Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Remembering Principal Chhabil Das and Sita Devi by daughter Manorma Dewan-through Two Books

On my offer to contribute funds, Punjabi University Patiala has recently announced to innstitute an annual prize of ten thousand rupees with a medal in honour of Principal Chhabil Das of National College Lahore, teacher and friend of Bhagat Singh for writing original paper/thesis/book on Bhagat Singh or any other revolutionary freedom fighter or movement of Punjab prior to 1947 in Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi script(used in west Punjab in Pakistan). Principal Chhabil Das daughter Manomra Diwan memoirs are published in Hindi by NBT, New Delhi, these are being shared to know more about the legendry freedom fighter couple.

Remembering Principal Chhabil Das and Sita Devi by daughter Manorma Dewan- through Two Books



1.  Inqlabi Yatra(Revolutionary Journey)-Hindi, Manorma Diwan, National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2006, pages 144, price 55/Rupees


    A well-known journalist herself, Manorma Diwan is daughter of great freedom fighter couple-Principal Chhabil Das and Sita Devi. Her husband Dewan Birendernath was also a well-known journalist and Urdu novelist with literary name of Zafar Pyami. Manorma Diwan wrote two books on his family’s role in freedom struggle in Hindi. One-Inqlabi Yatra-Revolutionary Journey was published by National Book Trust (NBT) in 2006. This book is biography of her both parents. In 2006 itself, Remadhav, a new publisher of Hindi published her memoirs of freedom struggle days under the title-Azadi ki Basti-Lane of Freedom.

        This biography is divided into fifteen small chapters and does not follow the normal pattern of biographies, it is based more on memoirs of those days and in scattered manner. First chapter-Bannu se Dehradun also does not fall in the normal pattern of chronology. It describes how the atmosphere of Lahore, where the family lived in Lajpat Rai Bhavan of Servants of People’s society. Servants of People’s Society was formed by Lala Lajpat Rai in November 1921, before the arrest of Lala Lajpat Rai on 3rd December of same year.Chhabil Das had become life member of the society and was paid one hundred rupees honorarium per month for working full time for the society and living in society house. Chhabil Das services were given to National College, set up by Lala Lajpat Rai in May 1921, where he was teaching before taking over as Principal in 1922. Only in passing reference author has referred that her father Chhabil Das belonged to District Bannu of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), now renamed as Khyber Pakhtunva in Pakistan, from where he came to Lahore. She refers to her mother Sita Devi belonging to Dehradun, where her father Acharya Ramdev was teacher in Gurukul Kangri. In the very first chapter author refers to Bhagat Singh, being the favourite student of Chhabil Das, who used to call him ‘Guru ji’, he was just six years younger to his teacher. Bhagat Singh had objected to Chhabil Das marriage as he thought that by marrying, he would not be able to teach the lesson of revolution to his students. Chhabil Das, along with Professor Brijnarain of Economics and BPL Bedi, father of actor Kabir Bedi, used to go to villages to hold schools for peasants and explain them meaning of socialism. Chhabil Das was also made editor of Lala Lajpat Rai’’s Urdu daily ‘Bande Matram’ from Lahore. Author’s mother had Vishard degree in Sanskrit and taught for some time in Dev Samaj College Lahore.

