Thursday October 18, 2018

Real Avenger: Udham Singh, freedom fighter who assassinated O’Dwyer, gets eulogised by Ska Vengers

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By Aishwarya Nag Chaudhary

Udham Singh, one of India’s lesser known freedom fighters, just got an unconventional tribute. It did not come in the form of a gigantic statue or a ‘yojna’ (scheme) named after him. Nor was it the regular rift between the left and the right, the two sides trying to appropriate his bravery. Udham Singh, aka Frank Brazil, is the subject of a new music video. The Ska Vengers, a popular indie outfit, has released a video called ‘Frank Brazil’ as a tribute to the freedom fighter on the 75th anniversary of his execution.

Udham Singh, the Indian freedom fighter, was considered to be a terrorist in Britain. He was executed in Britain for the assassination of O’Dwyer. The Ska Vengers used the title ‘Frank Brazil’ from an alias during an overseas undercover trip.

This was a welcome change from the usual discourse on freedom struggle today. Discussions on the freedom struggle are relegated to Independence Day and Republic day. Today when someone even talks about India’s past it begins with the Vedas and ranges to rigid social constructs. This video is unusual yet progressive, considering the trivial subjects used in most contemporary music videos.

Udham

The four minute video tells the story of Udham Singh. Orphaned at an early age, Singh was serving water to the protesters at Jalianwala Bagh when the massacre took place. O’Dwyer was the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab at the time. Many believe that it was O’Dwyer who premeditated the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh. Singh traveled overseas to Britain and shot him at a town hall meeting in London. However, Singh did not attempt to flee the scene. He was arrested, tried and finally executed four months later.

The video was featured on VH1 on July 31st, marking the 75th anniversary of his assassination.

The song was born out of the band’s shared fascination for the freedom fighter. Taru Dalmia, the vocalist of Ska Vengers, said that the group was also inspired by blues singer Bessie Smith’s popular death song “Send me to the ‘letric chair.”

The new song features a feisty pro-independence protagonist who says his punishment does not scare him. He does not care if he spends 99 years in prison or is sent to the electric chair.

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Udham Singh: The Untold Story Of Man Who Avenged A Massacre

Shaheed Udham Singh was 20 years old at the time of the massacre

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Shaheed Udham Singh was the braveheart who avenged the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh.
Shaheed Udham Singh was the braveheart who avenged the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh.

By Ruchika Verma

  • Udham Singh was the freedom fighter who avenged the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
  • He travelled to many countries to gain support for the independence of India
  • Udham Singh dies in 194o after shooting Michael O’Dwyer

If you know about the violent and brutal Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, there are high chances you know about Udham Singh too. Udham Singh was the man who avenged the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre by shooting down Michael O’Dwyer, the man who supported the firing at the Jallianwala Bagh on 13th April 1919.

Udham Singh was the man who avenged the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Wikipedia.org
Udham Singh was able to escape the Jallianwala Bagh massacre alive. Wikipedia.org

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre – The most brutal killing of innocent people

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre was the result of brutal firing on innocent people, who had assembled in the Jallianwala Bagh for a peaceful protest against the arrest of various Freedom Fighters under the Rowlatt Act.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was the result of the arrest of freedom fighters, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew under the Rowlatt Act which was already facing a widespread protest from around India. This arrest added fuel to the fire, making people angrier.

Also Read: Shaheed Udham Singh: A Patriot Who Avenged Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

The widespread anger of people scared the British government and the General Reginald Dyer, who was the head of British administration at that time, imposed a ban in public gatherings.

Jallianwala Bagh massacre is still considered one of the brutal killing of people.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre is still considered one of the brutal killing of people. The statue here is built in remembrance of all those who died during the massacre.

This is, however, one side of the story. The day of 13th April is the day of Baisakhi. Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh was famous for its Baisakhi Fair which many people from far off villages come to attend. Many outsiders who came to attend the much-celebrated fair, were unaware of the ban.

