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.
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.