                          In second chapter Jailon ke sathi-Comrades of jails-Sitadevi remained many times in jails, including during 1942 Quit India movement. Savitri Devi, wife of former Punjab Chief minister Comrade Ramkrishan, her daughter and author’s sister Vijya(Chauhan), Satyavati-mother of former Vice President of India Krishan Kant and more. Sita Devi learnt English during her jail stay and participated in many agitations inside jail itself, including putting up national flag on jail gate in the dead of night. Comrade BPL Bedi has mentioned in his memoirs that how they had organised peasant school in Bhagat Singh’s village chak no. 105 in Lyallpur district on 23rd March-martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh in 1935. These schools were held in different villages and sometimes leaders of Ghadar party like Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna and baba Karam Singh also used to join these schools. Author refers to Comrade Ramchand as Chacha ji(Uncle), who was close comrade of Bhagat Singh in forming Naujwan Bharat Sabha and who has written very important books on revolutionary movement. Chhabil Das has joined national movement, when he was doing his M.A. degree course in Dyal Singh College Lahore. Next chapter is focussed on Secularism-Nationalism and ideological commitment. In this chapter author has mentioned that while her father came from Sanatan Dharm background, but became atheist, her mother came from more rational background of Arya Samaj at that time. In this chapter author depicts some background of her father’s birth place, NWFP was formed by Lord Curzon in 1904-5 as separate state from Sindh. Author has also mentioned the sad killing of her Uncle Master Bhavani Das and Prof. Brijnarain-both of them has decided to stay back in post partition Lahore in Pakistan. In next chapter-Fearless fighters-author has depicted the personality features f her parents, both were fearless before British colonialists. One specific chapter is devoted to National College, Bhagat Singh and Naujwan Bharat Sabha. Chhabil das taught English in college and later he became Principal of college. Young students of his college including Bhagat Singh organised Naujwan Bharat Sabha and Chhabil Das wrote many booklets for them like- Chingaria, Inqlabi Sharare, Socialism, Inqlab Zindabad, Hum Swaraj kyon Chahte Hain in Urdu. In this chapter mention is made of Bhagat Singh’s reading habit, he devoured books in Dwarka Das library and one of his most favourit book was Carlyle’s ‘Cry for Justice’, his other favourite being Dan Breen’s-My fight for Irish freedom(Bhagat Singh translated this book in Hindi actually) and Heroes of Russia.Manorma Diwan refers to two groups in Naujwan Bharat Sabha at that time. One supporting Irish line and the other supporting Soviet model. Bhagat Singh was part of Irish group, but later he promoted Soviet model most and renamed HRA into HSRA. Author refers to last meeting of Bhagat Singh and Chhabil Das in January 1929 at Calcutta, where both had gone for 1928 Congress session. They met at the house of Seth Chhaju Ram, where Bhagat Singh was staying at that time. Naujwan Bharat Sabha was formed on Italy’s Young Italy of Gari Baldi and was called Young India Association first, later it got this name after discussing many more names-Tarun Bharat Sangh, Anjuman Naujwan-e-Hind etc. First meeting in this regard was held in National College itself in 1924, it was decided to use Hindustani language for its functioning.

    In next chapter author focuses on Lala Lajpat Rai and Servants of People’s Society. Chhabil Das was influenced most by Lala Lajpat Rai and remained in close contact with him. He preferred Urdu daily Bande Matram than English weekly The People, also brought out by Lalaji. Jamna Das Akhtar was his collegue in Bande Matram.  Dwarka Das Library was another institution built by Lala Lajpat Rai, where he donated five thousand of his own books first. This was the place used most by revolutionaries. There is some contradiction in reference to Bhagat Singh’s admission to National college, it is written that he was only tenth and not Inter, yet he was given admission in BA Hons, at another place it is written that he was ninth pass and given admission in Inter/BA, but he passed Inter and than jumped into revolutionary activities. But his command over English is underlined in both references, he was interviewed for admission by Bhai Permanand and Chhabil Das and lot many questions were asked on History and Bhagat Singh replied in English, impressing the selectors. In chapter-Revolutionary Pen-author has listed some of Chhabil Das books and pamphlets, apart from mentioned earlier, he wrote-Bhukha Bahisht-Hungry Heaven-on Kangra’s beautiful place. Biggest sin of the wordl-Poverty, Few conversations with youth, Indian peasant, Greatest man of the world, Message of twentieth century, How India was enslaved, Wealth of nations, Blowing hot and cold and few more, all in Urdu. Chhabil Das was propaganda secretary of Punjab Congress party during 1926 to 1934. Comrade Sohan Singh Josh was general secretary of the party-Akalis, Communists and Congress-all three mixed in Congress partyin those days. Chhabil Das was arrested in June 1929, the last peasant school they organised was at Haripur village of Gurdaspur district. He was made part of ‘war council’ of Congress party after it declared 26th January as Independence day in 1930 at Lahore. Chhabil Das remained under strict police watch during 1926 to 1936. In police files of those days, Naujwan Bharat Sabha and its activists Bhagat Singh and Abdul Majeed were also mentioned in CID files.

