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Udham Singh: The legend who was not only a freedom fighter but also a mechanic and an actor

In blink-and-miss roles, Singh has also acted in at least two Alexander Korda productions

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Jallianwala bagh,Amritsar. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Among the many youths and organizations that galvanised post the massacre, Udham Singh, 20 at that time, was deeply scarred
  • It was in USA that he developed his liking for pseudonyms
  • Hanged in 1940, his remains lay in Sunam in Punjab, where Singh was born

While to most of us Udham Singh is best known as a freedom fighter and a revolutionary who assassinated British administrator Michael O’Dwyer in 1940, but there are more roles the renegade assumed during his short life.

Born in 1899 in Sunam in undivided Punjab, Singh was brought up in an orphanage when the state was going through a serious political upheaval.

Before killing Michael O’Dwyer, the governor of Punjab at the time of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Singh tried his hand at various occupations and most intriguingly had also appeared as a movie extra in at least two Alexander Korda productions.

Udham Singh. Image Source: Wikipedia.org
Udham Singh. Image Source: Wikipedia.org

Among the many youths and organizations that galvanised post the massacre, Udham Singh, 20 at that time, was deeply influenced with the gory incident. It is believed that the scar on his arm was due to the injury he sustained during the commotion in the Jallianwala Bagh. A story goes that he was serving water to the thirsty crowd that day.

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While Singh took his time to get attached with the armed resistance, he began his journey abroad in 1920.

He first worked in East Africa as a labourer for the railway lines, and then moved to the USA. However, it was in San Francisco that he made contacts with Ghadar members (a movement formed by immigrants from Punjab in the west coast of the United States of America against colonial rule).

It was here that he developed his liking for pseudonyms. He used the names Ude Singh, Sher Singh and even Frank Brazil (giving himself a Puerto Rican identity) to hide his identity.

According to an article published in Scroll.in, Singh spent five years in travelling to various cities like Chicago and New York. As Frank Brazil, he used to travel to Europe. It was with this alias that he worked as a carpenter on a ship returning to India and came back to Punjab in 1927.

It was in the same year that he was arrested for the possession of illegal weapons and the radical newspaper, Ghadr di Gunj. After which he served four years of imprisonment till 1931.

Even after his release, Singh went through a series of police harassment. They doubted him of having links with the Irish Republican Army and the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association led by Bhagat Singh. The investigation forced him to leave for England in 1933, again using a false passport.

It was at time he traveled to London, Poland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Austria and the Soviet Union.

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In London, Singh engaged himself as a peddler and a carpenter, and also went ahead and associated himself with different socialist groups.

Singh found employment briefly as a signboard painter and a mechanic but seems like destiny had more in store for him. At that time he began appearing as an extra in Alexander Korda’s movies in a blink-and-miss role.

He was first seen in ‘Elephant Boy’ (1937), based on Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Toomai and the ‘Elephants from The Jungle Book.’ And next in ‘The Four Feathers’ in 1939, an adaptation from AEW Mason’s 1902 novel of the same name.

General Michael O’Dwyer, Image Source: Wikipedia.org
General Michael O’Dwyer, Image Source: Wikipedia.org

Only a year hence, on March 13, 1940, Singh assassinated Michael O’Dwyer in London. The place was Caxton Hall, where O’Dwyer had come to  participate in a discussion on Afghanistan.

During his trial, Udham Singh gave his name as Mohammad Singh Azad and was hanged in July 1940 at London’s Pentonville prison.

It was only later after a campaign in 1974 leb by the Congress party legislator Sadhu Singh Thind, that Singh’s remains were flown from London prison to Delhi. Currently, they lay in Sunam in Punjab, where he was born.

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Shaheed Udham Singh: A Patriot Who Avenged Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Here are 10 unknown facts about the Indian Revolutionary - 'Udham Singh'

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Shaheed Udham Singh Poster. Twitter

July 31, 2017: Udham Singh was born on 26 December 1899, at Sunam, Punjab. He was an Indian Revolutionary, best known for avenging the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He did so by assassinating Michael Francis O’Dwyer, the former governor of Punjab who had supported the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The Punjab Governor was responsible for it as he handed the command to Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer to kill unarmed men, women, and children at Jallianwala Bagh.

