Chandrashekhar Tiwari was drawn into the non-cooperation movement of 1920-21, at the age of 15, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. When arrested he gave his name as ‘Azad’, his father’s name as ‘Swatantra’ and his residence as ‘prison’. This annoyed the magistrate who sentenced him to fifteen lashes of flogging. The title of Azad stuck thereafter. Although Gandhiji was appalled by the brutal violence at Chauri chaura and suspended non-cooperation movement, Azad did not feel that violence was unacceptable in the struggle, especially in view of the Amritsar Massacre.
He got involved in revolutionary activities and joined the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), a revolutionary organization formed by Ram Prasad Bismil . He trained the revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Batukeshwar Dutt, and Rajguru. He was involved in the Kakori Conspiracy where revolutionaries looted the Government treasury from train. He was also involved in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train, the Assembly bomb incident, the Delhi Conspiracy and the Second Lahore conspiracy. He was one of the three who were involved in the shooting of Saunders at Lahore. Azad was also a believer in socialism as the basis for a future India, free of social and economic oppression and adversity. He was instrumental in transforming the HRA into the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) in 1928 so as to achieve their primary aim of an independent India based on socialist principle.
As a result of a friend’s betrayal, he was encircled by the police at Alfred Park in Allahabad on 27 February 1931 where he had gone to meet his colleague Sukhdev Raj. Surrounded by the police, he put up a good fight which made it possible for Raj to escape. When he was left with only one bullet, he fired it at his own temple and lived up to his resolve that he would never be arrested and be dragged to gallows to be hanged. After the independence, to commemorate Azad, Alfred Park was renamed Chandrashekhar Azad Park.
Bankinchrandra Chattopadhyay wrote many Bangali novels from 1865 to 1884, most famous novel being Anand Math (1880). Anand Math contained the song “Bande Mataram”, which was written in 1876. Anand Math started appearing in the magazine, Banga Darshan, during 1880 to 1882. Its concept itself generated ripples in people’s minds, as it was a novel, which speaks of revolutionaries who live and die for their motherland. 1883 saw a stage version of Anandmath, wherein the first singing of the song took place. Bankimda passed away in 1894. In the 1896 convention of the Indian National Congress a full-unabridged version of Vande Mataram was sung. None other than the great personality-Rabindranath Tagore sang it. In the 1901 Congress, again it was rehearsed, with Dakshanrajan Sen as the composer. Thereafter it became a norm to start the Congress convention with Vande Mataram.
The year 1905 was memorable to Vande Mataram in many ways. In this year the song crossed the boundaries of Bengal, spread like a jungle fire throughout the nation which would oust the British rule. No sooner than the Partition of Bengal was declared, thousands of angry Bharatiyas protested the decision in a unanimous voice: Vande Mataram. Indian freedom struggle had got it’s march song. The British government realized the potential and nuisance value of Vande Mataram. Saraladevi Chaudharani, niece of Ravindranath Tagore, sung it despite protest in the 1905 Congress convention.
It was translated into English by Shree Auribindo Ghosh to conform to its universality and eventually. The militant revolutionaries who faced the gallows recited Vande Mataram as their last words. This includes Madanlal Dhingra, Praful Chaki, Khudiram Bose, Suryasen, Ramprasad Bismil and many more. Even the great martyr Bhagat Singh addresses a letter to his father with Vande Mataram. Subhashchandra Bose had adopted this song for his Indian National Army. In 1937, the Congress leaders, owing to misconceptions from certain minorities, appointed a committee to interpret Vande Mataram. The first two stanzas were adopted as a national song. Other stanzas bearing reference of the nation as ‘Mother Durga’ were omitted.
With no Indian member on the Simon commission body, formed for political reforms, angry Indian nationalist leaders across the ideological spectrum boycotted the commission. In Lahore, Lala Rajpat Rai, the most popular leader of Punjab, was hit during a lathi charge while leading an agitation against the commission, and succumbed to his injuries. ‘The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army’ was considering the plan of avenging the death of Lalaji by killing the Police Officers, who were responsible for Lalaji’s beating that led ultimately to his death. They had two-fold object in this: first to give the popular movement a turn towards violence, and second, to show to the world that Lalaji’s beating was not taken lying by India. The action was incidentally to advertise the existence of a revolutionary party in India. For this purpose it was decided that Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Rajguru should attempt on the life of Mr. Scott, the S. S. P. Meanwhile Chandra Shekhar Azad the absconder in the Kakori Conspiracy Case of 1926, was to direct the whole action and to work as a rear guard.