      Author has mentioned passing away of Chhabil Das on 11th December 1988 at Jalandhar and of Sita Devi on 20th March 1974 at Delhi, where she was living as Rajya Sabha member in those days. There has been reference to Chhabil Das’s school days and his talent, though he was considered a bit naughty. He stood second in Matriculation examination of Panjab University in 1917. He stood third in FA examination from same University at Dyal Singh College Lahore, where he studied during 1917-1920 after matriculation. He read most of classic English and world writers during his college days. From Shakespeare to Victor Hugo, Ruskin, Shelley, Milton, Keats, Tennyson, Tolstoy, Ibsen etc. Chhabil Das spent lot of time in Kangra valley and wrote Hungry Heaven book to depict the sufferings of hill people. In chapter-MLA, Parliamentarian and patriot, author has focused on the role played by her mother Sita Devi in Punjab Assembly from Lahore to Shimla, as MP in Delhi. She stayed on in Lahore after partition as she was then MLA there. Manorma Diwan’s film maker daughter Saba Diwan has made documentary for Doordarshan-‘Sita’s Family’, which depicts her role as mother also. Manorma Diwan in one chapter-Progressive, Liberal and Modern has depicted both her parent’s life and views on life. They had three daughters, Manorma Diwan being the third daughter and son Ashok, which was favoured more than daughters, author has shown weakness of her father for male child quite frankely, though daughters were not denied any facility in life, not overtly discriminated.  In chapter-Struggle in independent India-first general elction of 1952 is described, in which Swarn Singh won for parliament from Jalandhar and Sita Devi for Punjab assembly with comfortable margin. Pandit Nehru also campaigned for her in that election. Lala Jagat Narain contesting on Jansangh ticket defeated Sita Devi in 1957 elections. Later she was elected to Punjab Vidhan Parishad and in 1971 to Rajya Sbha. She was part of Bhim Sen Sachar group of Congress which was opposed by Gopichand Bhargav group. Chhabil Das remained attached to Bhim Sen Sachar as his advisor during his Chief Minister and Governor days. In chapter In the eyes of Comrades and Revolutionaries, author has mentioned Jagjit Singh Anand, Press Asia International formed by Manorma and her husband Dewan Birendernath, mention is made of Manorma sister Dr. Santosh Sood, who taught in Panjab University Chandigarh’s Political science department. In chapter-Student and Inspirer, author has returned to Bhagat Singh again, who was Chhabil das student and inspirer as well, even in jail, he was asking for books, while seeing review of a book on Lenin in The Tribune in jail, he asked his lawyer Pranath Mehta, to being that book, which he was reading before being executed. His command over English is praised again. He is mentioned as most favourite student of Chabil Das and was very cheerful person as per his teacher. Chhabil Das was unhappy at Mahatma Gandhi attitude after his execution. Author has expressed her unhappiness at Bhagat Singh being projected as Sikh revolutionary. She has given reference to Comrade Ramchandra book-Ideology and Battle Cries of Indian Revolutionaries and said that pages 112-115 of that book Bhagat Singh’s own written two English poems have been reproduced. As per author’s father Bhagat Singh wrote very good poetry in English. He also wrote scripts and songs for Dramatic group of National College, in which he performed also. All teachers of National College agreed that they never saw such talented and all qualities holder student like Bhagat Singh. Author has given brief description of Chhabil das books in this chapter, who underlined Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, Lenin as the greatest human beings of the world, apart from Rousseau and Voltaire. She has mentioned Comrade Ramkrishan, who used to add B.A.(National) title to his name and Hindi writer Yashpal as his favourite coleagues. In last chapter-Nice man and loving friend, author has refred to couple’s and other friends caring attitude, mention is made of Brijnarain, Giani Hira Singh Dard and Devdutt Atal, who formed Bal Bharat Sabha,Dhanwantri, Comrade Paras Ram, Ganpat Rai,  are also mentioned. The concluding phrase of the book is-Their Revolutionary journey was successful!

 Five books have been refered in reference section, which include three by Comrade Ramchand, one by Satyaketu Vidyalankar’s History of Arya Samaj and one report on Servants of People’s society by Satyapal.

    Not written in much organised form, still the book is valuable for knowing the personalities of freedom struggle.





