History- Important places, persons in news

Persons in news: Udham Singh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Udham Singh, Ghadar Party

Mains level : Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and its aftermath

An extremely chauvinist MP raked up a storm in the Lok Sabha after she praised Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse and she later claimed that remark was meant for Udham Singh and not Godse.

This is not the first time that Udham Singh has been mentioned in Parliament.

Who was Udham Singh?

  • Singh, born in Sunam in Punjab’s Sangrur district in 1899, was a political activist who got associated with the Ghadar Party while in the US.
  • The multi-ethnic party was believed to have communist tendencies and was founded by Sohan Singh Bhakna in 1913.
  • Headquartered in California, the party was committed to the ouster of the British from India.
  • In 1934, Singh made his way to London with the purpose of assassinating O’Dwyer who in 1919 had been the Lt. Governor of Punjab and unsurprisingly Singh considered O’Dwyer to be responsible for the massacre.
  • As per a book, “A Patient Assassin” written by Anita Anand, when O’Dwyer ordered Brigadier Reginald Dyer to Amritsar before the massacre, he was worried that there might be a second Indian mutiny, given the Hindu-Muslim unity and the demonstrations and strikes.
  • Instead of Dyer, who instructed his men to open fire at the crowd gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, O’Dwyer is considered to be the actual perpetrator, since Dyer could not have executed it without his permission.

The assassination of O’Dwyer

  • On March 13, 1940 Singh shot O’Dwyer at a meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society at Caxton Hill.
  • Singh was immediately arrested and held in Brixton prison following this.
  • At the prison, Singh staged a 36-day hunger strike and in police statements and at the court referred to himself as Mohamed Singh Azad, to symbolize Hindu-Sikh-Muslim unity in the fight for India’s freedom.
  • He was sentenced to death and was hanged on July 31, 1940 at Pentonville Prison.
  • In 1974, his remains were sent back to India and he was cremated in his village in Sunam.

In popularity

  • For avenging the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Singh is seen by some as a hero.
  • Gandhi had famously decried Singh’s revenge as an “act of insanity”.
  • Udham Singh Nagar district in Uttarakhand is named after the freedom fighter.
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