Udham Singh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Shaheed Udham Singh)
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people named Udham Singh, see Udham Singh (disambiguation).
"Shaheed Uddham Singh" redirects here. For the 2000 film, see Shaheed Uddham Singh (film).
Udham Singh
Udham.jpg
Born 26 December 1899
Sunam, Punjab, British India
Died 31 July 1940(1940-07-31) (aged 40)
Pentonville Prison, United Kingdom
Organization Ghadar Party, Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, Indian Workers' Association
Movement Indian Independence movement
Religion Sikh

Udham Singh (26 December 1899 – 31 July 1940) was an Indian revolutionary, best known for assassinating Michael O'Dwyer on 13 March 1940 in what has been described as an avenging of the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre.[1] Singh is a prominent figure of the Indian independence struggle. He is sometimes referred to as Shaheed-i-Azam Sardar Udham Singh (the expression "Shaheed-i-Azam," Urdu: شهید اعظم‎, means "the great martyr"). A district(Udham Singh Nagar) of Uttarakhand is named after him.

Early life[edit]

Singh was born Sher Singh on 26 December 1899, at Sunam in the Sangrur district of Punjab, India, to a Kamboj Sikh farming family. His father, Sardar Tehal Singh Jammu (known as Chuhar Singh before taking the Amrit), was a railway crossing watchman in the village of Upalli. His mother died in 1901, and his father in 1907.[2]

After his father's death, Singh and his elder brother, Mukta Singh, were taken in by the Central Khalsa Orphanage Putlighar in Amritsar. At the orphanage, Singh was administered the Sikh initiatory rites and received the name of Udham Singh. He passed his matriculation examination in 1918 and left the orphanage in 1919.[3]

Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh[edit]

On 10 April 1919, a number of local leaders allied to the Indian National Congress including Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested under the Rowlatt Act. Protestors against the arrests were fired on by British troops, precipitating a riot during which British banks were burned and four Europeans were killed. On 13 April, over twenty thousand unarmed protestors were assembled in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar. Singh and his friends from the orphanage were serving water to the crowd.[4][verification needed]

Troops were dispatched to restore order after the riots, under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer. Dyer ordered his troops to fire without warning on the assembled crowd in Jallianwala Bagh. Since the only exit was barred by soldiers, people tried to escape by climbing the park walls or jumping into a well for protection. An estimated 379 people were killed and over 1,200 were wounded[5] although that has been debated.[6][verification needed][7]

Singh was deeply affected by the event. The governor of Punjab, Michael O'Dwyer, had supported the massacre, and Singh held him responsible.[8][verification needed]

Revolutionary politics[edit]

Singh became involved in revolutionary politics and was deeply influenced by Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary group.[9] In 1924, Singh became involved with the Ghadar Party, organizing Indians overseas towards overthrowing colonial rule. In 1927, he returned to India on orders from Bhagat Singh, bringing 25 associates as well as revolvers and ammunition. Soon after, he was arrested for possession of unlicensed arms. Revolvers, ammunition, and copies of a prohibited Ghadar Party paper called "Ghadr-i-Gunj" ("Voice of Revolt") were confiscated. He was prosecuted and sentenced to five years in prison.

Upon his release from prison in 1931, Singh's movements were under constant surveillance by the Punjab police. He made his way to Kashmir, where he was able to evade the police and escape to Germany. In 1934, Singh reached London, where he planned to assassinate Michael O'Dwyer.[10][11][verification needed]

Shooting in Caxton Hall[edit]

On 13 March 1940, Michael O'Dwyer was scheduled to speak at a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Central Asian Society (now Royal Society for Asian Affairs) at Caxton Hall. Singh concealed his revolver in a cut-out book, entered the hall, and stood against the wall. As the meeting concluded, Singh shot O'Dwyer twice as he moved towards the speaking platform, killing him immediately. Others hurt in the shooting include Luis Dane, Lawrence Dundas, 2nd Marquess of Zetland, and Charles Cochrane-Baillie, 2nd Baron Lamington. Singh did not attempt to flee and was arrested on site.[12][verification needed]

Trial and execution[edit]

Singh (second from the left) being taken from 10 Caxton Hall after the assassination of Michael O'Dwyer

On 1 April 1940, Singh was formally charged with the murder of Michael O'Dwyer. While awaiting trial in Brixton Prison, Singh went on a 42-day hunger strike and had to be forcibly fed. On 4 June 1940, his trial commenced at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, before Justice Atkinson. When asked about his motivation, Singh explained, "I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it."[13][verification needed]

Singh was convicted and sentenced to death. On 31 July 1940, Singh was hanged at Pentonville Prison and buried within the prison grounds.