2.  Azadi ki Basti(Hindi)-Freedom Residence, Manorma Diwan, 2006, Remadhav Ghaziabad, pages 172, price 100/ Rupees


     IN 2006 EXPRESSING HER DISMAY AT INCREASING COMMUNALISM, Manorma DiwAN WROTE IN BRIEF introduction to this book that ‘her relation with Lahore is such that even after such long gap, it keeps getting more strengthed’!

    This is proper  book of memoirs and her memoirs are jotted down in 15 chapters. While there are repetitions in both her books published in same year and on same theme, yet this book seems to be stylistically more appealing. First chapter is –in Lajpat Rai Bhavan-in Lahore, almost like first chapter of her book Inqlabi Yatra, additional information is former Vice President Krishan Kant mother Satyavati celebrating her 100th birthday on 23rd February 2005, she lived for few more years. Second chapter is on her –‘Revolutionary Parents’, discussed in detail in other book. Here 1942 arrests scene is created impressively.  In chapter Inqlab Zindabad, focus is on National college set up on 16th May 1921, Lala Lajpat Rai, Chancellor, Bhai Permanand VC, Acharya Jugal Kishore-Principal, Chhabil Das-Registrar and Professor, later Principal after Jugal Kishore retired, Number of students 153, closed in 1926. Bhagat Singh admitted in 1922 at the age of 15 years without Matric, admitted in first year, he passed Inter-FA in 1923 and started doing BA. Bhagat Singh-Chhabil Das-Teacher-taught, but friends, family relations with BS family. Both brothers-Kultar-Kuljit(Kulbir) digressed, no memorial at Hussainiwala till 1967(1965-YB Chavan laid foundation). No film yet on Chandershekhar Azad/Aruan Asaf Ali, Lahore’s Ratan cinema showed KL Sehgal’s Shahjahan, Viplov Thakur, daughter of Comrade Paras Ram in HP? Toady-British touts were called. Manorma Diwan entered Lahore women’s jail to be with her mother due to young age. She met many women criminal cases convicts and even saw how a woman prisoner was hanged, affecting her mind condition for some time, she disclosed it to her mother much later. In chapter-Tiranga on British jail-author describes the valour of women prisoners, who put on Triclolour Congress flag on British jail in Lahore on 9th August 1943, to mark Quit India anniversary-a big event. One chapter is on Aruna Asaf Ali,Freda Bedi and Rameshwari Nehru, all great fighters in Lahore. Aruna remained Mayor of Delhi in 1958. Baba Pyare Lal Bedi was from famous Bedi clan of Dera Babab Nanakand his mother Phool Kaur was daughter of Kapurthla Diwan(Prime Minister) Harikishan Das. His brother Trilochan Bedi was ICS officer. Studyin in Oxford, he got involved with British girl Freda, whom he married and who took part in freedom struggle with Pyare Lal bedi. In last years Freda became Buddhist. Mention is made of Naujwan Bharat Sabha and Congress activist kedarnath Sehgal defeating RSS candidate Beliram. Freda died in 1977 and her last rites were performed in author hme in Delhi. Comrade Ramchand was from Nurpur kangra and organised NBS with Bhagat Singh, remained Punjab MLA, wrote three books on revolutionaries at the age of 80 years on his own expenses. Ashq couple, Hansraj Rehbar visits to home are mentioned. Women leader Shanno Devi, who remained Deputy Speaker of Punjab assembly is also here. Rameshwari Nehru was married to Jawahar cousin Brij Nehru and her relinquished Lahore MLA seat was offered to Sita Devi, mother of Manorma in 1945.

