Friday, 9 August 2019

Madan Lal Dhingra by Bhagat Singh-Tribute in August

         Madan Lal Dhingra             March, 1928 ‘Kirti’     (Original Punjabi)
         (Madan Lal Dhingra-Shaheed Bhagat Singh wrote a series called ‘Azadi ki bheint Shahaadatein’ (‘Sacrifices for Liberty’) in Kirti from March 1928 to October 1928. While the people of Punjab were acquainted with Indian martyrs through these essays, at the same time, these essays help one gauge the questions arising in the minds of Bhagat Singh and his friends. The series of essays were written under the author name as ‘Vidrohi’ (‘Rebel’). In August 1928 the aim of this series of essays was described in these words: “Our aim is to write a chronological narrative of the agitations by the leaders even while publishing their biographies so that our readers can understand how consciousness was born in Punjab, and how the was work carried on and to what purpose, and what was the ideology for which those martyrs gave up their lives.” A summarized version of this essay was published in ‘Chand’ in the ‘Phansi’ issue (November 1928)

                            There is no need to reiterate the fact that no other state made as many sacrifices for the freedom of the country as did the state of Punjab. As the twentieth century dawned, a new wave of unrest spread through India which manifested itself in the form of agitation for ‘Swadeshi’. Even then it was Punjab that was able to match Bengal. When the pain of watching the chains of slavery tighten day by day grew too intense, then a large number of young men, inflamed with a passion for patriotism, were no longer satisfied with mere lectures and proposals; and some ardent souls launched a movement to change the epoch. This agitation succeeded in attracting patriotic young men and these moths hovering around the flame of liberty even gave up their lives; and by showing fearlessness towards death, revived memories of their elders.

In his poem ‘Vidrohi’ (‘The Rebel’), Bengal’s revolutionary poet, Nazrul Islam describes how unique such epoch-changing or rebels are. He has painted a wonderful picture of the hearts, minds, temperaments, and desires of these rebellious braves who go hand in hand with death, helpers of the poor, soldiers of freedom, enemies of slavery, foes of tyrants, oppressors and willful rulers. At the very beginning he says –

Speak up, warrior! Say – My head is held high,
The Himalayan peak bows its head
As it gazes at my head held high!                

Then he has described his firmness and gentleness. At places, he dances with death, at times, he is bent upon destroying the entire world in one blow. He crackles like lightning. He is sweet as music. He weeps in the midst of widows, slaves, the destitute, poor, hungry and the wretched. While describing the wondrous greatness of such wondrous lives, he makes the rebel say at the end –

I, the rebel, am now weary of battle; I shall find peace
Only the day the cries of the oppressed don’t rend the sky,
When the tyrant’s terrible sword no longer slices the battleground,
That is the day I shall find peace.

Such great rebels, who take on the entire world and throw themselves into the fire, forget all personal comfort and ease, they enhance the beauty of the world and adorn it further; and it is with their sacrifice that the world becomes a better place. Such brave souls are present in every country in every age. Even in Hindustan/India these gods who deserve to be worshipped have always taken birth, are being born and will continue to do so. In Hindustan/India, it has been Punjab that has produced a greater number of such gems, and the first such martyr of the twentieth century was Shri Madan Lal Ji Dhingra.

He was not such a leader that his biography would be published while he was alive and distributed and sold for a couple of annas. He was not an avatar either, one whose ‘greatness’ was predicted. So many of the events in his life are not even known to us; so that we are able to shout, ‘Talented ones show some early signs’.

He was a poor and unfortunate rebel. His father refused to recognize him as his son. Patriots and sycophants alike, even the popular leader in those days, Bipin Chandra Pal, abused him roundly in the newspapers. Then tell me, how in those circumstances, can one be successful in stringing together any facts regarding his life?

We have sat down to write his life-story in such difficult circumstances. Over a period of time we might even forget their names; that is why we are presenting this narrative with the few facts that are available.

He was perhaps a resident of Amritsar. He belonged to a good family. He went to England for further studies after his graduation. It is said that there he indulged in pleasures of life. This cannot be stated with certainty, but it is not inconceivable either. He was of a very romantic and sensitive temperament; that we do find evidence of. A famous detective of Scotland Yard in England, Mr. E.T. Woodhall, published his diary in the weekly newspaper, Union Jack. In the March 1925 issue, he wrote about Mr. Madan Lal Dhingra. This detective had been assigned to watch him. He writes –

“Dhingra was an extraordinary man. Dhingra’s passion for flowers was remarkable.” (Originally in English)

He further writes that Dhingra would go and sit in a beautiful corner in a garden and gaze like a poet at a flower for hours and sometimes a very keen glint would flash in his eyes. Noticing this, E.T. Woodhall writes –

“There is a man to keep an eye on. He will do something desperate someday.” (Originally in English)

We mentioned earlier that he might have got trapped in the pleasures of life. The story ahead is that the impact of the Swadeshi movement reached England and as soon as Mr. Savarkar reached there, he started an organization by the name of India House. Madan Lal also became a member of that.