Reactions[edit]

Many Indians regarded Singh's action as justified and an important step in India's struggle to end British colonial rule.[14][verification needed]

In press statements, Mahatma Gandhi condemned the 10 Caxton Hall shooting saying, "the outrage has caused me deep pain. I regard it as an act of insanity...I hope this will not be allowed to affect political judgement."[15] The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army condemned Mahatma Gandhi's statement, considering it to be a challenge to the Indian Youths.[16]

Pt Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in The National Herald, "[The] assassination is regretted but it is earnestly hoped that it will not have far-reaching repercussions on [the] political future of India."[17] In its 18 March 1940 issue, Amrita Bazar Patrika wrote, "O'Dwyer's name is connected with Punjab incidents which India will never forget".[18]

The Punjab section of Congress in the Punjab Assembly led by Dewan Chaman Lal refused to vote for the Premier's motion to condemn the assassination.[19]

In April 1940, at the Annual Session of the All India Congress Committee held in commemoration of 21st anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, the youth wing of the Indian National Congress Party displayed revolutionary slogans in support of Singh, applauding his action as patriotic and heroic.[20]

Singh had some support from the international press. The Times of London called him a "fighter for freedom", his actions "an expression of the pent-up fury of the downtrodden Indian people."[21] Bergeret from Rome praised Singh's action as courageous.[22] In March 1940, Indian National Congress leader Jawahar Lal Nehru, condemned the action of Singh as senseless. In 1962, Nehru reversed his stance and applauded Singh with the following published statement: "I salute Shaheed-i-Azam Udham Singh with reverence who had kissed the noose so that we may be free."[23]

Repatriation[edit]

In 1974, Singh's remains were exhumed and repatriated to India at the request of MLA Sadhu Singh Thind. Singh Thind accompanied the remains back to India, where the casket was received by Indira Gandhi, Shankar Dayal Sharma and Zail Singh. Udham Singh was later cremated in his birthplace of Sunam in Punjab and his ashes were scattered in the Sutlej river.

Legacy[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Swami, Praveen (Nov 1997). "Jallianwala Bagh revisited: A look at the actual history of one of the most shocking events of the independence struggle". Frontline. 22 14 (India). p. 1–14. 
  2. ^ sikhhistory.com. "Shaheed Udham Singh (1899-1940)". 
  3. ^ sikhhistory.com. "Shaheed Udham Singh (1899-1940)". 
  4. ^ Sikander Singh (2002). Pre-meditated Plan of Jallianwala Massacre and Oath of Revenge, Udham Singh alias Ram Mohammad Singh Azad. p. 139. 
  5. ^ Stephen Stratford. "British Military & Criminal History". 
  6. ^ Sikander Singh (2002). Pre-meditated Plan of Jallianwala Massacre and Oath of Revenge, Udham Singh alias Ram Mohammad Singh Azad. p. 139. 
  7. ^ Swami, Praveen (Nov 1997). "Jallianwala Bagh revisited: A look at the actual history of one of the most shocking events of the independence struggle". Frontline. 22 14 (India). p. 1–14. 
  8. ^ Sikander Singh (2002). Pre-meditated Plan of Jallianwala Massacre and Oath of Revenge, Udham Singh alias Ram Mohammad Singh Azad. p. 139. 
  9. ^ Academy of the Punjab in North America. "Shaheed Udham Singh (1899-1940)". 
  10. ^ Dr. Fauja Singh (1972). Eminent Freedom Fighters of Punjab. p. 239-40. 
  11. ^ Singh, Sikander (1998). Udham Singh, alias, Ram Mohammed Singh Azad: a saga of the freedom movement and Jallianwala Bagh. B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh. 
  12. ^ Murder of Michael O'Dwyer, Udham Singh alias Ram Mohammad Singh Azad, 2002, p 180-181, Prof Sikander Singh
  13. ^ CRIM 1/1177, Public Record Office, London, p. 64
  14. ^ Government of India, Home Department, Political File No 18 March 1940, National Archives of India, New Delhi, p40
  15. ^ Harijan, 15 March 1940
  16. ^ Singh, Sikander (1998). Udham Singh, alias, Ram Mohammed Singh Azad: a saga of the freedom movement and Jallianwala Bagh. B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh. p. 216. 
  17. ^ National Herald, 15 March 1940.
  18. ^ Vinay Lal (May 2008). "Manas: History and Politics, British India - Udham Singh in the Popular Memory". Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  19. ^ Singh, Sikander (1998). Udham Singh, alias, Ram Mohammed Singh Azad: a saga of the freedom movement and Jallianwala Bagh. B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh. p. 300. 
  20. ^ Manmath Nath Gupta (1970). Bhagat Singh and his Times. Delhi. p. 18. 
  21. ^ The Times (London). 16 March 1940. 
  22. ^ Public and Judicial Department, File No L/P + J/7/3822. 10 Caxton Hall outrage. London: India Office Library and Records. p. 13–14. 
  23. ^ Singh, Sikander (1998). Udham Singh, alias, Ram Mohammed Singh Azad: a saga of the freedom movement and Jallianwala Bagh. B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh. p. 300. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Fenech, Louis E. (October 2002). "Contested Nationalisms; Negotiated Terrains: The Way Sikhs Remember Udham Singh 'Shahid' (1899–1940)". Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press) 36 (4): 827–870. doi:10.1017/s0026749x02004031. JSTOR 3876476.  (subscription required)

External links[edit]