Bhagat Singh was one of the most renowned Indian revolutionaries and freedom fighters who contributed significantly in the Indian Freedom Struggle. He was born to Kishan Singh Sandhu and Vidyavati Kaur at Chak No. 105, Banga village, Jaranwala Tehsil in the Lyallpur district of the Punjab Province of British India. He belonged to this patriotic Jat Sikh family, some of whose members had participated in Indian Independence movements, and others had served in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army. His ancestors hailed from the village of Khatkar Kalan near the town of Banga in Nawanshahr district (now renamed Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar) of Punjab. Singh’s given name of “Bhagat” means ‘devotee’ and he was nicknamed “Bhaganwala” (‘the lucky one’) by his grandmother, since the news of the release of his uncle Ajit Singh from Mandalay jail and that of his father from Lahore jail both coincided with his birth. His grandfather, Arjun Singh, was a follower of Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s Hindu reformist movement, Arya Samaj, which had a considerable influence on the young Bhagat. His father, and uncles Ajit Singh and Swaran Singh, were members of the Ghadar Party, led by Kartar Singh Sarabha and Har Dayal. Ajit Singh was forced to flee to Persia due to pending court cases against him, while Swaran Singh died at home in 1910 following his release from Borstal Jail in Lahore.
Unlike many Sikhs of his age, Singh did not attend the Khalsa High School in Lahore, because his grandfather did not approve of the school’s loyalty to the British authorities. Instead, his grandfather enrolled him in the Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School, an Arya Samaji institution. Bhagat Singh was influenced by a number of incidents during his childhood which instilled in him a deep sense of patriotism to eventually take up the struggle for India’s independence. In 1919, at the age of 12, Bhagat Singh visited the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, where non-violent people who gathered at a public meeting were fired upon without warning, killing hundreds. Bhagat Singh participated ardently in Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920, and openly defied the British by following Gandhi’s wishes of burning his government school books and any imported British clothing he could find. Disillusioned with Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, after Gandhi called off the non-cooperation movement, he joined the Young Revolutionary Movement. Henceforth, he began advocating the violent overthrow of the British in India.
In 1923, Singh joined the National College in Lahore, where he not only excelled in academics but also in extra-curricular activities. He was a participant of the dramatics society in the college. By this time, he was fluent in Hindi, English, Urdu, Punjabi and Sanskrit languages. In 1923, Singh won an essay competition set by the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. In his essay on Punjab’s Language and Script, he quoted Punjabi literature and showed a deep understanding of the problems of afflicting Punjab. He joined the Indian nationalist youth organisation Naujawan Bharat Sabha along with his fellow revolutionaries, and became popular in the organisation. He also joined the Hindustan Republican Association, which had prominent leaders, such as Ram Prasad Bismil, Chandrashekhar Azad and Ashfaqulla Khan. The name of the organisation was changed to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association at Singh’s insistence. A year later, to avoid getting married by his family, Singh ran away from his house to Cawnpore. In a letter he left behind, he stated:
“My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore, there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now …”. Thus, He devoted his life in order to make India a better country, free from the British rule.
It is also believed that he went to Cawnpore to attempt to free the Kakori train robbery convicts from jail, but returned to Lahore for unknown reasons. On the day of Dussehra in October 1926, a bomb exploded in Lahore. Singh was arrested for his alleged involvement in this Dussehra bomb case on 29 May 1927, but was released for exhibiting good behaviour against a steep fine of Rs. 60,000 about five weeks after his arrest. He wrote for and edited Urdu and Punjabi newspapers, published from Amritsar. In September 1928, the Kirti Kisan Party organised an all-India meeting of revolutionaries in Delhi by Singh as its secretary .He later rose to become this association’s leader.
On 30th of October, 1928, a protest was led by Lala Lajpat Rai against Simon Commission but that too in a non violent way. During this protest, the police resorted to Lathi charge and Lala Lajpat Rai was severely beaten. After this incident, Bhagat Singh with other revolutionaries, planed to kill the police chief. But because of a mistaken identity, J. P. Saunders, a Deputy Superintendent of Police was shot instead of Scott. Immediately after that, Bhagat Singh left Lahore and he also shaved his beard and cut his hair to avoid recognition.
After this incident, the Defence of India Act was enacted by the British government in order to give more power to the police. On the other hand, in response to this act, Hindustan Socialist Republican Association planned to blast a bomb particularly in the assembly, where the act was supposed to be passed. According to their plan, it was decided that Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt would throw the bombs. On April 8, 1929, they threw the bombs; however it neither killed nor injured anyone. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt surrendered themselves for arrest. They were sentenced to Transportation for Life for the incident. It was after their arrest that the British rulers came to know that Singh was involved in the murder case of J.P. Saunders. He admitted his crime and made statements in the court against the British as a tool to publicise their cause of freedom struggle. However, the court ordered the case to be carried out without members of the association who were present at the hearing. This order produced a chaos amongst the supporters of Bhagat Singh.
Bhagat Singh along with other prisoners launched hunger strike in the jail. The main reason behind this was that the British thieves and murderers were given better treatment than the Indian prisoners. According to law the Indian political prisoners were supposed to be given better rights. Bhagat also demanded that the Indian political prisoners should not be forced to do any sort of undignified work. This hunger strike lasted for 63 days and ended with the submission of British power. With this, he gained tremendous popularity.
Bhagat Singh was hanged on 23rd March, 1931 at 7:30 pm, in Lahore Jail, along with fellow revolutionaries Sukhdev and Jai Rajguru and the life story of this great freedom fighter ended.
After his execution, youths in the country rioted in protest. Thus the desire of Bhagat Singh to inspire thousands of youths to assist the Indian independence movement took a serious turn. Bhagat Singh was a real hero, who played a great role and sacrificed his life for India’s freedom.