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Remembering Sikh Fighter for Indian Independence
Shaheed Udham Singh's deeds emerged out of 'Amritsar Massacre'
Amaninder Pal Sharma (amaninder)     Print Article 
Published 2006-07-30 12:58 (KST)   
April 13, 1919 -- Baisakhi day (also spelled Vaisakhi, the festival which celebrates the Sikh New Year and the founding of the Sikh community), a Punjabi festival to mark the arrival of the harvest season, saw 15,000-20,000 people, mostly Sikhs, from all over Punjab gathered in the city of Amritsar in Jallianwala Bagh, an enclosed park that had degenerated into a dumping ground, adjacent to the Golden Temple.

Column dedicated to Shaheed Udham Singh in Jalaianwala Bagh
©2006 A. Sharma
The gathering was to protest the arrest on April 10 of Congress leaders Doctor Saifuddin Kithlew and Doctor Satya Pal, who had been organizing people against a brutal piece of legislation introduced by the British Raj, called the Rowlatt Act. These people were demonstrating very peacefully in the park. But suddenly at 5:15 in the afternoon, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer entered through the only open gate in the enclosure with 50 policemen and blocked the gate, ordering them to open fire on the demonstrators. Many thousands were injured and more than 500 were killed (the "Amritsar Massacre"-ed.).

On March 13, 1940, at Caxton Hall, London, a meeting had been organized by the combined efforts of the East India Society and the Royal Central Asian Society.

The Chair, Sir Percy Sykes, was giving his lecture on his experiences in Afghanistan. Former Secretary of State for India Lord Zetland and former Lt. Governor of Punjab Sir Michael O'Dwyer were also present at the meeting. In the last minutes of the meeting one person came to the front and, at point-blank range, fired two fatal shots into the right side of O'Dwyer.

The assassin was none other than the valiant and gallant hero of the Indian struggle for independence, Shaheed Udham Singh Kamboj. Born on Dec. 26, 1899, in Sunam village, Sangrur District, Punjab, he came from a poor family, his father, Chuhar Ram, being a crossing guard on the railway. His mother died when he was two and his father when he was seven. He was admitted to the Central Khalsa Orphanage at Putlighar in Amritsar, where he learned Punjabi, Urdu, and Hindi and passed his matriculation exam.

Part of his legendary popularity rests on his volunteering after the massacre for the care of the injured. Their cries and the blood-drenched soil traumatized the heart and emotions of the then 20-year-old. He vowed to take revenge for this massacre on the British. As General Dyer had passed away before Udham could reach him, he chose Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who had been Lt. Governor of Punjab in 1919.

One can readily sense the spirit of nationalism in the heart of Udham Singh that let him wait for over 20 years to take his revenge. In the late 1920s he managed to go the United States and come into contact with leaders of the Ghadar party. He recognized Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Kartar Singh Sarabha as his models. He returned to India in 1927 and was charged with illegal possession of weapons, getting a four-year prison sentence.

He managed to reach England in 1934 and started working there as a motor mechanic. But he was very conservative about his plans and ideas. He never talked with anyone about his mission for approximately five years when he was in London, except for one of his friends, Shiv Singh Johal, but didn't properly disclose his mission even to him. Only after March 13, 1940, did people come to know about his plans and his mission.

Though Udham Singh was not a Marxist like Shaheed Bhagat Singh nor Gadari like Kartar Singh Sarabha and not even part of any organization, he acknowledged the importance of religious integrity in the national freedom struggle. At his trial he gave his name as Ram Mohammad Singh Azad, instead of Udham Singh -- Ram identifying him as Hindu, Mohammad as Muslim, Singh as Sikh, and Azad meaning "free." He said, "I fired the shots to express my protest and estrangement. I have seen many children dying due to malnutrition in India under British rule. This was my duty and I had to do it. I have no remorse for what I have done."

On April 1,1940, he was indicted for murder and on June 5 was sentenced to capital punishment at the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court. On July 31, 1940, he was executed by hanging in London.

Even when his appeal had failed and death was a certainty, he was not afraid. In a letter to his friend Shiv Singh Johal from Berkiston Jail dated March 20, 1940, he wrote, " Please send some good books because I am going to be examined for the topmost degree of life."

In his letter dated March 30, 1940, he wrote, " In prison I am a royal guest, and my weight has increased by five pounds. I don't want to distance myself from what I have done, I was born to die. Please don't waste money on my case, because I want to die as early as possible for my motherland."

Every nationality and nation has their own heroes, saving their memory in their hearts, and Udham Singh is no exception. On the eve of the 66th anniversary of his death (July 31) we are once again going to refresh the memories of our beloved hero of our national struggle. It's the duty of the youth of India to learn more about his life, his ideas, his goal, and his spirit to achieve it. This will be the real tribute to Shaheed Udham Singh.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Amaninder Pal Sharma

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