   In chapter revolutionary Bal sabha and Nanhe qaidi, Manorma and Santosh joined Bal Sabha, as Indira made in Anand Bhavan in Allahabad. But her sister Vijya even at 13 years of age was active with Communists and was even jailed young, but she was not bothered. In one chapter-Where these People have Gone-author remembers Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan, Iftarudin of Lahore, at whose house Nehru used to stay. Sarojini Naidu. One chapter is dedicated to Our Dede(Dadi-grandmother/paternal), who was conservative, but tolerated everything. On Hindu Code Bill, not only Ambedkar, Sita Devi also faced RSS wrath. In chapter-A big political family-author mentions Lala Achint Ram family-his wife Satyavati, son Krishan Kant, daughter Subhadra,Suman Krishan kant, Avtar-Pushpa-InderGujral family, Seth Radhakrishan in Amritsar, Comrade Ramkrishan, his wife Savitri died in 2004. Harikishan Premi etc. were all part of this big family. In chapter devoted to Kabir,  Guru Nanak and Christ, author notes impact of these liberal saints. Mention is made of Bhagat Singh’s letter of 24th July 1930 to his friend Jaidev to bring many mentioned books from Dwarkadas library. In one chapter Anarkali, Noorjahan, Jindan and Pandei are depicted as great women from Lahore, but discriminated as women. Anarkali tomb made in 1604 by Salim(Jahangir), which took ten years to complete, now in Punjab archives, Pandei lived close to Anarkali tomb. Noorjahan tomb is in bad shape. Another chapter is Shalimar Bagh vs. Bulleshah-beauti of Shalimar garden and Bulle’s sufi poetry is mentioned and last chapter of these memoirs is- The tales of Tobha Tek Singhs-author blames Lord Mountbatten for partition of the country and thinks it to be his conspiracy. First communal riots in Baluchistan in 1946 finds reference, where ‘Chaman ke angoor’-Grapes of Chaman(a town) were famous.Partition and its fall out the migrated millions are mentioned and Manto story as symbol Family lived with Amarnath Sood after migration in Dharmshala, then in Amritsar before settling in Jalandhar.

        These are scattered memoirs but one can feel the touch of Lahore and days of freedom struggle, feel of revolutionaries and warmth of those days. Important books.


Two books on Jatin Das-born 27th October 1904

25. Shaheed Jatin Das: jivani and shahidi(Punjabi-ed.), ed MJS Waraich, Lokgeet prakashan Chandigarh 2007 ed., pages 96, price 100 rupees/

  This books edited by renowned historian of Ghadar party MJS Waraich has used Jatin Chakarvarti’s introduction, year not mentioned, which tells that Jatin das came from Anushilan samiti, which was formed on 24th March 1902. He was from South Calcutta and was comrade of Trailokya Chakrvarti, Pratul Das, Dhiresh Ganguli like revolutionaries. Anushilan samiti’s Dhaka branch was formed by Pulin Behari Das in 1905. Both were declared illegal in 1909. There were more than 500 branches of Samiti in East Bengal itself. It was going on path to Marxism later. It was revived as Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) in 1923 with the efforts of Jogesh Chatterjee and Sachindernath Sanyal in UP. Jatin Das, Bhagat Singh and Rajender Lahiri were in touch with it. Banwari Lal’s confessional statement in Kakori case could not trap Jatin Das and Bhagat Singh in the case as their real names were not known even to Banwari Lal. Police could not find ‘Balwant’ or ‘kamini’ kaka. HRA or later HSRA renamed itself as Revolutionary Socialist Party of India in its revival in Bihar in 1941 and Jogesh Chatterjee became its Geberal Secretary in 1946 in Delhi. This introduction is important to know about RSP of today, now getting diminished day by day. The writer of first essay in collection out of total five is not mentioned, but seems like Aditya Prasann Rai, who wrote Jatin das biography as early as in 1929 itself, immediately after martyrdom of the revolutionary.

    Other memoirs are by Jatin brother Kiran Chander Das, who was allowed to be with Jatin Das during last days of his life in Lahore jail. Jatindernath Sanyal, BK Dutt and Shiv Verma’s memoirs are also included in this slim volumeKiran Chander Das’s memoirs narrate interviews of Jatin Das inside jail of Dr. Gopi Chand Bhargav and PD Tandon, who had tried to impress upon Jatin to accept food. Mention is made of A C Bali, later Tribune journalist, Dewan Chaman Lal, Subhas Bose, Motilal Nehru. Train journey with Jatin body is also narrated, Pt. Nehru being at Kanpur station at 2.30 am. Promila, sister of BK Dutt and Durga Bhabhi were accompanying body on route to Calcutta. Hasrat Mohani had hheld meeting in the day, where Nehru spoke emotionally.  Crowd was unprecedented in Kanpur history. Father of Jatin announced that he is proud of his son, but would not see his body and body was shown fire by Kiran.

