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Chandra Shekhar Azad biography

Chandra Shekhar Azad

(1906-1931)

biography

Chandra Shekhar Azad
Chandra Shekhar Azad
      Chandra Shekhar was born on 23 July 1906 in Bhavra village, which is now in the jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. His father, Sita Ram Tiwari, was a watchman in a state garden, on a salary of ten rupees a month. His mother Jagrani had given birth to three children prior to him, who did not survive; Chandra Shekhar thus got special love and care from his poor parents. As a child he attended the village school but did not take much interest in studies and used to roam about and play with tribal boys, using bows and arrows as toys. The village life somehow did not interest him and one day he left without informing his parents. He was fourteen at the time. His worried parents were relieved when they received a letter from their son telling them that he was in Kashi, studying Sanskrit in a pathshala (school). As board and lodging was free, he had no worry about his daily needs. It is believed that he lived in a room adjacent to the Batuknath temple in Kamachha locality of Varanasi for some years.
          In 1920, the Congress party under the leadership of Gandhi started the Non-Cooperation Movement. The young Chandra Shekhar participated in the movement and took part in picketing. He was arrested and tried before a magistrate. When asked his name by the magistrate he said: his father’s name? ‘freedom’; his address? ‘prison’. The magistrate was furious and he ordered fifteen lashes to be inflicted on Chandra Shekhars bare body. After every lash, he uttered Bande Matram. He was only fifteen when this happened. This incident made Chandra Shekhar somewhat of a celebrity in Kashi and from that time on he came to be known as Azad. Important citizens of Kashi, like Shiv Prasad Gupta, admired the bravery of the boy and he was felicitated at a meeting of the Congress party soon after.
After the failure and suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement, there was overall frustration among the people. There was a revival of revolutionary activities, spread over the whole of north India from Bengal to Punjab. A meeting of the revolutionaries was held at Kanpur in October 1924, which was attended by revolutionary leaders from different parts of India. An all India organisation was set up under the name of Hindustan Republican association, later called Hindustan Socialist Republican Association or Army Chandra Shekhar joined this association. In Uttar Pradesh, it was led by Ramprasad Bismil. In the Punjab, it was guided by Bhagat Singh and his associates. As the association needed money to survive, they planned dacoities. But instead of looting innocent individuals, they decided to loot the government treasury. The most notable exploit was the dacoity on 9 August 1925 in a railway train, proceeding from Kakori towards Alamnagar near Lucknow. Ten young men stopped the train, fired to scare the guard and passengers, broke open the iron safe and disappeared with a large amount of money Chandra Shekhar was one of these ten young men and had taken a leading part in the dacoity. The government launched a vigorous search for those responsible for this daring act. Indiscriminate arrests were made and the police was able to uncover the whole plot. The leaders were put on trial. Ramprasad, Roshan Singh and Ashfaqulla were hanged. Twelve others were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Chandra Shekhar had escaped, adopting several guises. The aftermath of the Kakori incident had a very adverse effect on the movement of the revolutionaries in UP Chandra Shekhar Azad, the sole remaining absconder of the Kakori Conspiracy Case took the leading part in reorganizing the revolutionary movement. The name of the Association was changed to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association with a Socialist State in India as its objective." All this was planned with the help of Bhagat Singh whom Chandra Shekhar had met in the Office of Pratap, (edited by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi) in Kanpur. Some of the exploits thereafter were performed in collaboration with Bhagat Singh and his colleagues. In 1926, Bhagat Singh along with Chandra Shekhar planned to rescue the prisoners of Kakori case but the plan fell through. The first overt act of importance of the newly organised association was the murder of Saunders, assistant commissioner of police, Lahore on 17 December 1928, who was mistaken for Scott, believed to be responsible for lathi blows on Lala Lajpat Rai during the anti-Simon Commission demonstration in Lahore. This was planned by Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Chandra Shekhar but the shots were fired by Bhagat Singh. All the three left Lahore immediately after the murder, Chandra Shekhar in the guise of a sadhu.
