Wednesday, April 4, 2012


(Smiling Udham singh leaving the Caxton Hall after his arrest)

Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Udham Singh  killer of Sir Michael O' Dwyer was  born  on 26th December1889 at village Sunam (now Sunam Udham Singh Wala) Distt Sangroor of Patiala Princely State. His parents Sardar Tehal Singh & Sardarni Harnam Kour were convert to Sikhism on the initiation of Sardar Dhanna Singh Ji an overseer in irrigation Department. Before   baptismal( Amritpan) Sardar Tehal and sardarni Harnam Kour were named as Shri Chuhar Ram and Shrimati Narayana Devi . They  are reported to be residents of village  Patiali of Etta  Nagar in Utter Pradesh. One author has written that Chuhar Ram was resident of Kanpur Janpad in UP. Shri Chuhar Ram came from Jammu (Jammu clan  is of Kamboj lineage in  Chamars)  Chamars are  of an important  shudra ( Untouchable or Ati Shudra)  caste having religious linkage with Guru Ravi Das. Guru Ravi Dass (1414-1540AD) born near   Banaras, a highest religious seat of Hindus and was a saint of highest spiritual order. The Chuhar Ram couple was from seasonal migratory  labour class.  They used to  come to  Punjab as poor labourers along with others to work inagriculture farms and for  brick kiln owners.  In 1880   Chuhar Ram migrated from village Patiali (UP) to Sunam in Patiala State of Punjab.  Shri Chuhar Ram and Shrimati Narayana Devi worked at Neelowal 3 miles (5 Kms) from Sunam with Irrigation Canal Overseer Sardar Dhanna Singh.  Shri Chuhar Ram and his wife a pious couple worked with great zeal, dedication and  honesty, so Sardar Dhanna Singh himself a devout religious person developed affection for them. This religious attachment of theirs influenced Shri Chuhar Ram’s  to  become a  devoted(Shajdhari) Sikh.

When Sh. Chuhar Ram couple again came to Sunam for work, they were received with affection by Sardar Dhanna Singh , his wife Sardarni Maan Kour  and their daughter  Maya Kour. Shri Chuhar Ram his wife  took Amrit & become regular Sikhs with new names as Sardar Tehal Singh & Sardarni  Harnam Kour.  Kind hearted Sardar Dhanna Singh through his relation Sardar Chanchal Singh Sunami got engaged Sardar Tehal Singh as  a Railway Gateman at Uppali Railway Station, 5 miles from Sunam. So Sardar Tehal Singh started living at Sunam in a small house where Shaheed Udham Singh was born as second male to Sardar Tehal Singh & Sardarni Harnam Kour. Their elder son was Mukha Singh. Their second son was named as Sher Singh, whowas later renamed as Udham Singh.

As ill luck both Sardarni  Harnam Kour & Sardar Tehal Singh died with in   a span of one year leaving both their sons aged 10 & 5 years as orphans. Sardar Chanchal Singh looked after both boys for 2 years & then got them admitted in Central Khalsa   Ram Bagh Orphanage near Putligarh Amritsar  on24th October, 1907.  Sardar Sohan Singh  in charge of this orphanage  was son-in-law of Sardar Dhanna Singh. So Mukha Singh & Sher Singh newly admitted boys got homely care under Sardarni Maya Kour ( S. Dhana Singh’s daughter) and her orphanage in charge husband. The boys were given new names Mukha singh as  Sadhu Singh & Sher Singh as Udham Singh.   Pandit Jai Chand a cook of orphanage a revolutionary himself, taught  the children of orphanage  how to become revolutionary and this  teaching influenced the young mind of Udham Singh too. Simplicity, hard work, truthfulness and bravery of Udham influenced Smt. Kamla Rani the wife of  Pandit Jai Chand & Sardarni Maya Kour, so both ladies gave him motherly affection. In about 1913 Sadhu Singh went with Sadhus never to return again, so left Udham Singh alone in this world. Sadhu Singh is reported to have died in 1917.

Udham Singh passed his matriculation Examination in 1919 and left the orphanage there after.  By then he had gained expertise in furniture making, driving, wrestling and music . He won many wrestling matches from important wrestlers. By the side of the orphanage he started working in a shop as furniture making worker. This shop was a  secret centre for planning  revolutionary activities by the then known Karantikaries( Revolutionary  Freedom fighter) Here Udham Singh met main revolutionary leaders  Sardar Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru, and Sukhdev.

