Udham Singh’s revolutionary mission to avenge Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

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Shaheed-i-Azam Sardar Udham Singh

Caxton Hall was the scene of the assassination of Michael O’Dwyer by Udham Singh on March 13 1940. Tipperary-born O’Dwyer had been the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab at the time of the infamous Amritsar massacre of 1919. Brigadier General O’Dyer, with O’Dwyer’s full connivance, ordered soldiers to open fire on a crowd of 20,000 Indian Independence supporters.

It was said that over 1,500 rounds of ammunition were used in just 15 seconds. The obvious result of which meant hundreds of protesters died in cold blood.

Udham Singh was issued with a passport on 20 March 1933 in Lahore in the name of Udham Singh.

For three years, Udham Singh continued his revolutionary activities in Punjab and also worked on a plan to reach London to assassinate O’Dwyer. His movements were under constant surveillance by the Punjab police. He visited his native village in 1933. Udham Singh was deeply influenced by the activities of Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary group. In 1935, when he was on a visit to Kashmir on a clandestine revolutionary mission, he was found carrying Bhagat Singh’s portrait. He invariably referred to him as his guru. He loved to sing political songs, and was very fond of Ram Prasad Bismal, who was the leading poet of the revolutionaries. After staying for some months in Kashmir where he was able to dupe the police and escaped to Germany. He wandered about the continent for some time, and reached London in 1934 and took up residence at 9 Adler Street, Whitechapel (East London) near Commercial Road. According to the secret reports of British Police, Singh was on the move in India till early 1934 and then he reached Italy and stayed there for 3–4 months. From Italy he proceeded to France, Switzerland and Austria and finally reached England in 1934 where he purchased and used his own car for travelling purposes. His real objective however, always remained Michael O’Dwyer. Singh also purchased a six-chamber revolver and a load of ammunition. Despite numerous opportunities to strike, Singh awaited a right time when he could make more impact with the killing and attract global attention to his cause. He was on the lookout for an opportunity to avenge the Jallianwalla Bagh tragedy.

The long-waited moment at last 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. Udham 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, the Secretary of State for India. Udham Singh pulled his revolver and fired. O’Dwyer was hit twice and fell to the ground and died immediately. Lord Zetland was presiding over the meeting. Sir Michael O’Dwyer  was governor of the Punjab when the Amritsar massacre had taken place. Then Udham Singh fired at Zetland, the Secretary of State for India, injuring him but not seriously. Incidentally, 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 was overpowered with a smoking revolver and arrested on the spot. He in fact made no attempt to escape and continued saying that he had done his duty by his country.

His weapon,a knife, his diary, along with a bullet fired on the day are now kept in the Black Museum of Scotland Yard.