Shaheed Udham Singh - The great martyr

Shaheed Udham Singh - The great martyr

Shaheed Udham Singh (December 26, 1899 - July 31, 1940) (Hindi: ???? ??? ???? ??????, Punjabi: ???? ??? ???? ?????) was one of the great patriots of India, with a burning desire to see hismotherland free from the clutches of British colonialism andimperialism. Udham Singh Kamboj was a son of Tehal Singh and born on26th December, 1899 at Sunam, Sangrur District, Punjab. He belonged toKamboj family of Jammu gotra (sub-caste) and by his historic martyrdomupheld the valiant Kshatriya tradition of the Kambojas, a traditionwhich they have always kept up since their glorious Vedic Aryan days.

Udham Singh was known at various stages in his relatively short life bythe following names: Sher Singh, Udham Singh, Udhan Singh, Ude Singh,Uday Singh, Frank Brazil and Ram Mohammed Singh Azaad.Tehal Singh's name before taking amrit paan was Chuhar Singh. TehalSingh was at that time working as a watchman on a railway crossing inthe neighbouring village of Upall. He died in 1907.

As Udham Singh's parents died at very early age ofseven, he became orphan and was got admitted along with his elderbrother Sadhu Singh in Centre Khalsa Orphanage Pultighar, Amritsar onOctober 24, 1907 with the help of Bhai Kishan Singh Rogi.

As both brothers were administered the Sikhinitiatory rites at the Orphanage, they received new names, Sher Singhbecoming Udham Singh and Mukta Singh becoming Sadhu Singh. Sadhu Singhdid not live long and expired in the year of 1917 which caused a greatshock to Udham Singh. He got his educational training in various artsand crafts there and started up a painter shop with the sign board ofRam Muhammad Singh Azaad, which shows that he was a great son of MotherIndia and believe in secularism above any caste and religion.

Udham Singh left the Orphanage after passing thematriculation examination in 1918. He was present in the JallianwalaBagh on the fateful Baisakhi day, 13 April 1919, when a peacefulassembly of people was fired upon by General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, killing over one thousand and three hundred people. The event whichUdham Singh used to recall with anger and sorrow, turned him to the pathof revolution. Soon after, he left India and went to the United Statesof America. He felt thrilled to learn about the militant activities ofthe Babar Akalis in the early 1920's, and returned home. He had secretlybrought with him some revolvers and was arrested by the police inAmritsar, and sentenced to four years imprisonment under the Arms Act in1928. On release in 1932, he returned to his native Sunam, but harassedby the local police, he once again returned to Amritsar and opened ashop as a signboard painter, assuming the name of Ram Muhammad SinghAzaad. This name, which he was to use later in England, was adopted toemphasize the unity of all the religious communities in India in theirstruggle for political- freedom.

Udham Singh was deeplyinfluenced by the activities of Bhagat Singh and his revolutionarygroup. In 1935, when he was on a visit to Kashmlr, he was found carryingBhagat Singh's portrait. He invariably referred to him as his guru. Heloved to sing political songs, and was very fond of Ram Prasad Bismal,who was the leading poet of the revolutionaries. After staying for somemonths in Kashmlr, Udham Singh left India. He wandered about thecontinent for some time, and reached England by the mid-thirties. He wason the lookout for an opportunity to avenge the Jallianwala Baghtragedy.

The long-waited moment at lastcame on 13 March 1940. On that day, at 4.30 p.m. in the Caxton Hall,London, where a meeting of the East India Association was being held inconjunction with the Royal Central Asian Society, Udham Singh fired fiveto six shots from his pistol at Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who was governor ofthe Punjab when the Amritsar massacre had taken place. O'Dwyer was hittwice and fell to the ground dead and Lord Zetland, the Secretary ofState for India, who was presiding over the meeting was injured. UdhamSingh was overpowered with a smoking revolver. He in fact made noattempt to escape and continued saying that he had done his duty by hiscountry.

On 1 April 1940, Udham Singh was formallycharged with the murder of Sir Michael O'Dwyer. On 4 June 1940, he wascommitted to trial, at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, beforeJustice Atkinson, who sentenced him to death. An appeal was filed on his behalf which was dismissed on 15 July 1940. On 31 July 1940, Udham Singhwas hanged in Pentonville Prison in London.

Udham Singh was essentially a man of action andsave his statement before the judge at his trial, there was no writingfrom his pen available to historians. Recently, letters written by himto Shiv Singh Jauhal during his days in prison after the shooting of SirMichael O'Dwyer have been discovered and published. These letters showhim as a man of great courage, with a sense of humour. He called himselfa guest of His Majesty King George, and he looked upon death as a bridehe was going to wed. By remaining cheerful to the last and goingjoyfully to the gallows, he followed the example of Bhagat Singh who hadbeen his beau ideal. During the trial, Udham Singh had made a requestthat his ashes be sent back to his country, but this was not allowed. In1975, however, the Government of India, at the instance of the PunjabGovernment, finally succeeded in bringing his ashes home. Lakhs ofpeople gathered on the occasion to pay homage to his memory.

