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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.

Next Story

“We Won’t Allow Losing Jallianwala Bagh Identity with Intensive Makeover”: Massacre Kins

"Now the Jallianwala Bagh officially closes at 5 p.m. for the tourists. But we are planning to make it operational till 9 p.m. once the makeover is over"

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jallianwala bagh
Located in the vicinity of Golden Temple complex the massacre ignited the first spark of the Indian freedom movement. Wikimedia Commons

It’s emotions that pour out of the martyr’s well at the Jallianwala Bagh — a remembrance of the British era massacre. “We won’t allow losing its identity with this intensive makeover,” say kins of those who lost their lives on Baisakhi 1919, as the government takes up renovation of the site.

Stories associated with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre are still fresh in ‘our’ minds — these were the emotional outbursts of a handful of local octogenarians who daily visit the 6.5-acre garden site, where on April 13, 1919, Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer of the occupying British forces opened fire on a peaceful congregation on the occasion of the Punjabi New Year.

Located in the vicinity of Golden Temple complex the massacre ignited the first spark of the Indian freedom movement. Gazing at the ongoing reconstruction through pale eyes, octogenarian Madan Lal Taneja said: “We have lost many of our near and dear ones in this well. They jumped into the well not for saving their lives but for country’s dignity.”

Taneja’s uncle fell into the well after a stampede as General Dyer’s armed soldiers marched in and opened fire on the peaceful congregation of men, women and children without any alarm and blcking the only exit.

Taneja, who spent his entire life in the holy city of Amritsar in Punjab, said the martyr’s well is a remembrance of that stark reality. His friend Lala Amarnath, a regular visitor to the Jallianwala Bagh, said the brick-lined well should be restored in its original style and the structure should never be altered.

jallianwala bagh
It’s emotions that pour out of the martyr’s well at the Jallianwala Bagh — a remembrance of the British era massacre, says Massacre Kins. Wikimedia Commons

Over a century-old the well stands testimony to the brutal killings of innocent and reminds the younger generation of the supreme sacrifices made during the freedom movement. “This place is saturated with the blood of thousands of Indian patriots who were martyred for their non-violent struggle to free India from British domination,” reads a plaque.

The number of deaths due to the shooting, stampede and suffocation is still disputed. British Prime Minister David Cameron paid respect at the Jallianwala Bagh on February 20, 2013. Authorities say the renovation and restoration of the Jallianwala Bagh began this month under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India.

For this, the Centre through the Ministry of Culture has allocated Rs 20 crore in the first phase. “We are going to fix a dome-shaped see-through fibre canopy over the martyr’s well to offer a better view inside the well,” Shwait Malik, a trustee with the Prime Minister-headed Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, told IANS.

He said the bricked wall around the well where bullets pierced in would be restored in its original style, keeping in mind its historical relevance. Also the well would be restored in its original style.

Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Malik, who inspected the ongoing renovation on Saturday, said the Jallianwala Bagh’s history would be showcased through a laser light-and-sound show for the benefit of tourists.

jallianwala bagh
Jallianwala Bagh bullet marked wall. Wikimedia Commons

“Now the Jallianwala Bagh officially closes at 5 p.m. for the tourists. But we are planning to make it operational till 9 p.m. once the makeover is over,” he said. Seeing the restoration exercise posing more a threat to the monument, Amritsar West legislator Raj Kumar Verka said the way the renovation was going on the main portion of the well crumbled.

Claiming disrespect was being shown to the martyrs, Verka, who is the chairman of the Jallianwala Bagh Shaheed Sanman Committee, has filed a complaint with the police against the Ministry of Culture and the construction company for demolishing the heritage structure.

ALSO READ: Researchers Discover Extremely Harmful Levels of Toxins Found in Enamelled Decoration of Beer and Wine Bottles

A visit to the Jallianwala Bagh reveals that a light and sound show with Amitabh Bachchan’s voiceover of the massacre episode has been lying defunct for many years. The museum needs to be refurbished as a place of national integration. So are broken pathways and the entrance.

In the second phase, the government has plans to acquire public properties around the Jallianwala Bagh to transform into ‘galliara’ just on the lines of one that existed around the Golden Temple, say officials. (IANS)