India is a country with a rich history that includes stories of young freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the independence of the country. Today is 23rd March, the death anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru. On 23rd March 1931, these three legends were hanged in Lahore (now in Pakistan). This is why Indians celebrate this day every year as Martyr’s Day or Shaheed Diwas.
Bhagat Singh was born on 27th September 1907 in Lyallpur in western Punjab which is now in Pakistan. He attended Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School, which was operated by Arya Samaj, and then he graduated from the National College. He started protesting British rule in India in his youth and soon fought for independence. He had also worked as a writer and editor in Amritsar for Punjabi and Urdu language newspapers adopting Marxist theories. He was a prominent member of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) which later changed its name to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). He is the one to popularize the catchphrase “Inquilab Zindabad” which means long live the revolution.
Sukhdev Thapar was born on 15th May 1907 to Ram Lal in Ludhiana, Punjab. Sukhdev saw the atrocities inflicted by the British since his childhood. This led him to join the revolutionaries and he pledged to set India free from the clutches of the British Raj. He became a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), and organised revolutionary cells in Punjab and other areas.
Shivaram Hari Rajguru was born on 24th August 1908 at Khed in Maharashtra to Parvati Devi and Harinarain Rajguru in a Marathi Deshashtha Brahmin family. He studied in New English High School in Poona and at a very young age, he joined Seva Dal. He was inspired by the revolutionary ideology of Lokmanya Tilak. He was also a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army.
What led to the execution of the three flag-bearers of revolution? In 1928, the British government set up Simon Commission to report on the political situation in India. To protest this commission Lala Lajpat Rai led a march on 30th October 1928. The superintendent of police James A Scott ordered a ‘lathi charge’ on the protestors in which Lala Lajpat Rai got injured. Later on, 17th November 1928 he died of a heart attack hastened by the injuries he received. The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) pledged to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.
However, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru mistakenly killed the assistant superintendent of police John P Saunders. After killing Saunders, the group escaped and fled to different places. But on 8th April 1929, Bhagat Singh resurfaced and threw two bombs inside Central Legislative Assembly accompanied by Batukeshwar Dutt. The bomb was only to scare and not intended to kill anybody. Later both Bhagat Singh and Dutt surrendered to the police.
A trial was initiated against Bhagat Singh and others accused. Bhagat Singh defended himself and even led a hunger strike with his associates against the discrimination in jail. And on 7th October 1930, the tribunal submitted a 300-page judgement that declared Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru as guilty of the murder of Saunders and ordered their punishment to be hanged to death.
On 23rd March 1931, at 7:30 am the three young heroes of the nation were hanged. Even the death which was standing in front of them could not deter their love for the nation and they chanted “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Down with British Imperialism”.