Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Who was freedom fighter Udham Singh?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Udham Singh

Mains level: Jallianwala Bagh massacre and its aftermath

December 26 was the birth anniversary of freedom fighter Udham Singh, who is known for avenging the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The Ghadr (Ghadar) was a –

(a) Revolutionary association of Indians with headquarters at San Francisco.

(b) Nationalist organization operating from Singapore

(c) Militant organization with headquarters at Berlin

(d) Communist movement for India’s freedom with head-quarters at Tashkent

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 Lieutenant Governor of Punjab.

Why did he consider O’Dwyer responsible for the massacre?

  • 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, O’Dwyer is considered to be the actual perpetrator, since Dyer could not have executed it without his permission.
  • On March 13, 1940, Udham Singh shot O’Dwyer at a meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society at Caxton Hill.
  • He was immediately arrested and held in Brixton prison and was sentenced to death and was hanged on July 31, 1940, at Pentonville Prison.

A legend in India

  • For avenging the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Singh is seen by many as a hero. Gandhi, though, had famously called Singh’s revenge as an “act of insanity”.
  • While being on trial, he referred to himself as Mohamed Singh Azad, to symbolize Hindu-Sikh-Muslim unity in the fight for India’s freedom.
  • In 1974, his remains were sent back to India and he was cremated in his village in Sunam.
  • There have been several demands in the past few years for Udham Singh’s statue to be installed in Jallianwala Bagh and the Parliament complex.
  • In 2018, his statue was installed at Jallianwala Bagh during Baisakhi.
  • Udham Singh Nagar district in Uttarakhand is named after the freedom fighter.

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