes loot government off ices.At last they could make bombs. The bombs were tested at Jhansi Fort. The test was a success.In February 1928, a committee from England visited India. It came to be known as the Simon Commission. The purpose of its visit was to decide how much freedom and responsibility could be given to the people of India. But there was no Indian on the committee. Naturally Indians were very angry. They decided to make it impossible for the Commission to work. They decided to drive it back to England. Wherever the committee went, people protested with black flags, shouting "Simon, go back."When the Simon Commission reached Lahore in October, it had to face a big procession opposed to it.'Naujavan Bharat Sabha' arranged the procession. Thousands of people took part in it. Its leader was the elderly patriot, Lala Lajpat Ray. Trouble started near the railway station itself. The revolutionaries did not allow the Simon Commission to proceed. The police could not protect the members. By that time, the Police Superintendent, one Scott by name, ordered a lathicharge. The police began to beat people with heavy sticks. People started running. But Lajpat Ray and his companions did not move. A police officer by name Saunders
rushed forward and hit Lajpat Ray on the chest. It was a powerful blow. Lajpat Ray was old and he was ill. The blow brought him death. He suffered for a month and died.In his death, the revolutionaries suffered a heavy loss. They decided that they should take revenge and that they should kill Scott who ordered the lathi-charge. They thought of a plan. A revolutionary by name Jaya- gopal was to observe Scott's movements. Bhagat Singh and Rajguru were to shoot him. They had to plan carefully their escape. So much was planned under the leadership of Chandrasekhara Azad.But in the beginning itself, a small mistake was committed. Jayagopal mistook Saunders for Scott.The appointed day came. That evening Saunders came out of the police station and got on his motor bicycle. Jayagopal who was behind made a sign. Bhagat Singh and Rajguru were waiting on the way. As the motor bicycle neared Rajguru shot at Saunders from his pistol. At once Bhagat Singh also fired. A bullet struck the
chest of the man who had struck Lajpat Ray's chest with a heavy stick; Saunders fell down dead. Bhagat Singh and Rajguru ran away. The police chased them. Both of them rushed into a lodge near-by. Then they escaped from the place.The whole city was filled with the news of Saunders' murder. The police spies began a search for the murderers all over the city.Next day posters appeared on the walls in all the streets of Lahore. They declared, "Lala Lajpat Ray's death is avenged. Saunders has been murdered." Besides, there were some words of caution addressed to the Government. The posters also contained the name of The Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sena (The Indian Socialist Republican Army) in red letters. So every one could know who were behind the murder of Saunders, The people's respect for the Kranti Dal grew. Saunders' murder shook the British Government.Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Chandra sekhara Azad all three escaped from Lahore. Bhagat Singh dressed himself as a foreign youth and wore a hat. Durga Bhabhi, the wife of a revolutionary by name Bhagavaticharan, and their child followed Bhagat Singh, so that people would think they were Bhagat Singh's wife and child. These three traveled by train in a first class compartment. Rajguru left the place disguised as an ordinary worker. Azad traveled as a pundit (scholar). The railway station was filled with eagle-eyed spies; but all the three went away.
A Bomb Bursts
The police searched and searched for Bhagat Singh and Rajguru, but could not find them. Three months passed. In April 1929, the Central Legislative Assembly met in Delhi. The British Government wanted to place before the Assembly two bills which were likely to harm the country's interests. Even if the Assembly rejected them, the Viceroy could use his special powers and approve them, and they would become laws. The Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sena (The Indian Socialist Republican Army) decided to resist the move. Of course, the revolutionaries escaped after Saunders' murder. But the people of Lahore were subjected to torture by the police. The Sena decided that such a thing should not happen again. The revolu- tionaries must oppose the British and court arrest. They must see that the objects of the Prajatantra Sena were explained to the people all over the country. With this object in view, the Sena resolved to send Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt to Delhi. Both of them were to go there, throw a bomb in the Legislative Assembly and, get arrested. For this purpose two harm- less bombs were made. On the 8th of April 1929 the two men took the bombs and entered the Assembly Hall. They sat in the visitors' gallery.The session commenced. The bills were placed before the Assembly by the Government. The members rejected them. In the end, a member of the Government began an announcement that the Viceroy had exercised his special powers. At once, a bomb fell from, above and exploded causing a fearful sound. Immediately another bomb fell. There were sounds of shooting, too. The entire hall was filled with smoke. People ran helter skelter. Some were so frightened that they fell down unconscious. By that time, red pamphlets fell from the visitors' gallery. In them, particulars of Prajatantra Sena (the Republican Army) were given and the Government was condemned. The Hall was filled with the slogan, 'Long Live Revolution!' The police rushed to the spot. Only Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt were there. They were holding pistols. Afraid of them, the police moved back. But both threw down their pistols and got them hand- cuffed. The bombs thrown into the Assembly Hall killed no one.Four or five personsreceived very minor injuries; that was all. It was not the revolutionaries' object to kill any body. The incident drew the attention of the entire world. The Kranti Dal's name became a household word. The British Government trembled. After the incident, the Government got scent of the factory at Lahore. The Government seized enough material to make seven thousand bombs. Another big factory at Shaharanpur too was discovered by the Government. Within a few days, most of the leaders of the Kranti Dal were arrested. The Government filed a case against them, accusing them of executing the Lahore plot. Bhagat Singh and his companions were kept in prison in Lahore.
