Sacrifices are Made, and Heroes are Born

The British government secretly hanged Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev for their violent revolutionary behaviour today in 1931. This would become one of the most enduring memories of sacrifice in the Independence era.
A popular depiction of the last moments of these freedom fighters; Source: Public Domain

A popular depiction of the last moments of these freedom fighters; Source: Public Domain

Today marks the day few would forget if they read the history of the Indian independence struggle and the role of sacrifice in it. For this day, the nation sacrificed three of its best revolutionaries in the name of freedom. The day was the 23rd of March, 1931, and there was dead silence in Lahore Jail.

Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru, and Sukhdev Thapar had been fighting a losing trial for days straight - the English government was unwilling to listen to people who had bombed the colonial assembly, as well as killed John P. Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police. It would be ironic for history that in a case of mistaken identity, they had intended to kill James Scott, the real man responsible for ordering the lathi charge that had killed Lala Lajpat Rai.

But for the moment, that did not matter - what mattered was the spirit of the revolutionary act. Going against government authority, showing a willingness to fight for Indian freedom even to a violent extent, and not letting the English forget any act committed against Indians - all these things mattered more than their intent or actions.

The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, HSRA, to which these three belonged, had been considerably active in the process of getting their bail. They were sure that the English would indeed give no mercy, even as petitions lined up from the poorest to the richest, from the least to the most powerful in India, appealing not to go ahead with the execution. Yet, they did not stop their efforts to win the battle that was already lost.

Being revolutionaries, they were also devoted socialists. As the day of the execution came, they would round out the shouts of Inquilab Zindabad with Long Live the Socialist Revolution, the government would hang them before their set date (which had been March 24, the next day).

As a secret hanging and a quiet body transfer took place, something changed about the movement - their deeds would inspire thousands of Indians to take to the same path - revolutionary violence and no compromise with the English, akin to what these three had done. Theirs would be a story told again and again and would be crystallised in the Shaheed Diwas, celebrated each day on the 23rd of March.

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