From 1818, the British surreptitiously robbed Akhanda Bharat of its treasures, artefacts, rare jewels, gems and crowns, art and sculptures. A sizeable portion made its way back to their country while the remaining was placed in the British government treasury. When information was leaked that money rightfully belonging to Indians was looted by the British and transferred to their treasury, members of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) pulled off the daring Kakori train robbery on 9 August 1925.
This incident grabbed everyone’s attention because the real motive and intention of the British was now there for all to see. They intended to drain the coffers of this country and ensure that Indians would remain in abject poverty, while those who pandered to their whims and fancies would be thrown a bone as and when they felt like it. The real goal of the British was to ensure that the concept of slavery is deeply entrenched in every Indian and to make every Indian remain indebted to them for effecting their Independence!
The Kakori train robbery injected the young revolutionaries with the right amount of nationalism, pride and courage. Bhagat Singh, who had been in touch with Kanpur HRA in 1923 – 24 took it upon himself to organize revolutionary movements all over India. A meeting of like-minded revolutionary groups from the United Provinces, Bihar, Punjab and Rajasthan met on 8 – 9 September 1928. HRA was renamed as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
The ideology of this group as the name suggests was deeply influenced by communism and its own interpretation of socialism. The HSRA began extending its influence across Kanpur, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Calcutta, Benares, Jhansi and parts of north India.
The immediate trigger to this movement was a protest against the draconian Simon Commission being held in Lahore on 30 October 1928 which led to devastating consequences. James. A. Scott, the senior superintendent of police issued an order of lathi charge on all the protestors particularly the peaceful ones on 7 November 1928.
Unfortunately, the tallest leader of Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai was badly hurt after being hit on the head. He succumbed to his injuries after ten days. He was one of the three members of the Lal-Bal-Pal triumvirate.
His death sent shockwaves across India and renewed the anger and resentment against the high-handedness of the invaders that had been simmering for many decades. Though a committee was set up to investigate the attack on the Punjab Kesari and the matter was raised in the British Parliament, the government gave itself a clean chit and claimed to have no role in his demise.
This mockery was not accepted by HSRA and Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Hari Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad plotted to kill Scott. However, in a case of mistaken identity, they accidentally shot John. P. Saunders, an assistant superintendent of police in Lahore on 17 December 1928 before making their escape. As Saunders was a part of the lathi brigade, the young guns were satisfied with the result. Azad shot an Indian constable Channan Singh who gave him chase. Bhagat Singh left to Calcutta in disguise and stayed underground for a while.
HSRA in February 1929 met in Agra and decided to set up a bomb factory there. They made a plan to attack the Simon Commission in Delhi and the Legislative Assembly.
On 8 April 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt entered the Assembly and threw two low-intensity bombs from the visitor’s gallery. They followed it up with two pistol shots, scattered HSRA propaganda leaflets and shouted slogans of Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live the Revolution).
The duo did not resist the arrest. Several members of the HSRA were rounded up and whole mystery of Saunder’s death began to unravel leading to a long-drawn trial known as the Lahore Conspiracy Case.
Prisoners under Bhagat Singh’s leadership began an intensive hunger strike in jail protesting against the pathetic conditions and ill-treatment meted out to them. Demonstrations were held across India with every leader demanding humane treatment to the prisoners.
Jatindranath Das died in a hunger strike on 13 September 1929. Curiously though, Mr. Gandhi remained silent throughout. He did not speak a word about the hunger strikes, the inhumane treatment to the prisoners and the martyrdom of Jatindranath Das.
Bhagat Singh, shocked by the death of Jatindranath Das started a hunger strike for 116 days that ended on 5 October 1929. The sacrifice of Jatindranath Das was not in vain and the government finally crumbled under the immense pressure of the angry public and revised their “regulations” about political prisoners.
The truth was the so-called “regulations” were based on social status of the prisoner, yet again deepening the divide in the country based on religion. The British wanted the radical Muslims and not the nationalist Muslims on their side hoping to drag the whole discussion on Dominion status and independence for a few more years giving them sufficient time to loot the country in entirety.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)
* Information about Nathuram Vinayak Godse is taken from archives