Commemorating 99 years of the horrific massacre that took place at Jallianwala Bagh is a story of Shaheed Udham Singh, who was an Indian revolutionary best known for assassinating General Michael O’Dwyer, the Governor of Punjab in British India and the man responsible for the brutal killings of Jallianwala Bagh. Also known proudly as Shaheed-e- Azam Sardar Udham Singh Kamboj, was born on 26th December, 1899 in a village Sunam in Punjab. He and his brother lost their parents at an early age and were raised at an orphanage in Amritsar. Punjab was undergoing a massive political and social unrest during Udham Singh’s childhood years which made him sensitive and in touch with the pain of thousands around him.
One such incident occured on April 13th, 1919 when more than 10,000 unarmed men, women, children and the elderly gathered for a peaceful gathering at Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh. Jallianwala Bagh is an enclosed park surrounded by high walls on 3 sides and an only opening on the fourth. It was Baisakhi on the day and people gathered in order to celebrate the festivities unaware of General O’Dwyer’s orders.
Sardar Udham Singh and other kids from the orphanage were given the responsibility to provide water to the thirsty crowd at the bagh. Suddenly General O’Dwyer entered the park with his troops and sealed of the only exit. What followed was one of the most brutal mass murders that took place in British India. General O’Dwyer’s troops opened fire on thousands of innocent people. The event left a deep wound in Udham Singh.
At the age of twenty, Udham Singh left for East Africa and worked as a daily wage worker. Later he left for San Francisco, US where he joined the Ghadar Party which was a group of revoutionary immigrant Sikhs who revolted against the British to secure a free India. He worked hard consistently all across America using various aliases such as Ude Singh and Frank Brazil.
He returned to India in 1927 on Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s request. He was arrested in the very same year for possessing illegal firearms and was jailed for 4 years. During his jail term, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged for The Lahore Conspiracy Case. He was released in 1931 but was closely watched by the British Authorities due to his involvement with Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (the group was headed by Bhagat Singh).
Udham Singh fled India via Kashmir using multiple aliases and finally reached Germany. In 1933, Singh finally reached London. Although it had been 14 years since the massacre, not for one moment did he forget the brutality of the British empire. He finally had the chance of avenging his countrymen on March 13, 1940 (21 years after the massacre) when he came to know that General O’D’wyer was speaking in a meeting at Caxton Hall in London. He shot the General twice in the chest through a revolver he sneaked in his overcoat pocket. He did not try to flee or resist the scene and was immediately arrested. During his trial, Sardar Udham Singh gave his name as Mohammad Singh Azad which he had got tattooed to his forearm as a symbol of unity of all religions against the British in India.
He was convicted and sentenced to death and was hanged on 31st July, 1940 at London’s Pentonville Prison and was buried within the campus. His mortal remains were later brought to India in 1974 and were cremated at his birth place of Sunam in Punjab. The ashes were scattered in the Sutlej as were those of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. In 1995, the district of Rudrapur was renamed as Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand by the Mayawati government.
Interestingly Salman Rushdie’s novel Shalimar the Clown mentions Udham Singh as, “For every O’Dwyer there is a Shaheed Udham Singh and for every Trotsky, a Mercador awaits.” The Indian motherland is proud to have been the birthplace of such heroes. We as the current citizens have to have the courage to glorify our country for which heroes such as Shaheed-e-Azam Sardaar Udham Singh gave their lives for. They lived and died for India and so should we.
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