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Biography

Politics & War

Politics & War

Shaheed Udham Singh

Shaheed Udham Singh
SHAHEED UDHAM SINGH

• Udham Singh was born as Sher Singh on 26 December 1899, at Sunam in the Sangrur district of Punjab His father, Tehal Singh Kamboj, was a railway crossing watchman in the village of Upalli.
• After his father’s death, Singh and his elder brother, Mukta Singh Kamboj, Were taken in by the Central Khalsa Orphanage Putlighar in Amritsar. At that time, Punjab was witness to intense political turmoil and Singh grew up observing the changes taking place around him.
• As both brothers were administered the Sikh initiatory rites at the Orphanage, they received new names, Sher Singh becoming Udham Singh and Mukta Singh Sadhu Singh. In 1917, Udham Singh’s brother also died, leaving him alone in the world.
• While at orphanage, Udham Singh was trained in various arts and crafts. He passed his matriculation examination in 1918 and left the orphanage in 1919.

EARLY LIFE

• On 10 April 1919, a number of local leaders allied to the Indian National Congress including Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested under the Rowlatt Act. Protestors against the arrests were fired on by British troops, precipitating a riot. On 13 April, over twenty thousand unarmed People were assembled in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar to protest against the act.

• Udham Singh and his friends from the orphanage were serving water to the crowd and Dyer ordered his troops to fire without warning on the assembled crowd in Jallianwala Bagh. Since the only exit was barred by soldiers, people tried to escape by climbing the park walls or jumping into a well for protection.

• An estimated 1,500 people were killed and over 1,200 were wounded although that has been debated. Udham Singh Kamboj was deeply affected by the event. The governor of Punjab, Michael O’Dwyer, had ordered the massacre, and Udham Singh held him responsible.Udham Singh became involved in revolutionary politics and was deeply influenced by Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary group.

JALLIANWALA BAGH

• He was present in the Jallianwala Bag on the Baisakhi day, 13 April 1919,
when a peaceful assembly of people was fired upon by General Reginald
Edward Harry Dyer, killing over one thousand people.
• The event which Udham Singh used to recall with anger and sorrow,
turned him to the path of revolution. Soon after, he left India and went to
the United States of America.
• He felt thrilled to learn about the militant activities of the Babar Akalis in
the early 1920’s, and returned home. He had secretly brought with him
some revolvers and was arrested by the police in Amritsar, and sentenced to four years imprisonment under the Arms Act IN 1927.
• On release in 1931, he returned to his native Sunam, but harassed by the
local police, he once again returned to Amritsar and opened a shop as a
signboard painter, assuming the name of Ram Muhammad Singh Azad.

REVOLUTIONARY WAY TO LONDON

• In 1935, when he was on a visit to Kashmlr, 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 Kashmlr, Udham Singh left India. He wandered about the continent for some time, and reached England by the mid-thirties. He was on the lookout for an opportunity to avenge the Jalliavala Bagh tragedy.
• In his application for his passport endorsement, he claimed to have been  working as a sports outfitter in India, but since his arrival, living in Canterbury, Kent, he was unable to secure employment.
• During 1937, he worked as an extra in crowd scenes for London Studios at Denham. During 1938, he worked as a carpenter at the RAF Station at Great Chessington, Gloucestershire, before becoming unemployed.

CAXTON HALL SHOOTING

• On 13 March 1940, Michael O’Dwyer was scheduled to speak at a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Central Asian Society (now Royal Society for Asian Affairs) at Caxton Hall, London.
• ON 13 MARCH 1940 UDHAM SINGH DRESSES PERFECTLY LIKE A ENGLISH GENTLEMAN BOOKED A SEAT AND REVOLVER WAS CONCEALED IN THE BOOK FIRED SIX SHOTS INTO A GROUP OF PEOPLE.
• Singh shot O’Dwyer twice as he moved towards the speaking platform. One of these bullets passed through O’Dwyer’s heart and right lung, killing him almost immediately. Others injured in the shooting included Sir Louis Dane, Lawrence Dundas, 2nd Marquess of Zetland and Charles Cochrane-Baillie, 2nd Baron Lamington. Singh was arrested and tried for the killing.

TRIAL AND EXECUTION

• On 1 April 1940, Udham Singh Kamboj was formally charged with the murder of Michael O’Dwyer, and remanded in custody at Brixton Prison.
• While awaiting his trial, Singh went on a 42-day hunger strike and had to be forcibly fed. On 4 June 1940, his trial commenced at the Central Criminal Court.
• Singh was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Following his conviction, he made a speech which the judge directed should not be released to the press.
• On 31 July 1940, Singh was hanged at Pentonville Prison. His remains are preserved at the Jallianwala Bhag in Amritsar, Punjab. On every 31 July, marches are held out in Sunam by various organisations and every statue of Singh in the city is tributes with flower garlands.

“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 seek 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 greater honor could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland?”