On the 31st July 1940, freedom fighter Udham Singh was hanged at Pentonville jail, London. His last words were,” I don’t care, I don’t mind dying. What is the use of waiting till you get old? This is no good. You want to die when you are young. That is good, that is what I am doing”. After a pause, he added: ‘I am dying for my country’.  Such was the spirit of the brave hearted soul.

Here are 10 unknown facts about Udham Singh:

  1. Udham Singh was born with the name Sher Singh. He was brought up in Central Khalsa Orphanage, Amritsar and after Sikh initiatory rites received the name, Udham Singh.

2. He was an eye-witness of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre as he was serving water to crowd gathered along with his friends. This incidence turned him to the path of revolution which later resulted in avenging the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

3. In 1935, when he was on a visit to Kashmir, he was found carrying Bhagat Singh’s portrait. He invariably referred to him as his guru.

4. He loved to sing political songs and was very fond of Ram Prasad Bismal, who was the leading poet of the revolutionaries.

Udham Singh
A picture depicting Udham Singh as he is being led away from Caxton Hall after the assassination of Michael O’ Dwyer. Wikimedia Commons

5. On 13 March 1940 at 4.30 p.m. in the Caxton Hall, London, where a meeting of the East India Association was being held in conjunction with the Royal Central Asian Society, Udham Singh fired five to six shots from his pistol at Sir Michael O’Dwyer. Later, he was jailed for doing so. He also went on a 42-day hunger strike in jail and was forcibly fed.

 

 

6. Udham Singh’s actions were condemned by Gandhi and Nehru but most of the commoners and other aggressive leaders said that it is an important action for Indian independence struggle. Later on, Nehru applauded his actions in 1962 and used the word ‘Shaheed-e-Azam’ for him.

7. In 1995, the Mayawati government in U.P named a district in present-day Uttarakhand after him, called Udham Singh Nagar

8. The Times of London called him ‘Fighter for Freedom’ and Bergeret in Rome also praised his actions as courageous. Singh’s weapon, a knife, a diary and a bullet from shooting are kept in Black Museum, Scotland Yard.

9. In 1974, his remains were exhumed and repatriated to India at the request of MLA Sadhu Singh. The casket was received by Indira Gandhi, Zail Singh, and Shankar Dayal Sharma. Later he was cremated at Sunam, Punjab (his birthplace) and his ashes were scattered in Sutlej River, the same river in which the ashes of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were scattered.

10. Udham Singh addressed himself as Ram Muhammad Singh Azad. This name was adopted to emphasize the unity of all the religious communities in India in their struggle for political freedom.

by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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Pistol of Legendary Freedom Fighter Bhagat Singh to be Displayed in Khatkar Kalan Museum, Punjab

Martyr's family demands that the pistol should be brought back and placed in the Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh Museum in Khatkar Kalan

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Representational image. Pixabay

Chandigarh, November 28, 2016: At the BSF’s Central School of Weapons and Tactics museum in Indore Bhagat Singh’s “pistol” was found. The legendary freedom fighter’s nephew Abhay Singh Sandhu demanded on Sunday that it should be displayed in the museum named after him at Khatkar Kalan in Punjab.

According to PTI, 58-year-old Sandhu said, “Till 1969, the pistol was lying at the Punjab Police Academy in Phillaur, Punjab. It was only recently due to the efforts of several people at various level that it was traced in the museum in Indore.”

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He further added, “A senior official of the CSWT, Indore, recently rang me up informing that the serial number and the make of the pistol were the same which had been accessed from the records and files pertaining to the martyr.”

He said that the martyr’s family demands that the pistol should be brought back and placed in the Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh Museum in Khatkar Kalan.