  Jatindernath Sanyal the first biographer of Bhagat Singh in 1931, brother of Sachindernath Sanyal in his memoir has mentioned Jatin birth date as 27th October 2004. B K Dutt has mentioned Rajendra Prasad leading procession in Patna and Jinnah’s speech in assembly on Jatin.

   Translator’s names are not given, could be MJS Waraich himself as well, but it is very useful book in Punjabi on Bhagat Singh’s comrade and close friend Jatin Das.



26. Mrityuvijayi Yatindernath Das, Aditya Prasann Rai, ed. M M Juneja(Hindi), ed 2013, first 1929, Modern Publishers Zirakpur, pages 122, price 200/rupees

   The book was first published in 1929,but no information about from where and in Hindi or Bengali. In his brief editorial note editor Juneja has mentioned about train journey of Jatindas body from Lahore to Calcutta, beginning 6.40 am on 14th September and reaching Calcutta on 15th September 8 pm, just 37 hours journey. Train crossed Agra, where Gandhi was there, but did not come to station, addressed meeting in the day. The funeral procession on 16th September began at 7 am and concluding at 2 pm. Editor met one Madan Gopal in 1976, who was part of the procession. Information is from book itself.

      Editor claimed to have added family tree-but it contains only grandfather Mahendernath Das and parents-Bankimbehari Das/Suhashini Das plus brother name Kiranchander Das. The progeny of even Kiran Das is not added! Life events are taken from book, but useful in this form. Book has six chapters of original author and Shiv Verma sketch of Jatindas. There are three appendices on Terence Macswiny, John Howard and Jatin message. Author Rai has acknowledged to have benefitted from likely Bengali language biography of Jatin Das written by Surender Nath Chakravrati.

  First chapter of book is devoted to birth and family. Ancestral village of Jatin family was Ichhapur. Khendu was childhood pet name of Jatin. He passed Matriculation from Bhavanipur in 1920 @16 years of age. He had college education from South Sunburban college. C R Das was Congress leader, at Das call, he left college and by 1922, he was volunteer and went to jail. 1924 he completed FA degree and joined BA. In 1925 was arrested again and observed 30 days hunger strike, making British officer to apologise. He remained in Mianwali and Chattgaon jails, later he studied  hard and read history/political science books. Met Bhagat Singh in December 1928, came over to Punjab by March 1929 to give bomb making training at Agra, arrested on 14th June 1929 and died on 13th September at 1.05 pm. Cremated on 16th September in presence of lakhs of people.

  Second chapter focuses upon hunger strike. He began hunger strike on 10th or 13th July but in ten days his condition deteriorated due to forced feeding. Kiran Chander Das remained in Lahore from July beginning itself. Third chapter is on cremation of Jatin.At Lahore Lala duni Chand, Dr. Gopichand Bhargav, Dr. Alam, Pratima Devi gave support to body to put in train. Mohan Lal Gautam, Dr. Benarsi Das, A C Bali went up to Calcutta in train. 50 policement in other compartment accompanied. Train stopped at Delhi, Mathura, Agra, Kanpur Mughal Sarai, Gaya, Dhanbad, Vardhman , every where thousands of people came on station. Fourth chapter is on tributes to Jatin processions in hundreds of towns on 14th September. Fifth chapter is on Lahore conspiracy case. Ramchander was joint editor of Bande Matram Lahore, he was sentenced to two years imprisonmentNaujwan Bharat sabha activists were also sentenced. On 11th April 1929, Legislative speaker Vithal Bhai Patel moved resolution to condmen BS/Dutt. JL Nehru/Dewan Chaman Lal like socialists also condemned. Sukhdev arrested on 15th April from Lahore. There are details of proceedings of Lahore case and in sixth chapter Jail committee details are given made after hunger strikes.

 Appendix on Macswiny tells he was elected MP from Ireland, he died after 74 days hunger strike on 24th October 1920. He was mayor of Cork city , was born on 28th March 1879. Second appendix is sketch of John Howard born in 1724 or 26 and he was instrumental in Jail reforms in England, died in 1790.

