Wednesday, 18 December 2013
Remembering Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah on martyrdom day-19th December through Bhagat Singh
Politics of Religion/Communalism and ‘The Last Message of Martyr of the Nation Sh. Ram Prasad Bismil’
Bhagat Singh was not only an atheist and socialist revolutionary, he was dead against communalism and wrote essays like-‘Religion wise riots and their Solution’, ‘Religion and our freedom Struggle’. He was votary of equal rights of Dalits and exhorted them ‘to rise like lions and snatch their rights!! What were Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries views about religion based communal politics is clear from the fact that even a religious revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil’s last message to the nation, which was translated in Punjabi by Bhagat Singh with his own note to it in ‘Kirti’-Punjabi journal, is reproduced below!
In January 1928 issue of ‘Kirti’, a Punjabi/Urdu journal established by Ghadarite revolutionaries in Amritsar in 1926, Bhagat Singh wrote a piece-‘The Last Message of Martyr of the Nation Sh. Ram Prasad Bismil’. Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaq Ulla Khan, Roshan Singh and Rajinder Nath Lahiri were hanged in Gorakhpur, Fyzabad, Allahabad and Gonda jails on 19th and 17thDecember 1927 as Kakori case convicts. Lahiri was executed two days earlier on 17thDecember itself in Gonda, other three were executed on 19th. Memorial to Bismil was built in premises of Gorakhpur jail, Ashafq was buried in his home town Shahajahanpur and his memorial is there, though he was hanged in Fyzabad jail. Faizabad was earlier spelled as Fyzabad. Roshan Singh’s memorial stands now in Allahabad, where he was executed, though that jail no more exists. Lahiri monument is in Gonda, all in U.P. Kakori is a small railway station near Lucknow where on 9th August 1925, a dacoity was conducted by revolutionaries of Hindustan Republican Army (HRA) to loot government treasury, in which eight thousand rupees were looted from Government treasury money. Chandershekhar Azad, leader of this group, as well as of HSRA later, could never be arrested, but many others were arrested. The four martyrs of Kakori case became most popular among Indian people, which were surpassed only by Bhagat Singh and his two other comrades-Rajguru and Sukhdev’s martyrdom later in 1931.Memorial to Kakori case martyrs and other convicts has been erected at that very point, where dacoity took place about two kilometre away from Kakori Railway station, where also a descriptive plaque has been put up. The whole area even today looks to be deep thick forest area. Other convicts with long sentences were Jogesh Chander Chatterjee, who rose to become Member of Parliament later, from 1956 till death in 1969, Sachindernath Sanyal, his brother Bhupendernath Sanyal, Sachindernath Baxi, Rajkumar Sinha, Vishnu Sharan Dublish, Ramkrishan Khatri, Mukundi Lal, Ramnath Pandey, Manmathnath Gupt, Ramdulare Trivedi, Suresh Chander Bhattacharya, Premkrishan Khanna, Govindcharan Kar etc. Kakori case prisoners observed hunger strikes in jails for long periods and on one occasion in 1930, Bhagat Singh sent a telegram from Lahore jail appealing to call of their hunger strike.
After the executions of Kakori case convicts in December 1927, Bhagat Singh wrote few pieces in next issue of ‘Kirti’ in January 1928 as a tribute to them-‘Tears of love for Kakori Martyrs’, which was an editorial of the journal; Bhagat Singh was part of editorial team and he wrote ‘The condition of Hangings of Kakori Martyrs.’ Earlier he had written ‘Introduction to Kakori Prisoners’ in May 1927 issue of ‘Kirti’. Later Bhagat Singh also a sent a telegram to imprisoned Kakori convicts other than four martyrs, when they were on hunger strike in 1930, through trial court. He translated this very significant message of Ram Prasad Bismil in Punjabi from Hindi with his approval and comment. Bismil’s message holds much significance today in context of Muzaffarnagar riots and increasing communalization of Indian polity, it is apt tribute to Bhagat Singh also. Later Bhagat Singh himself wrote on the menace of Communalism affecting Indian freedom movement many times in ‘Kirti’.
