My heroes : Chandra Shekhar Ajaad

Source : Google photo

My home town of Allahabad is well known for its leaders in the freedom struggle for India’s independence .Many great leaders were born there and spent their lifetime either working with the likes of Gandhi and Patel but there were many who believed that freedom cannot be begged from the oppressor and supported leader like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his struggle to free India with armed struggle and joined the INA ,the Indian national army that Bose founded. Others took it upon themselves to fight the British anywhere and everywhere with whatever means they had which was not much. This struggle had started a long time ago with the uprising in 1857 called the sepoy mutiny when the Indians serving under the British rose in revolt and killed thousands of British .The fiercest battle took place in Lucknow, Allahabad, Meerut, Delhi,Kanpur and elsewhere .The Queen of Jhansi Rani Lakhsmi Bai engaged the British troops with her loyal army that inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy but the Queen herself died in the battle .She was only 30 at that time. Later Netaji Bose formed the first female brigade in the INA called Rani LakhsmiBai brigade that fought the British in Burma .

One such leader was Chandra Shekhar Ajad . Azad was born as Chandra Shekhar Tiwari on 23 July 1906 in Bhavra village, in the present-day Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh. His forefathers were from Badarka village near Kanpur (in present-day Unnao District). His mother, Jagrani Devi, was the third wife of Sitaram Tiwari, whose previous wives had died young. After the birth of their first son, Sukhdev, in Badarka, the family moved to Alirajpur State. His mother wanted her son to be a great Sanskritscholar and persuaded his father to send him to Kashi Vidyapeeth, Banaras, to study. In December 1921, when Mohandas K. Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement, Chandra Shekhar, then a 15-year-old student, joined. As a result, he was arrested. On being produced before a magistrate, he gave his name as “Azad” (The Free), his father’s name as “Swatantrata” (Independent) and his residence as “Jail”. From that day he came to be known as Chandra Shekhar Azad among the people.

Revolutionary life:

After suspension of the non-cooperation movement in 1922 by Gandhi, Azad became more aggressive. He met a young revolutionary, Pranvesh Chatterji, who introduced him to Ram Prasad Bismil who had formed the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), a revolutionary organisation. Bismil was impressed by Azad, when Azad reportedly put his hand over a lamp and did not remove it till his skin burnt. He then became an active member of the HRA and started to collect funds for HRA. Most of the fund collection was through robberies of government property. He also wanted to build a new India based on socialist principles. He was involved in the Kakori Train Robbery of 1925, in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train in 1926, and at last the shooting of J.P. Saunders at Lahore in 1928 to avenge the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai. Despite being a member of Congress, Motilal Nehru regularly gave money in support of Azad.

The Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) was formed by Bismil, Chatterji, Sachindra Nath Sanyal and Shachindra Nath Bakshi in 1924. In the aftermath of the Kakori train robbery in 1925, the British clamped down on revolutionary activities. Prasad, Ashfaqulla Khan,Thakur Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri were sentenced to death for their participation. Azad, Keshab Chakravarthy and Murari Sharma evaded capture. Chandra Shekhar Azad later reorganized the HRA with the help of revolutionaries like Sheo Verma and Mahaveer Singh. Azad was also a close associate of Bhagwati Charan Vohra who along with Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru, helped him to transform the HRA into the HSRA in 1928 so as to achieve their primary aim of an independent India based on socialist principle.

Death: Azad died at Alfred Park in Allahabad on 27 February 1931.On that day my father was going to his office passing by the park when he heard shots being fired. He hurried on not knowing what was happening. The police surrounded Chandra Shekhar in the park citing information from an informer. He was wounded in the process of defending himself and Sukhdev Raj and killed three policemen and wounded some others. His actions made it possible for Sukhdev Raj to escape. After a long shootout, holding true to his pledge to never be captured alive, he shot himself dead with his last bullet.The Colt pistol of Chandra Shekhar Azad is displayed at the Allahabad Museum. I was a child when his memorial stone was placed near the tree where he died and walked several kilometers to be there. Now there is a life size statue of him there and the park is named Ajad park.

The body was sent to Rasulabad Ghat for cremation without informing general public. As it came to light, people surrounded the park where the incident had taken place. They chanted slogans against the British rule and praised Azad.

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.