Thursday, 26 November 2020

Udham Singh, the Indian patriot who assassinated retd. Governor Michael O' Dwyer in London

Much  has  not  been written about the martyr  Udham Singh of Punjab  who  was hanged to death on 31 July 1940 and later buried at Penton Ville prison in north London. Reason: He shot dead the retired Governor of Punjab  Michel O' Dwyer in Britain  for his prime role in the  the mass killing  in 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh,  Amritsar  of Punjab state, India .  Udham  could not brook the plight of native Indians and their sufferings under the oppressive British rule. Being a freedom fighter, he wanted the Indian subcontinent freed from the foreign rule soon and to achieve this he was willing to  sacrifice his life at a very young age.  

Jallianwala Bagh, Punjab.  patriot Udham Singh, assassin of gov. O'Dwyer. .indiatimes.com/india

The  Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 13 April 1919 in the city of Amritsar, Punjab   that resulted in the death of scores of people   during the British Raj,  shook the  conscience of the nationalists  across  India and also the western world like the USA.  The author of this mass murder was  the army commander Reginald Dyer but it was scripted carefully by none other than the Lt. Governor  of Punjab, Michael O' Dwyer. an ICS man of Irish origin,  who  had just been transferred to that state to quell the growing protests, riots against the British establishment and secret underground revolutionary activities. 
Assassination of O' Dwyer in London twitter.com

With so much premeditation and proper planning, but with an  express intent to harm as many people as possible, the obnoxious military officer  blocked all the exits except one  in the bagh -  garden. He had his soldiers fired on the peaceful crowd  without any prior warning.  The purpose of  Lt.  Gov. O' Dwyer and Gen. Dyer  was to  ''punish the Indians for disobedience.” Quite obnoxious was the fact that Dyer asked his soldiers ''to knell and shoot at the spots where the fleeing crowd was dense to produce better results''.  Unaware of the 144 curfew in force, countless innocent people gathered there to celebrate the festival  Baishaki.   When shooting started suddenly, the crowd panicked  and the stampede caused the death of innumerable people. When addressing the media,  the administrator  O’Dwyer,  who is well known for his  gritty stand against the national militancy in the subcontinent, defended Gen. Dyer's action by saying his action  ''was  correct. Many of the British MPs from the Labor party and some British journalists were highly critical of the governor and the military commander. Many Britons were outraged and both Dyer and O’ Dwyer ended up losing their jobs. However, the Indian leaders were quite angry that neither of them received any punishment whatsoever  before the court for the horror committed  by them under the British flag.   

Postal stamp. Udham Singh, Indian patriot. mintageworld.com

A Sikh by birth,  born as Sher Singh in Sangrur, Punjab, and  brought up in an orphanage,  he grew up as a freedom fighter.  He  took keen interest in revolutionary activities against the British misrule. No doubt, being   patriotic and highly spirited and motivated,  he  did not like the natives  being insulted and intimidated by the foreign  rulers  who were more bent on exploiting the Indian resources to improve their economy back home,  pushing the natives to abject poverty, subjugation. and enslavement than overall improvement of the welfare of the natives.  So, he joined the Ghadar party in 1924 (with revolutionary ideology)  that fought against the Raj secretly  and in 1927,  he was imprisoned for smuggling weapons for his revolutionary activities. According to the Indian Political Intelligence, “ his obsession was such that ''he had intended to murder Europeans who were ruling over India'' in order to instill fear among the British officers. He landed in England after his release from the jail in Multan (now in Pakistan).

Caxton Hall,London, Udham assassinated Gov. O'Dwyer shrimataji.org

Haunted by the horror of Jallianwala Bagh mass murder, as he himself saw  the gory incident in Amritsar,   the scar engraved  deep in his mind never healed. Pursuant to a vow he had taken many years  ago to eliminate Michael O' Dwyer, who signed the orders of mass killing, he kept  vigilante justice alive.    Udham Singh  could not target Gen. Dyer who died in 1927 without undergoing any punishment. Now, he focused his full energy on  Gen. Michael O' Dwyer who was roughly 75 years old, spending his retirement life with his family.  As the wise-saying goes, ''courageous man is never scared of the gallows'', taking inspiration from patriot Bhagat Singh   on March 13, 1940, he got a chance to take on Dwyer.

