In News: Prime Minister salutes Shaheed Udham Singh on his martyrdom day.
- Singh was born on December 26, 1899, to a very poor family in the Sangrur district of Punjab.
- His birth name was Sher Singh.
- Singh joined the British Indian Army during the First World War as a manual labourer, serving overseas.
- It was after his return to India in 1919 that his life as a revolutionary began.
- In the two decades of political activism that followed – activism that spanned four continents and more than 20 countries – Singh took on different names and occupations.
- At one point, he was known as Ude Singh; at another, Frank Brazil.
- His last nom de guerre was Mohammad Singh Azad, a name he considered a symbol of communal harmony and anti-colonialism.
A revolutionary career
- Udham Singh’s lifelong association with the Ghadar Party began in 1919 after he returned from his second stint in the British Indian Army in Mesopotamia.
- After serving for two years, he had merely Rs 200 to his name. This sense of betrayal at the hands of the British, alongside anger at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, pushed Singh towards Ghadar revolutionaries.
- He quickly became one of their campaigners, distributing their revolutionary literature throughout Punjab’s villages.
- He opened a shop in Amritsar, which became the centre of his revolutionary activities. During this time, he also got in touch with the militant Babbar Akali movement and began organizing with them.
- However, it was during his time in the United States that he got deeply involved in the Ghadar movement and became one of its prominent activists.
- Singh illegally migrated to the US in 1924 via Mexico, eventually settling in San Francisco, the epicentre of the Ghadar movement in North America.
- He was sponsored by the Ghadar Party to visit [numerous cities in America] to give them a first-hand account of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, to promote the growth of local branches of the party, and to raise funds.
- In addition to his involvement with the Ghadar Party, Singh also launched his own party, the Azad Party, as an offshoot of the Ghadar movement.
- The party had the twin objectives of campaigning for Indian freedom and collecting funds for revolutionary groups in India.
- Singh was firmly embedded in an international network of Ghadar revolutionaries.
- He arrived in India with the intention of accelerating and radicalising the anti-colonial struggle, bringing with him arms and Ghadarite propaganda.
- However, on 30th August 1927, he was arrested in Amritsar under the Arms Act for the possession of two revolvers, one pistol, ammunition, and copies of the prohibited paper, Ghadr-di-Gunj. Along with Ghadr-di-Gunj, other “seditious” literature was found in his possession
- Udham Singh was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
- Since he was a difficult prisoner for the authorities to manage, he was transferred from one jail to another. It was in one of those jails that he met Bhagat Singh.
- Udham Singh quickly befriended Bhagat Singh and was so captivated by his charisma that he called him his “guru” and “best friend”, and carried a photo of him in his wallet.
- In line with HSRA revolutionaries, Udham Singh too tried to use his trial as a platform to put forward his political and revolutionary ideas and undertook a forty-day-long hunger strike.
- Two years after being released from prison in 1931, Udham Singh left for England.
A footloose labourer
- Throughout much of his life, Udham Singh was not only a revolutionary: he was also a migrant worker.
- After arriving in London in the autumn of 1934, Singh continued to work various working-class jobs.
- He worked as a peddler, a carpenter and as an electrician.
- In London, he also joined the Indian Workers Association (IWA), an organisation formed by Surat Ali, a communist and a trade unionist associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain.
- The IWA had the twin objectives of improving the conditions of Britain’s migrant working classes, alongside campaigning for India’s freedom.
- He is known as the “patient assassin” or the “lone assassin” who shot dead Michael O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab under whose administration the infamous Amritsar massacre took place and who later even endorsed Brigadier-General Dyer, the perpetrator of the killings.
- On July 31, 1940, Udham Singh was hanged for this assassination.
Previous Year Question
Q.1) Consider the following freedom fighters: (2022)
- Barindra Kumar Ghosh
- Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee
- Rash Behari Bose
Who of the above was/were actively associated with the Ghadar Party?
- 1 and 2
- 2 only
- 1 and 3
- 3 only