The whole plot was carefully thought out and complete arrangements were made for the same. Originally, it was the intention of these three youths to fight out a pitched battle with the police and if possible, to lay down their lives fighting. They believed that in this way they would be able to rouse up the imagination of the youth and bring them into the ranks of the revolutionaries. But the plan failed in two respects. Instead of Mr. Scott they murdered Mr. Saunders. Then, as the police did not follow them up, their desire for a pitched fight; could not be fulfilled. Only one Police Officer, namely Mr. Fern, came out of the Police Office after the shots had been fired that killed Mr. Saunders. But two bullets whirling by his head proved too strong an argument for returning back. Only Chanan Singh, a constable dared to follow them up. He was entreated to give up the chase; but on his refusing to do so, he was also killed by bullet shots.
Next morning the police discovered several posters pasted on walls, with the bold printed heading in red : “The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army,” below which was written out in thick letters: “Saunders is dead, Lalaji is avenged,” and some other matter in justification of the action.
While in college Lala Lajpat Rai joined the Arya Samaj founded by Swami Daya Nand Saraswati. Soon he became one of the three most prominent Hindu Nationalist members of the Indian National Congress, the Lal-Bal-Pal trio. They formed the extremist faction of the Indian National Congress, as opposed to the moderate one led first by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and then Gandhiji. Lalaji actively participated in the struggle against partition of Bengal. Along with Surendra Nath Banerjee, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurorbindo Ghosh, he galvanized Bengal and the nation in a vigorous campaign of Swadeshi. Lalaji was arrested on May 3, 1907 for creating “turmoil” in Rawalpindi. He was put in Mandalay jail for six months.
He left for Britain in April 1914 to organize propaganda in foreign countries about freedom struggle. At this time First World War broke out and he was unable to return to India. He went to USA to galvanize support for India. He founded the Indian Home League Society of America and wrote a book called “Young India”. He was able to return to India in 1920 after the end of World War. After his return, Lala Lajpat Rai, led the Punjab protests against the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre and the Non-Cooperation Movement. He was arrested several times. He disagreed with Gandhiji’s suspension of Non-Cooperation movement due to the Chauri-Chaura incident, and formed the Congress Independence Party, which had a pro-Hindu slant.
In 1928, British Government decided to send Simon Commission to India to discuss constitutional reforms. The Commission had no Indian member. This greatly angered Indians. In 1929, when the Commisssion came to India there were protests all over India. Lala Lajpat Rai himself led one such procession against Simon Commission on October 30, 1928 in Lahore. While the procession was peaceful, James Scott, superintendent of Police brutally lathicharged the procession. Lala Lajpat Rai received severe head injuries and died on November17, 1928. Subsequently to avenge Lalaji’s death, Bhagat Singh and others planned to kill James Scott, however ended up killing John P. Saunders, Assistant Superintendent of Police, in case of a mistaken identity.
Jatindra Nath Das was a freedom fighter and revolutionary. He joined Anushilan Samiti, which was a revolutionary group in Bengal. Jatindra participated in Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation movement in 1921. In November 1925, while studying for a B.A. at Vidyasagar College in Kolkata, Jatindra Nath was arrested for his political activities and was imprisoned in Mymensingh Central Jail. Protesting against the ill treatment of political prisoners, he went on a hunger strike. After 20 days, when the Jail Superintendent apologized, Jatin gave up the fast. He was contacted by and agreed to participate in bomb-making for Bhagat Singh and comrades. On 14 June 1929, he was arrested for terrorist activities and was imprisoned in Lahore jail to be tried under the supplementary Lahore Conspiracy Case.
In the Lahore jail, Jatin Das, along with other prisoners, started a hunger strike demanding jail reforms and rights of prisoners and under trials. The conditions of Indian people of the jails were terrible. The uniform that Indian prisoners were required to wear in jail with were not washed for several days, and rats and cockroaches roamed the kitchen area making the food unsafe to eat. Indian prisoners were not provided with any reading material such as newspapers, nor were they provided paper to write. In contrast, the condition of the British prisoners in the same jail was noticeably different.
This unforgettable hunger strike started on 13 July 1929 and lasted 63 days. The jail authority took many measures to feed Jatin, including attempts to feed forcefully. However, Jatindra did not eat and died on 13 September without breaking the hunger strike. As his body was carried from Lahore to Kolkata by train, thousands of people rushed to every station to pay their homage to the martyr. A two-mile long procession in Kolkata carried the coffin to the cremation ground. The hunger strike of Jatin Das in prison was one crucial moment in the resistance against illegal detentions, and highlighted cold-hearted brutality of British colonialism. Of millions in the country who swore by Gandhism, Jatin Das alone walked till the end of path.