Beingorphaned at the age of three, he was brought up in the Sikh orphanageattached to Khalsa College, Amritsar. He was issued with a passport on20 March 1933 in Lahore in the name of Udham Singh. In a MetropolitanPolice report, file MEPO 3/1743, dated 16 March 1940 (3 days after UdhamSingh had been charged with the murder of Sir Michael O'Dwyer), we findinformation concerning his life, which reveals him to be a highlyactive, well-travelled, politically motivated, secular-minded young manwith some great purpose in his life, a supporter of Bolshevism anddriven by an ardent hatred of British rule in India. This is how thereport runs:

Shaheed Udham Singh Kamboj served in theArmy in Basra for a year and a half and in British East Africa for twoyears. He returned thereafter to India for a few months and thenproceeded to London in the company of one PRITAM SINGH. The two sailedfor the United States via Mexico. He worked for two years in Californiaand for some months in Detroit and Chicago, whence he moved to East New York where he lived for five years. Thereafter he shipped for voyages invarious vessels of the US Shipping Line according to his own account asa Porto Rican, because no Indians were allowed to be employed on USvessels. (He is known to have held a seaman's certificate in the name ofFRANK BRAZIL of Porto Rico). From New York he made a trip to Europe,landing in France, and thereafter visiting Belgium, Germany and going asfar as Vilna in Lithuania, returning via Hungary, Poland, Switzerland,Italy and France, embarking there for America. After another few monthsin the USA, he took employment on vessels plying to most of theMediterranean ports and thereafter secured employment on the S.S. Jalapaas a carpenter. He arrived in this vessel at Karachi in July, 1927, anddeserted from her in Calcutta.

While in America he appears to have comeunder the influence of Ghadr Party [Party of Revolt] and to have beenaffected by its teaching. He used to read seditious literature publishedby this party. On 27 July 1927 he was fined at Karachi for having in his possession a large number of obscene postcards. On 30 August 1927 he was arrested at Amritsar as it was suspected that he was in possession of unlicensed Arms. Two revolvers, one pistol, a quantity of ammunition and copies of the prohibited paper, Ghadr-i-Gunj [Voice of Revolt], were recovered from him. He was prosecuted under section 20 of the Arms Act and was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment. He stated that he had intended to murder Europeans who were ruling over Indians and that he fully sympathised with the Bolsheviks, as their object was to liberate India from foreign control. He was released from gaol on 23 October 1931.

He visited his village for a short timein 1933 and then proceeded to London where in 1934 he was known to beliving at 9 Alder Street, Commercial Road.

On 5 July 1934, as Udham Singh, heapplied in London for endorsements to his passport no. 52753, issued inLahore: he gave his address as 4, Best Lane, Canterbury, Kent, and saidhe had a business as a sports outfitter in India, but that he had notworked since his arrival some nine months previously. (There is,however, evidence to show that he had been pursuing the calling of apeddler). He announced that he wished to travel by motor-cycle viaGermany, Belgium and Poland to Russia, across Russia to Odessa, where hewould take ship for Constantinople en route for India. This wasconsidered rather strange, in view of the fact he had recently brokenhis arm, but as he had not at that time been identified as an Indian ofextremist views no objections could be raised.

On 12 May 1936, he applied in London forendorsements for Holland, Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary and Italy,giving the address 4, Duke Street, Spitalfields, E. The application wasgranted.

On 16 May 1936 he applied in Berlin forfurther endorsements including the Eastern European countries and theUSSR. In view of the fact that he had not asked for these at the time ofhis application in London four days earlier, he was informed that hiscase would have to be referred to London, where upon he withdrew hisapplication.

On 25 June 1936 he was reported asarriving in London from Leningrad, and in the following November it wasreported that he was living with a white woman in the West End of Londonand was working at intervals on crowd scenes at film studios. On severaloccasions he is reported to have expressed extreme views and he is knownto have boasted that he had smuggled arms into India.

In August, 1938, UDHAM SINGH was chargedin London with demanding money with menaces. The Jury disagreed at thefirst trial and he was acquitted at the second trial.

He has not come under notice at meetingsorganised by Indian extremist movements in London.

On National Registration day heregistered in the name of AZAD Singh, under Serial No. EACK/305/7,giving his occupation as carpenter, and stating that he was born on 23October 1905. His address was given as: 581 Wimborne Road, Bournemouth.

A further record of antecedents wassupplied by the prisoner to Detective Sergeant Lisney and this is alsoattached.

It appears his last employment terminatedon 7th November, 1939, since when he has been receiving 17/-per weekunemployment benefit in the name of SINGH AZAD.

Deepak Kamboj

Deepak Kamboj started and conceptualized the powerful interactive platform - in September 2002, which today is the biggest and most popular online community portal for Kambojas in the world. He was inspired by the social and community work carried out by his father Shri Nanak Chand Kamboj. He has done research on the history, social aspects, political growth and economical situation of the Kamboj community. Deepak Kamboj is an author of various articles about the history of Kamboj community and people.