                        In the meantime, in India the epoch-changing people had established secret societies because open revolt was being crushed. So much so that in 1908, a case was filed as the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy. Mr. Kanhai and Mr. Satyendra Nath were given death by hanging. Dhirendra and Ulhaskar were also sentenced to death by hanging at that time. These items of news reached England and these hot-blooded young men were inflamed. It is said that Shri Savarkar and Madan Lal Dhingra discussed these issues till very late into the night. To test his courage to give up even his life for the country, Savarkar asked Madan Lal to place his hand on the ground and stabbed his palm with a poker, but this Punjabi brave did not even let out the slightest squeal. The poker was pulled out. The eyes of both of them filled with tears. They embraced each other. Ah! What a beautiful time that was! How invaluable and rare were those tears! How beautiful a union! What greatness! How would we mere mortals know, we who are afraid of even the idea of death, how can we understand how noble, pure and heroic are those who sacrifice their lives for the sake of their country and community!

From the next day Dhingra did not go to India House or Savarkar’s organization, and went and joined the Indian students’ organization, run by Sir Curzon Wyllie, who organized both the Indian students and a special secret police to crush the puny efforts of the Indians to attain liberty. This Sir Wyllie was also the aide-de-camp of the Secretary of State for India. This incited the men in the India House and they began to call them traitors, conspirators, but Savarkar managed to pacify their anger by saying that after all was said and done, they had made great efforts to run their organization as well, so they should thank them. Anyway, some time passed without much happening.

                              There was a meeting in the Jahangir Hall of the Imperial Institute on the 1st of July, 1909. Sir Curzon Wyllie was also attending it. He was talking to a couple of people when suddenly Dhingra whipped out a pistol and aimed it at his head. Curzon Sahib let out a scream in fear, but before anything could be done, Madan Lal pumped two bullets straight into his heart and put him to eternal sleep. He was caught after a struggle. And this was a sensational act in the eyes of the entire world. Everyone began to curse and abuse him. His father sent a telegram from Punjab saying that he refused to recognize such a traitor, rebel and killer as his son. Indians held many meetings. Tall speeches were given. Many resolutions were passed; all of them against Dhingra. But even at that time there was a brave man, Savarkar, who supported him unreservedly. First he did not allow the resolution against him to be passed saying that the case was sub-judice and that they could not blame him in the existing circumstances. Finally they began to vote on this resolution, and when the President, Shri Bipin Chandra Pal asked if it could be taken as passed unanimously, Savarkar Sahib stood up and began his oration. Just then an Englishman punched him in the face and said – “Look! How straight the English fist goes.” He had barely finished speaking when an Indian youth struck him a blow with a club on the Englishman’s head and said – “Look! How straight the Indian club goes.” There was a furore. The meeting was suspended. The resolution could not be passed. Anyway!

The case was in the court. Madan Lal was very pleased. He seemed very much at peace. He was smiling in the face of death. He was fearless. Ah! He was a brave rebel. The speech that he gave at the end is proof of his goodness, patriotism and ability. We present it in his words. It was published in the Daily News dated the 12th of August.

“I admit the other day; I attempted to shed blood as a humble revenge for the inhuman hangings and deportation of patriotic Indian youth. In the attempt I have consulted none but my own conscience; I have conspired with none but my duty.”

“I believe that a nation held down by foreign bayonet is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to disarmed races, I attacked by surprise, since guns were denied to me I drew forth my pistol and fired.”

“As a Hindu, I felt that wrong to my country is insult to God. Her cause is the cause of Shri Rama; her service is the service of Shri Krishna. Poor in wealth and intellect, a son like me has nothing else to offer but his own blood, and so I have sacrificed the same on her altar.”

“The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die, and the only way to reach is by dying ourselves. Therefore I die and I glory in my martyrdom.”

My only prayer to God is – “May I be reborn of the same mother and May I redie in the same sacred cause, till the cause is successful, and she stands free for the good of humanity and to the glory of God – Bande Matram.” (Originally in English)

History shall remember the 16th of August, 1909. That day, the brave Dhingra, the one that made the voice of the Indian epoch-changing party in England resound, walked blithely to the gallows. Mrs. Agnes Smedley mentions this incident and writes – “He walked to the scaffold with his head high and shook off the hands of those who offered to support him, saying that he was not afraid of death.” (Originally in English)

Ah! He shrugged off the hands of those trying to offer him support and said, “I am not afraid of death.” Ah! Glory be to the immortal victory over death!”

“As he stood on the scaffold he was asked if he had a last word to say. He answered – “Bande Matram.” (Originally in English)

Such love for his mother! As he stood on the gallows, he was asked – ‘Do you wish to say anything?’ And the answer given was “Bande Matram! Mother India, I salute you.” The brave warrior went to the gallows; his corpse was buried inside itself and the Indians were not given permission to cremate his body and perform the last rites. Glory to his memory is blessed. Many salutes to the priceless diamond of a dead country!
(From The Bhagat Singh Reader published by HarperCollins)