( Bismil’s last message with Bhagat Singh comment is being translated from ‘Kirti’ in English for the first time-Chaman Lal)
He has written an autobiographical sketch, which was published in ‘Swadesh’, paper of Gorakhpur. We are presenting the abridged form of that for readers, so that they should know the last thoughts of the revolutionary.
He writes on 16th (December, 1927-three days before execution)-(Bhagat Singh)
“The time of execution is fixed for 6.30 am on 19th December. Nothing to worry, I shall be reborn again and again due to God’s grace and my aim will be to ensure complete freedom for the world. That nature’s gifts should be equally shared by all and no one shall rule others. Everywhere people should have their democratic institutions. I now think it necessary to mention those things also which happened with Kakori prisoners after 6th April 1927 session court judgment. There was an appeal in Avadh Chief Court on 18th July. That was only on behalf of four persons sentenced to death. But police filed counter appeal for enhancing the sentence. Then others also filed appeals, but Sh. Sachinder Nath Sanyal, Sh. Bhupender Nath Sanyal and approver Banwari Lal did not appeal. Pranvesh Chatterjee became approver and withdrew appeal. The death sentence remained unchanged, but ten year sentence of Sh. Jogesh Chatteree, Gobind Charan Kar and Mukandi Lal was enhanced to life imprisonment. Seven year sentence of Sh. Suresh Chander Bhattacharya (Editor of ‘Pratap’-Kanpur after the martyrdom of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi) and Sh Vishnu Sharan Dublish was enhanced to ten years. Ramnath Pandey’s sentence was reduced to three years and Pranvesh Chatterjee to four years. Prem Krishan Khanna’s dacoity sentence was reduced to five years. Other appeals were dismissed. Ashfaq’s death sentence remained unchanged and Sachinder Nath Bakshi did not file any appeal.
Before filing an appeal, I had already sent an application to Governor that ‘I have not taken part in any secret conspiracies nor will I have any links with these.’ This application was mentioned in mercy petition also. But judges did not pay any attention to it. I sent my own arguments from jail to Chief Court, but judges said that it is not the writing of Ram Prasad, but has been written with the help of very competent person. Rather they negatively said that ‘Ram Prasad is a dangerous revolutionary and if released, would do the same activities.’
After appreciating my intelligence, ability etc. They said that ‘he is a merciless murderer, who can even shoot them with whom he has no enmity’. Anyway, they had the pen, whatever they may write! But the decision of Chief Court shows that we have been sentenced to death due to vengeance only.
Appeal was dismissed, and then mercy petitions were filed with Governor and Viceroy. Almost all the elected members of U.P. legislative Council made a signed appeal to remission the death sentence of Ram Prasad Bismil, Sh. Rajinder Nath Lahiri, Sh. Ashfaqullah and Sh. Roshan Singh. With my father’s efforts, two big landlords and 250 honorary Magistrates gave a separate application. Assembly and Council of State’s 108 members gave application to Viceroy to change our death sentence. They also said that judge had said that ‘if they repent then sentences would be radically reduced’. There were calls from all sides, but there were our blood seekers on all sides and Viceroy also did not listen to us.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya met Viceroy with many people. Everybody thought that now death sentence would be remitted. But what was to happen. Quietly two days before Dussehra, all jails were sent telegrams that the date of executions has been fixed. When I was told about this telegram by Jail superintendent, I also said ‘now you do your job’, but on his insistence sent a mercy telegram to the emperor. That time idea of filing an appeal in Privy Council also struck. Sh. Mohan Lal Saxena advocate was given wire, when he was told that Viceroy had rejected all the applications, nobody believed. Convincing him, the appeal was filed in Privy Council, result was known, and appeal was dismissed prematurely.
