It was the day of the harvest festival Baisakhi on April 13, 1919, when the incident that marked the turning point of Indian freedom struggle took place. Local residents in Amritsar were gathered in a park named Jallianwala Bagh to discuss and protest against the implementation of the Rowlatt Act during the British rule in India. The crowd was mixed with men, women, and children who were enjoying the festival in the park walled on all sides with a few small gates.
Suddenly, Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer inched into the scene and ordered 90 soldiers that he brought along with him to open fire on the crowd at the Jallianwala Bagh. As the unarmed people tried to escape the bullets by climbing the walls of the park or jumping in the well, the soldiers kept firing until they ran out of ammunition. The exact number of people who died in the heinous bloodbath is still unknown.
Among the crowd was a 20-year-old boy named Udham Singh who was there with his friends from the orphanage to serve water to the thirsty crowd. Udham Singh was deeply scarred by the event at the Jallianwala Bagh on that fateful day which later inspired him to take the charge to avenge the deaths of his brothers by the British troop.
Young Udham Singh
Udham Singh got involved in the armed resistance that was unfolding in and outside India. The young freedom fighter was well-informed about the Ghadar Party of Kartar Singh Sarabha and later took great interest in its literature. In 1924, he became an active member of the party in the USA after which he mobilized his own organization called Azad Party.
This is the same time when Udham Singh came in contact with the revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh and was deeply influenced by his ideologies and politics. This helped Udham Singh to establish contact in other parts of the world.
However, now not-so-young fighter Udham Singh got arrested in Amritsar in August 1927 for possessing revolvers after which he was sentenced to five years in prison. After his release in 1931, he got a passport and traveled to various parts of European countries including England. There he decided to assassinate Michael O’Dwyer who he held responsible for the brutal Jallianwala Massacre.
He did petty jobs in England to survive there till the time he finished what he desired. Quite interestingly, Udham Singh also worked as an extra in two of the most popular Hollywood films directed by Alexander Korda namely Elephant Boy (1937) and The Four Feathers (1939).
Assassination of Dwyer
In a meeting of East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society in London on March 13, 1940, Udham Singh decided to do the needful. He attended the meeting with the sole purpose to kill Dwyer. In order to hide the gun, he carved the shape of the revolver by cutting the pages of a book to fit it inside it.
Udham Singh fired on Michael O’Dwyer at the end of the meeting but did not run away. He shot the former Lt Governor of Punjab twice after which Dwyer died on the spot. Later, Singh waited for the officials to arrest him.
He was prosecuted in Britain and on June 4, 1940, he was convicted to a death sentence. During his trial, Udham Singh named himself as ‘Mohammed Singh Azad’, as a symbol that all religions in India are fighting together against the British rule.
Hanging of Udham Singh
Singh was hanged on July 31, 1940, in the Pentonville jail in London and then buried within the prison grounds. However, his remains were brought back to India in 1974 and then he was cremated at his birthplace in Sunam Village in Punjab. His ashes were scattered in Satluj River later. Some of his remains are still preserved at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.
This legendary freedom fighter who fought for the Indian freedom and avenged the loss thousands of innocent people on that fateful day in Jallianwala Bagh.
According to media reports, Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh has been roped in to play Udham Singh’s character in the next film of director Shoojit Sircar.