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He further added, “We demand that the Punjab government make efforts to bring back the pistol belonging to Shaheed Bhagat Singh. As the extension of this museum is also coming up, we demand other personal articles belonging to the Shaheed, which are lying at various other places outside the state, may also be brought and placed in this museum in Khatkar Kalan.”

He also said that Bhagat Singh’s shoes and his watch, which are in possession of a private individual in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, should be brought back as well and it should be displayed in the museum in Khatkar Kalan.

– prepared by NewsGram team with PTI inputs

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“When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today”: The plight of World War II Soldiers

We may argue over whether Kipling (1865-1936) exhibits imperial and racial attitudes, but even the most virulent critic cannot accuse him of elitism

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Pictures of Soldiers at the time of Battle. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Sept 04, 2016: The memorial at the Kohima War Cemetery, where lie dead of a World War II battle termed “Stalingrad of the East”, asks us: “When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.” It’s no less true for soldiers now, but do we consider it in our attitudes to them in peace and to ex-servicemen? And it is an old poet, now deemed a standard-bearer of imperialism, who can draw our attention to our shortcomings.

The modern world may never be less hypocritical when it comes to war- we extol the profession of arms, we salute the practitioners’ contribution to preserving our liberty- and we ignore them when they are in need. Be it the plight of the Vietnam ‘vets’ (veterans) in America, the ‘Afgantsy’ in the Soviet Union, and for us, OROP and a few other issues, the record is not too exemplary.

But this trend is scarcely new- even for a country that was once the foremost global power on the strength of its military might, Britain was no better. And Rudyard Kipling pointed it out at least thrice.

Kohima War Cemetery Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Kohima War Cemetery: Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

We may argue over whether Kipling (1865-1936) exhibits imperial and racial attitudes, but even the most virulent critic cannot accuse him of elitism. For he also gave a voice, in all senses of the word, to those who made the Empire possible — the common British soldier.

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Apart from the likes of “The Three Musketeers” or “The Taking of Lungtungpen” about the colourful exploits of privates Learoyd, Mulvaney and Ortheris in his first short story anthology “Plain Tales from the Hills” (1888) (continued in next anthology “Soldiers Three”, 1888), Kipling also used verse for this purpose. “Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses” (1892), doesn’t only deal with soldiers’ lives but social attitudes towards them.

Bodies of American soldiers on the beach of Tarawa. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Bodies of American soldiers on the beach of Tarawa. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Take “Tommy”, common slang for a soldier, first published March 1, 1890, which begins with an unnamed soldier, turned away from a bar with ridicule, reflecting over his plight.

” ‘O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Tommy, go away’;/But it’s ‘Thank you, Mister Atkins,’ when the band begins to play… and that: “Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep/Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap…”

The soldier stresses: “We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,/But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you..” and “You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:/We’ll wait for extra rations if you treat us rational” but warns: “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’/But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country,” when the guns begin to shoot;/ Yes it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;/But Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!”

In “The Last of the Light Brigade”, published in April 1890, Kipling deals with the sad aftermath of a celebrated wartime action, immortalised by Lord Tennyson. “There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,/There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night./They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;/They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.”

They finally decide to approach “the man who writes/The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites'”, and in Tennyson’s presence: “‘Beggin’ your pardon,’ he (their spokesman) said,/’You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead./An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell;/For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell.”

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“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write/A sort of ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight?/We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how?/You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”

And in a stanza, omitted in collections, we are told in response to Tennyson’s fiery appeal (in the poem, that is), “They (the British) sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;/They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;/And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,/A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.

Strikes a chord?

Then there is “The Absent-Minded Beggar” (1899), referring to a soldier, who is “an absent-minded beggar, but he heard his country’s call”, and beginning: “When you’ve shouted “Rule Britannia”: when you’ve sung “God Save the Queen”/When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth:/Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine/For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?”

Though the first two didn’t do much, this one, part of an appeal by the Daily Mail to raise money for soldiers fighting in the Boer War and their families, helped raise more than 250,000 pounds.

Maybe we need a poet like Kipling also to make us more aware? (IANS)