Now the question will arise that knowing everything beforehand, why I sent apology, mercy petition, appeals after appeals? The only reason seems to me that politics is a game of chess. Government has said forcefully in Assembly about Bengal ordinance prisoners that there is strong evidence against them, which we don’t present in open court for the safety of witnesses, though Dakishneswar bomb and Shobha bazaar conspiracy case were heard in open court. Killing of CID superintendent case was also held in open court and Kakori case also took one and half years. 300 prosecution witnesses were produced, none had any problem, though it was also said that the root of Kakori case is in Bengal only. To expose the chinks in government declarations, I did all these things. I gave apology too, sent appeals also, but what was to happen. The reality is that the oppressor kills also and does not allow even to cry/sigh!
No revolt was going to take place by our being remaining alive. Till now never such strong appeals were made for revolutionaries in India. But what government has to do with it? It is proud of its power. It has arrogance of its oppression. Sir William Maurice had himself remitted the death sentences of Shahjahanpur and Allahabad riots. And these sentences were remitted when riots were taking place every day. If reducing the sentence would have emboldened others then same thing could be said about communal riots also. But here the issue was different.
I am not disappointed at this time of giving up my life that ‘this is wasted’. Sacrifices never go waste. May be because of our sighs that the idea of sending royal commission came to the mind of Lord Birkenhead, for whose boycott Hindu- Muslims got together again. God may give some wisdom to them fast and they become united again. I had told advocate Mohan Lal Saxena, after our appeal was dismissed, that at least to commemorate us this time Hindu-Muslim leaders should be united.
Government had mentioned that Sh. Ashfaqullah Khan is the right hand man of Ram Prasad. If a devotee Muslim like Ashfaq could be right hand man of Arya Samajist like Ram Prasad in revolutionary movement, then why other Hindus and Muslims can’t unite forgetting their petty interests? Ashfaq is first such Muslim, who is being executed in connection with Bengal revolutionary party. God has listened to my prayer. My task is over. I have shown India/Hindustan by getting one Muslim youth for sacrifice that Muslim youth can also sacrifice life for the country even more enthusiastically than Hindu youth and he had passed all the tests. Now no one shall dare say that Muslims should not be trusted. This was first experiment which succeeded.
Ashfaq! May god give peace to your soul. You have saved the honour of mine and all Muslims and also showed that like in Turkey and Egypt, in India also one can find such Muslim youth.
Now my only request to countrymen is that if they have even an iota of sorrow at our death, then, with whatever means, they must establish Hindu-Muslim unity; that was our last wish and this only can be our memorial.All religions and all parties should consider Congress as a representative. Then the day is not far, when Britishers have to bow before Indians.
Whatever I am saying, same is the opinion of Sh. Ashfaq Ulla Khan Warsi. At the time of making appeal, I had talked to him in Lucknow; Ashfaq was not agreeable for giving mercy petition. Only on my insistence, he had done so.
I had even told the government that till it is not ready to trust me, it can keep me in jail or exile to some other country and not allow returning to India. But what government was to do. Government only wanted to hang us, to sprinkle salt on Indians/Hindustanis raw wounds, to make them writhe in pain. Some things may get balanced and by the time we are reborn and get ready to work, the condition of country should have improved.
Now my advice is that neither one should give any statement before British courts nor make any defence. One reason for making appeal was to get the execution date postponed and see the strength of youth and countrymen’s help! I was really disappointed in this. I had thought of breaking the jail, if it had happened, other three’s death sentence would also had been remitted. If government had not done it, I would have got it done. I knew its methods very well. I tried my best to come out/break jail, but got no help from outside. No youth turned up to help me. My request to youth is that till many people get educated; don’t pay attention to secret organisations. If they have desire to serve the country, they should work openly. Just listening to empty rhetoric and imagining green Pasteur’s, they should not put their lives in trouble. There is yet no time for secret work. We had lot of experiences during this trial, but government did not give us any opportunity to avail these. But for this both Indian and Britain’s English governments will regret.