On that day the retired colonial  was scheduled to  attend a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society at Caxton Hall.  As proceedings had just come to an end, Udham Singh  who already got into the hall with a concealed  pistol,  went close to O 'Dwyer and whipped out the weapon. In a jiff,  shots rang out on the  O' Dwyer  who fell  dead on the floor. The trial took place in England and Udham Singh was sentenced to death by hanging. Like many martyrs, he glorified his killing of O' Dwyer and  said,  ''I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years, I have been trying to seek vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under the British rule. I have protested against this, it was my duty. What greater honor could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland?''

Jalianwala Bagh massacre, Amritsar. executedtoday.com

Though countless Indians never approve of such bizarre assassination of a govt. servant,  the frustration with the British government  was quite  visible for several reasons, one being  the mass-killing at Jallianwala Bagh and subsequent atrocities committed by O' Dwyer and his military commander Dyer.  Already unhappy over Britain's  betrayal of  freedom after Indian troops' participation in WWI (India had nothing to do with  the world war waged in the European theater)  the tragedy in Punjab,  and the insults hurled at the Punjabis by Gen. Dyer caused much resentment and anger  among the natives. Gen. Dyer, quit furious over the assault on  Ms. Marcella Sherwood,  a British missionary during the early rioting, placed the pickets  either end of the street where the assault took place.  Person  wishing to enter the  street between 6am and 8pm,  had  to crawl  about 200 yards (180 m) on a fours  like a 4-footed animal, lying flat on their bellies.  The order that was in force for   six days from 19th April till 25th April caused hardship to innocent people living in the street, in particular, elderly Indians who could not get out of home to go to shops, etc., without crawling. Gen. Dyer was never reprimanded by his boss, the Lt. Governor  Dwyer. for this kind of disparaging act against the Indians. Yet another lurking question is: Why did the Indian soldiers under Dyer's command  never  refuse to obey his orders to shoot at the peaceful crowd in  the bagh?. The moot question remains a mystery!!

Pandit  Jawaharlal Nehru,  freedom fighter and first PM of Independent India   publicly  praised Shaheed  Udham Singh  and his supreme sacrifice  during the freedom movement. Never afraid,  Singh  kissed the noose on the gallows before execution  so that in the later years we  could breathe fresh air of freedom  and  be free for ever..”  Udham Singh went on a 42-day hunger strike  and, at last, in July same year at Penton Ville Prison  he was put to death.  The British did not allow proper cremation and he was  buried on the prison premises. In 1974, Udham Singh’s remains were exhumed and repatriated to India.  His cremation took place at his birthplace of Sunam in Punjab and his ashes were scattered in Sutlej river.  At the Jallianwla Bagh, Amritsar   part of his ashes was  kept in a sealed urn. At this prison in north London, yet another Indian patriot and revolutionary  was executed in 1909 for his role in the freedom movement in India. He was Madanlal Dhingra,

https://www.indiatoday.in/fyi/story/shaheed-udham-singh-the-man-who-single-handedly-avenged-jallianwala-bagh-massacre-130098

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jallianwala-bagh-massacre-centenary-butcher-of-amritsar-or-saviour-of-punjab-100-years-on-debate-on-general-dyer-continues-5673692

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/after-the-jallianwala-bagh-massacre-came-the-torture-public-floggings/articleshow/68773961.cms

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/after-the-jallianwala-bagh-massacre-came-the-torture-public-floggings/articleshow/68773961.cms

http://milind-sathe.com/Photography/Remembering-Shaheed-Udham-Singh-on-31-July-2017-77-years-after-his-being-hanged-by-the-British.html