When General Dyer got to know about this, he closed all the exits to the Jallianwala Bagh and opened fire on all the people present in the park, without any warning.

Panic-stricken public caused a stampede, trying to run and save their lives by climbing the walls or jumping into the well. The British army kept on firing till they ran out of ammunition. The whole of the Jallianwala Bagh bathes in the blood of innocent people that way. Hundreds were killed and thousands were injured during this incident.

Jallianwala bagh incident happened in Amritsar, Punjab on 13th April 1919. Wikimedia Commons
Jallianwala Bagh incident happened in Amritsar, Punjab on 13th April 1919. Wikimedia Commons

One of the man present during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was Udham Singh, who got deeply scarred by what happened.

Udham Singh – How he became a freedom fighter 

Shaheed Udham Singh was 20 years old at the time of the massacre. After the Jallianwala Bagh incident, he got involved in the arms resistance movement that was unfolding all around the globe. In the early 1920s, he travelled to East Africa, where, after working as a labourer for a brief while, he made his way to the USA.

There, in San Francisco, he came into the contact of the Ghadar Party. It was a revolutionary movement started by the immigrant Punjabi-Sikhs to gain India’s independence from the British.

Udham Singh spent next few years of his life, travelling across America and securing support for their movement. He collaborated with many aliases such as Ude Singh, Sher Singh and Frank Brazil.

Udham Singh was 20 years old when Jallianwala Bagh massacre happened. Wikimedia Commons
Udham Singh was 20 years old when Jallianwala Bagh massacre happened. Wikimedia Commons

In 1927, he came back to Punjab. There he was arrested for the possession of illegal arms and for running the publication, Ghadr di Gunj. He was jailed for four years till 1931. During the four years he spent in jail, Brigadier-General Dyer died after suffering from a series of strokes.

When Udham Singh was released in 1931, he was under close surveillance because of his close contact with Bhagat Singh’s Republicans, who by that time was hanged due to the Lahore conspiracy. He somehow managed to escape to Germany, after forming alliances with Kashmir.

Udham Singh and his Revenge 

Udham Singh reached England in 1933. His aim was to assassinate Michael O’Dwyer, who he held responsible for the brutal Jallianwala massacre. O’Dwyer had justified the massacre, calling it a “correct action”. In London, he made allies with socialist groups while working as a carpenter, mechanic and painter.

Udham Singh appeared in movies as well. Udham Singh movies include Alexander Korda’s ‘Elephant Boy’ and ‘The Four Feathers’ in which he worked as an extra.

Shaheed Udham Singh during his trial.
Shaheed Udham Singh during his trial.

However, the freedom fighter, Shaheed Udham Singh didn’t forget his purpose. When he learnt that Michael O’Dwyer will speak at a meeting in London’s Caxton Hall on March 13, 1940. He sneaked into the hall that day with a revolver sneaked in his jacket. He shot O’Dwyer twice as after the meeting concluded and he was ascending down the platform.

Also Read: 15 unknown facts about Shaheed Bhagat Singh 

He was immediately taken into custody and did not try to flee or resist the arrest.

During his trial, Udham Singh gave his name as Mohammad Singh Azad, which was also tattooed on his arm. It was a symbol, meaning that all religions in India were united in their efforts against the British rule.

Shaheed Udham Singh died on 31st July 1940 after being prosecuted for the murder of Michael O'Dwyer. Twitter
Shaheed Udham Singh died on 31st July 1940 after being prosecuted for the murder of Michael O’Dwyer. Twitter

He was sentenced to death and was hanged on July 31, 1940 at London’s Pentonville Prison. Udham Singh was buried there in the prison grounds.

In 1974, Shaheed Udham Singh’s remains were exhumed and returned to India before being cremated at his birthplace, Sunam village in Punjab.

Today, there is a place known as Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand which is named after the braveheart who sacrificed his life to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.