Udham Singh – The Avenger of Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Udham Singh – The Avenger of Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Udham Singh, a revolutionary nationalist, was born Sher Singh on 26 December 1899. He was present in the Jallianwala Bagh on the fateful Baisakhi day, 13 April 1919. Soon after the massacre, he left India and went to the United States of America. He had secretly brought with him some revolvers and was arrested by the police in Amritsar, and sentenced to four years imprisonment under the Arms Act. On release he opened a shop as a signboard painter, assuming the name of Ram Muhammad Singh Azad. This name, which he was to use later in England, was adopted to emphasize the unity of all the religious communities in India in their struggle for political freedom.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
On 13 April, over twenty thousand unarmed protestors were assembled in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar. Singh and his friends from the orphanage were serving water to the crowd. Troops were dispatched to restore order after the riots, under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer. Dyer ordered his troops to fire without warning on the assembled crowd in Jallianwala Bagh. Since the only exit was barred by soldiers, people tried to escape by climbing the park walls or jumping into a well for protection. An estimated thousand people were killed and many were wounded.  Udham Singh used to recall this even with anger and sorrow which turned him to the path of revolution. The governor of Punjab, Michael O’Dwyer, had supported the massacre, and Singh held him responsible.

The Vengeance
He was on the lookout for an opportunity to avenge theJallianwala Bagh tragedy. The long-waited moment at last came on 13 March 1940. On that day, at 4.30 p.m. in the Caxton Hall, London, where a meeting of the East India Association was being held in conjunction with the Royal Central Asian Society, Udham Singh fired five to six shots from his pistol at Sir Michael O’Dwyer, who was governor of the Punjab when the Amritsar massacre had taken place. O’Dwyer was hit twice and fell to the ground dead and Lord Zetland, the Secretary of State for India, who was presiding over the meeting was injured. Udham Singh was overpowered with a smoking revolver. He in fact made no attempt to escape and continued saying that he had done his duty by his country.

Video credits: India Videos 

On 1 April 1940, Udham Singh was formally charged with the murder of Sir Michael O’Dwyer. On 4 June 1940, he was committed to trial, at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, before Justice Atkinson, who sentenced him to death. On 31 July 1940, Udham Singh was hanged in Pentonville Prison in London. Udham Singh had made a request that his ashes be sent back to his country, but this was not allowed. In 1975, however, the Government of India, at the instance of the Punjab Government, finally succeeded in bringing his ashes home. Lakhs of people gathered on the occasion to pay homage to his memory.

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