Who was Udham Singh?
In the week gone by, there was an important date which Indians seem to have forgot over the years. After all the world is more interested in sleaze than patriots these days.
On April 13, 1919 thousands of people gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh (garden) near the Golden Temple in Amritsar, on Baisakhi. An hour after the meeting began as scheduled at 4:30pm, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer marched a group of sixty-five Gurkha and twenty-five Baluchi soldiers into the Bagh, fifty of whom were armed with rifles. Dyer had also brought two armoured cars armed with machine guns, however the vehicles were stationed outside the main gate as they were unable to enter the Bagh through the narrow entrance.
The Jallianwala Bagh was bounded on all sides by houses and buildings and had few narrow entrances, most of which were kept permanently locked. The main entrance was relatively wider, but was guarded by the troops backed by the armoured vehicles. General Dyer ordered troops to open fire without warning or any order to disperse, and to direct fire towards the densest sections of the crowd. He continued the firing, approximately 1,650 rounds in all, until ammunition was almost exhausted.
Apart from the many deaths directly from the firing, a number of deaths were caused by stampedes at the narrow gates as also people who sought shelter from the firing by jumping into the solitary well inside the compound. A plaque in the monument at the site, set up after independence, says that 120 bodies were plucked out of the well.
The wounded could not be moved from where they had fallen, as a curfew had been declared - many more died during the night. The number of deaths caused by the firing is disputed. The official figure given by the British inquiry into the massacre is 379 deaths, however the figure was around 1500.
There was one man who was injured in the shooting and his name was Udham Singh. He wanted to take revenge by killing O'Dwyer who was the mastermind behind the massacre. Despite numerous opportunities to strike, Singh awaited a right time when he could make more impact & internationalize the event. At last, the opportunity came on 13 March 1940, almost 21 years after the Jallianwala Bagh killings: A joint meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society was scheduled at Caxton Hall, and among the speakers was Michael O'Dwyer.
Singh concealed his revolver in a book specially cut for the purpose and managed to enter Caxton Hall. He took up his position against the wall. At the end of the meeting, the gathering stood up, and O'Dwyer moved towards the platform to talk to Lord Zetland. Singh pulled his revolver and fired. O'Dwyer was hit twice and died immediately. Then Singh fired at Lord Zetland, the Secretary of State for India, injuring him but not seriously. Incidentally, Sir Luis Dane was hit by one shot, which broke his radius bone and dropped him to the ground with serious injuries. A bullet also hit Lord Lamington, whose right hand was shattered. Udham Singh did not intend to escape. He was arrested on the spot.
Singh had told the court at his trial: "I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under the British rule. I have protested against this, it was my duty. What a greater honour could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland?"
Singh was also known as Ram Mohammed Singh Azad, symbolizing the unification of the three major religions of India: Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism. Singh is considered one of the best-known of the more extremist revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle; he is also sometimes referred to as Shaheed-i-Azam Sardar Udham Singh (the expression "Shaheed-i-Azam," Urdu: شهید اعظم, means "the great martyr").
Singh was hanged to death on July 31, 1940.