   It is good narration of 1929 revolutionary activities, though biographical sketch of Jatin is quite brief.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Bhagat Singh’s Letters from Punjab Archives, Lahore



Indian Cultural Forum

Culture Matters

Bhagat Singh’s Letters from Punjab Archives, Lahore

September 28, 2020 EDITED BY CHAMAN LAL

Image courtesy: Newsclick


In March 2018, Punjab Archives in Lahore, for the first time, displayed some documents from more than a hundred files relating to Bhagat Singh trial in an exhibition — "Bhagat Singh’s Life and Death (1907-31)". Apart from many other documents, it contained a few more letters of Bhagat Singh's which were not in the public domain earlier. Lahore journalist Ammara Ahmad, who is working on a book Footsteps of Bhagat Singh in Lahore, has shared her photographs of this exhibition.

1. Note in Urdu by Jail official with date-31/5/1929

The Superintendent (Special duty),
C.I.D. (Political Branch)

Dear Sir,

I will feel much obliged if you will kindly allow me to have an interview with my father as I have got very important instructions to give him for my defence counsel in connection with the Delhi case.

I hope you will not disallow it on the ground that I already have had an interview as the matter is very urgent.

Hoping to be favoured,

Yours etc.
Sd./ Bhagat Singh

2. Special Tribunal of three High Court judges was notified by Chief Justice of Punjab High Court Chief Justice Shadi Lal, on 1st May 1930 for the trial of Lahore Conspiracy case. This tribunal consisted of Justice Coldstream as President of the tribunal and Justice Agha Haider and justice Hilton as members. While on 5th May five comrades of Bhagat Singh wrote to the tribunal their decision to boycott the tribunal, 10 other comrades including Bhagat Singh wrote on 8th May 1930, their response to avail legal help for the case.

In the court of the Special Tribunal
Lahore Conspiracy case, Lahore
Crown vs. Sukhdev & Others
Charged under secs 302, 120-B+121-A, IPC
This humble petition of the accused persons
Bhagat Singh & others most respectfully:

1.     That the petitioners are charged with most serious offences including sec. 302 with 120B and 109 IPC

2.     That the majority of the petitioners have been lodged for the last eight or nine months in jail.

3.     That with one exception, all the petitioners as stated below belong to distant provinces and as such have no relative here to look after their defence.


1.     Ajay kumar ghosh–Allahabad, U.P

2.     Bejoy Kumar Sinha—-Cawnpore,U.P

3.     Prem Dutt —Srinagar, Kashmir

4.     Kamal Nath Tewary—Betiah, Bihar

5.     Shiv Verma —-Hardopi, U.P

6.     Jai Dev Kapoor—HardoiU.P

7.     S.N. Pande—–Cawnpore, U.P.

8.     Kishori Lal—Quetta, Baluchistan

9.     Des Raj—Sialkot, guardian outside India

4.     That five of the petitioners are unrepresented accused defending their case themselves.

5.     That for the reasons stated above in paras 3+4, the petitioners can make arrangement for their defence only through their friends, attorneys and members of defence committee.

6.     That it is therefore prayed that in the interest of justice, the learned court be pleased to grant the petitioners following facilities-
I. Interviews with friends, attorneys, legal advisors and members of defence committee members and relatives in court during lunch hours or after the rising of the court during the one hour stay after accused for their mutual consultation
II. Instructions should be sent to the Supdts. of Borstal and Central jails for allowing interviews with the same.
III. Subject to accommodation the legal advisors of the unrepresented accused be given seats in the body of the court room.
IV. Recognition of the defence committee and permission to two members of committee to sit in the body of the court subject to accommodation.

7.     That it is prayed that in view of the large number of prosecution exhibits of this case, one of the day of the week preferably Saturday be set for the examination of the exhibits by the accused and their counsels.

Hand written and signed by-

1.     Bhagat Singh

2.      Bejoy Kumar Sinha

3.     Ajay Kumar Ghosh

4.     SuPande

5.     Jai Deva Kapor

6.     Kishori Lal Ratan

7.     Prem Datt Varma

8.     Shiv Varma

9.     Kamalnath Tewari

10.                        Des Raj

8th May 1930

(Official Stamp Lahore)

These letters have been published in The Bhagat Singh Reader edited by Chaman Lal, published by HarperCollins India in 2019 (Page 22-23, 586-87).

Chaman Lal is professor (retired) and former chairperson of the Centre of Indian Languages at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is honorary advisor, Bhagat Singh Archives & Resource Centre, Delhi Archives, and fellow of Panjab University, Chandigarh.