Shaheed Diwas: Remembering the bravehearts

Every year on March 23, Shaheed Diwas is celebrated. On this day, those who laid out their lives for us, and our Independence, are remembered. The day, in particular, pays tribute to Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru who died on March 23 in 1931. They were hanged to death for assassinating John Saunders, a British police officer in 1928.

They had mistook him for British police superintendent James Scott. It was Scott who had ordered lathi charge, which eventually led to the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. These three were among the countless who sacrificed their lives for the nation and died when they were very young. They lives inspired countless youth and in their death, they set an example. And in doing so, they carved out their own path for independence where individual heroism and their aggressive need to do something for the nation stood out, departing from the path followed by the Congress leaders then.

Every year various leaders remember the slain freedom fighters and express their regard and gratitude for them. They remember their courage, and their determination to vindicate Lala Lajpat Rai’s death.

Remembering the extraordinary courage and heroism, India celebrates Shaheed Diwas or Martyrs’ Day on March 23 every year.

A profile of Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh was born on September 28, 1907, to Kishan Singh and Vidyavati. He is one of India’s freedom fighters who continues to inspire people even today. Known as a revolutionary leader, he was a dynamic personality who was sentenced to death and along with fellow revolutionaries Rajguru and Sukhdev.

The phrase ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was popularised by Bhagat Singh.

Bhagat Singh loved reading books and some of his favourite authors were Lenin, Charles Dickens and Maxim Gorky. He was inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution and during his last few days in jail he wrote a letter to Jaidev, his childhood friend asking for a number of books which included The Soviets At Work, Materialism by Karl Liebknecht, Left-Wing Communism, Land Revolution in Russia and a few others.

During his college days, Bhagat Singh took part in a few plays and was also appreciated for his acting skills. Some of the plays which he took part in were Samrat Chandragupta and Rana Pratap.

His two acts of dramatic violence against the British in India and execution at age 23 made him a folk hero of the Indian independence movement.

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote about him, “Bhagat Singh did not become popular because of his act of terrorism but because he seemed to vindicate, for the moment, the honour of Lala Lajpat Rai, and through him of the nation. He became a symbol; the act was forgotten, the symbol remained, and within a few months each town and village of the Punjab, and to a lesser extent in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name.”

A profile of Sukhdev

Shaheed Sukhdev Thapar was born on 15 May 1907, to Ram Lal and Ralli Devi of Naughara Mohalla of Ludhiana town, Punjab, India. He was a senior member of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and was involved in the Lahore Conspiracy Case of 18 December 1928.

He was known by various aliases in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA)—“villager”, “dayal”, “swami” and others.

This Indian revolutionary was sentenced to death along with fellow revolutionaries Rajguru and Bhagat Singh on 23 March 1931 at the age of 23.

Shiv Verma, a comrade of Sukhdev, writes in his memoir that “after Bhagat Singh, it was Sukhdev who was well equipped with socialist literature”.

As a political thinker and strategist, Sukhdev’s chief concern was building a robust revolutionary organisation. Shiv Verma notes in his memoir: “In reality, Bhagat was the political mentor of the Punjab party; Sukhdev was the organiser—one who built its edifice brick by brick…”

A profile of Rajguru

Shaheed Shivaram Hari Rajguru was born on 24 August 1908 at Khed to Parvati Devi and Harinarain Rajguru in a Marathi Brahmin family.

He was a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, who wanted India to be free from British rule by any means necessary.

Rajguru became a colleague of Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev, and took part in the assassination of a British police officer, J. P. Saunders, at Lahore in 1928. He was sentenced to death along with them on 23 March 1931


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