A Welcome to Death
The trial of the accused commenced. In those days political prisoners were not treated properly in the jail. They were not given proper food. They were made to suffer in every possible way. Bhagat Singh and his companions decided to fight against the wretched conditions. Bhagat Singh was sure of being hanged. But he thought at least the other political. Prisoners could benefit. All the revolu- tionaries went on fast. They fasted for two months. Then the Government said it would consider their demands. Some gave up the fast. But Jatin Das did not. He did not listen to anybody. On the 64th day of his fast, he died. Bhagat Singh fasted for thirty-two days thereafter. The trial of Bhagat Singh and hiscompanions began; it drew the attention of the whole world. The court was heavily guarded by the police. No spectators were allowed inside the court. The prisoners were brought to the court in chains. They used to shout 'Long Live Revolution I' and only then enter the court hall. Bhagat Singh and BatukeshwarDutt stated, "If the deaf are to hear, the sound has to be very loud. When we dropped thebomb, it was not our intention to kill anybody. We have bombed the British Government. The British must quit India and make her free." They also explained the objects of their association. The whole world came to understand their aim and activitiesbecause of the press reports. Finally judgment was given. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were to be hanged; some were to undergo life imprisonment; some were to be kept in jail for five years, some for seven, some for ten years. Bhagat Singh was to be hanged! When the news spread, the people all over the country were mad with rage. Thousands of appeals were sent to the Government, pleading that he should be saved. Several leaders of public life joined in the appeal. But all attempts failed. It was decided to hang them on the 24th of March 1931. Even the members of the prisoners' families were hot allowed to meet them. Moreover, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged a day before the appointed day, that is, on March 23rd.Even on the day of their hanging they were fearless. They were cheerful. They com- peted with one another to be hanged first. It was decided that first Sukhdev would be hanged and then Bhagat Singh and finally Rajguru. All the three climbed the platform. Kissing the rope, they themselves put it round their neck. They died with the name of Bharat Mata on their lips. Such was the end of the three champions of freedom. That day no one in the jail touched food. Everyone was in tears. The next day, not knowing that the three prisoners had already been hanged, their relatives came to meet them. But it was all over with them. The dead bodies of the martyrs had been secretly burnt on the bank of the river Sutlej. Getting a clue thousands of people raced to the spot; but only the ashes remained. The people sobbed, with the ashes in their hands. All over the country tributes were paid to the heroes who fought for freedom and sacrificed their lives.Hundreds of songs werecomposed and sung about the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh. Even today, the heroic spirit of Bhagat Singh is an unfailing source of inspiration to the youth of the country. His courage, spirit of adventure and patriotism are an example to one and all.
Indira Gandhi, prime minister of
India (1966-77; 1980-84), whose controversial political career ended
with her assassination by Sikh conspirators.
When India won its independence
in 1947 and Nehru took office as prime minister, Gandhi became his
official hostess. (Her mother had died in 1936.) She also served as
his confidante on national problems and accompanied him on foreign
trips. In 1955 she was elected to the executive body of the Congress
party, becoming a national political figure in her own right; in
1959 she became president of the party for one year. In 1962, during
the Chinese-Indian border war, she coordinated civil defense