              Like the Kakori case earlier, the Lahore Conspiracy Case also adversely affected the activities of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. Almost all the prominent leaders were either dead or in jail, with the exception of about half a dozen who had managed to evade arrest. In this dark hour, Chandra Shekhar emerged as the leader of the group and organised the association. Their first activity was an attempt to murder the Viceroy. A few bombs exploded under the viceroy’s special train near Delhi in December, 1929. The train was damaged but the Viceroy escaped unhurt. Next, Chandra Shekhar planned an armed revolution and for that purpose looted Rs. 14,000 in an armed robbery on a firm in Delhi on July 1930. In the course of investigation the police got information about the secret plans Chandra Shekhar. One of his trusted lieutenants was arrested a few days later with a large stock of arms, and the police discovered a bomb factory in Delhi with a stock of chemicals enough to make six thousand bombs. Chandra Shekhar fled towards Punjab and his presence there resulted in the explosion of a series of bombs which killed and injured a few officials. The police made a vigorous but fruitless Search for him in the course of which they arrested a number of revolutionaries and discovered several depots of arms and small bomb factories. The government instituted two cases: the Second Lahore Conspiracy Case and the New Delhi Conspiracy Case. Chandra Shekhar was the principal accused but he succeeded to stay in hiding. The government offered a reward of ten thousand rupees to anyone who could help in the capture of Chandra Shekhar, dead or alive. He was constantly on the move, still trying to put new life in the association with the help of those who were not yet arrested. But there were not many left and new recruits were hard to come by. He was a worried man. In an effort to elicit the sympathy and guidance from the Congress leaders, Chandra Shekhar met Jawaharlal, Nehru in February 1931. Nehru describes the meeting thus: I remember a curious incident about this time which gave me an insight into the mind of the terrorist group in India. A stranger came to see me at our house, and I was told that he was Chandra Shekhar Azad. I had never seen him at before, but I had heard of him ten years earlier, when he had non-cooperated from school and gone to prison during the N.C.O. movement in 1921. A boy of fifteen or so then, he had been flogged in prison for some breech of gaol discipline. Later, he had drifted towards the terrorists, and he became one of their prominent men in north India. All this I had he heard vaguely, and I had taken no interest in these rumours. I was surprised, therefore, to see him. He had been induced to visit me because of the general expectation (owing to our release) that some negotiations between the Government and the Congress were likely. He wanted to know if in case of a settlement, his group of people would have any peace. Would they still be considered and treated as outlaws; hunted out from or place to place with a price on their heads, and the prospect of the gallows ever before them? Or was there a possibility of their being allowed to pursue peaceful vocations? He told me that as far as he was concerned, as well as many of his associates, they were convinced now that purely ice terrorist methods were futile and did no good. He was not, however, to prepared to believe that India would gain her freedom wholly by peaceful methods. I tried to explain to Chandra Shekhar what my philosophy of political action was, and tried to convert him to my viewpoint. But I had no answer to his basic question: what was he to do now?"
    Dejected with Nehru’s reply, Chandra Shekhar had no alternative but he to continue the struggle with the help of a few remaining revolutionaries. His movements and activities during the last year of his life are not chronicled properly. He must have remained in U.P., visiting places like Kanpur and Varanasi. However, we know that in February 1931 he was in Allahabad. Most of his revolutionary comrades of the time believe that Azad was betrayed by an associate who turned traitor. On 27 February 1931, his presence in Alfred Park was communicated to the police who then surrounded it. For quite some time he held them at bay, firing from his pistol. Two police officials were seriously wounded in the gun battle which lasted for half an hour. Ultimately, his body was riddled with police bullets and he died on the spot Thus ended the life of a great revolutionary While the country was mourning the death of this martyr, twenty-four days later news came from Lahore that Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru had been hanged. The four were revolutionary comrades in life; and martyrs in death.

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