The Rowlatt Act 1914 gave many powers to colonial government including arresting and detaining any body without trial. This was widely opposed in India. On April 13, 1919, over twenty thousand unarmed Indians, mainly Dalit and Dalit   Sikhs, peacefully assembled in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, to listen to several prominent local leaders speak out against British colonial rule in India and against the arrest and deportation of Dr. Satya Pal, Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew, and few others under this unpopular Rowlatt Act. Udham Singh and his mates from the orphanage were serving water to the crowd on a warm summer afternoon. A band of 90 soldiers armed with rifles and  Kukries or Khukhris (short swords) marched to the park accompanied by two armored cars with mounted machine guns. The vehicles were unable to enter the Bagh owing to the narrow entrance. Brigadier-General   Reginald Edward Harry Dyer was in command of 45th Infantry Brigade at Jalandhar, arrived in Amritsar. He immediately established file facto army rule, though the official proclamation to this effect was not made until 15 April. The troops at his disposal included 475 British and 710 Indian soldiers. On 12 April he issued an order prohibiting all meetings and gatherings. On 13 April which marked the Baisakhi festival, a large number of people, mostly Sikhs, had poured into the city from the surrounding villages. Local leaders called upon the people to assemble for a meeting in the Jallianwala Bagh at 4.30 in the evening. The troops had entered the Bagh by about 5:15 PM. With no   warning to the crowd to disperse, Dyer ordered his troops to open fire, concentrating especially on the areas where the crowd was thickest Among the gathering were three brave Dalits namelly Bhudha Singh,Mangil Singh & Dhulia Singh Dhobies (Washer men) challenged General Dyer to shoot them first,  as they were not afraid of his bullets. General Dyer fired bullets which pierced through their chests. There after the attack lasted ten minutes. Since there was only one exit not barred by soldiers, people tried to climb the walls of the park. Some also jumped into a well inside the compound to escape the bullets. A plaque in the monument says that 120 bodies were plucked out of the well alone.

By the time the smoke cleared, hundreds of people had been killed and thousands injured. Official estimates put the figures at 379 killed (337 men, 41 boys and a six week old baby) and 200 injured, but other reports estimated the deaths well over 1,000 and possibly 1,300. According to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Girdhari Lal, the deaths were more than 1,000. Swami Shardanand places the figure at more than 1,500Dr Smith, Civil Surgeon of Amritsar, gives an even larger number: 1,800 dead. The casualty figures were never fully ascertained for political reasons. The wounded could not be moved from where they had fallen, as a curfew had been declared. Debate about the actual figures continues to this day. Official figures say that 1,650 rounds of ammunition had been used.

Udham Singh, an eye witness of this massacre saw it from a tree top, where he had climbed to listen the leaders. Udham Singh mainly held Michael O'Dwyer (1864-1940) then Punjab Governor, responsible for what came to be known as the Amritsar Massacre. New research supporting this fact reveals the massacre to have occurred with the Governor's full connivance "to teach the Indians a lesson, to make a wide impression and to strike terror through-out Punjab" The incident had greatly shaken young Udham Singh and proved a turning point in his life. After bathing in the holy Amritsar  sarovar  ( Religiously pool of nectar), Udham Singh took a silent vow and solemn pledge in front of the Golden Temple to wreak a vengeance on the perpetrators of the crime and to restore honour to what he saw as a humiliated nation.

Sardar  Gurnam Singh Mukatsar (Writer Of Hindi Book Jhooth Na Bol Pande) writes at page 283 that it was the gathering of Dalit Sikhs devotees, whose Deg ( Cooked sweet food say Halwa) was not allowed to be distributed to devotees in Darbar Sahib Amritsar by Upper Caste converted  Sikh  Granthi Aroor Singh. These Dalit Sikhs  along with Army Jawans( Soldiers) belonging to low Castes decided to gather in Jallianwala Bagh  to protest against  insult inflicted  upon them  by  Granthi of their faith. This Aroor Singh instigated General Dyer telling him the Dalit were going to hold a big protest against British Crown  there by creating Law and order problems. So General Dyer decided to teach lesson to the protestors. General Dyer was later presented a Saroopa (Honoring in a Sikhism Religious Style to a person for some  highly praise worthy work). Also, #640, Sector: 69, S.A.S. Nagar (Mohali), Punjab - 160062, India claims that this incident of honouring General Dyer later resulted in formation of  “The All India Sikh League as a representative body of the Panth for political action”.  This ultimately culminated in formation  of the Gurdwara Reform movement , 1920-25. Some Sikh servicemen, resenting the policy of non-violence adopted by the leaders of the Alkali movement, resigned from the army and constituted the nucleus of an anti-British terrorist group known as Babar Alkalis.  Any way General Dyer was responsible for the massacre of innocent Indians.

After the massacre Udham Singh  found wailing Shrimati Rattana Devi to find the dead body of her husband who was killed in the shoot out. Udam Singh consoled Rattana Devi, got traced the dead body of her husband from the heap of dead persons and adopted Widow Smt Rattana Devi as his step sister. Udham Singh promised her to take revenge for death of her husband.  He left Amritsar on 22 April 1919 and reached Baramula town of Kashmir State, where he worked in a furniture shop for some time & in October 1919 returned to his village Sunam. In sunam he killed a wild wolf, which had created terror in the area and had killed many animals besides a few children. Sunam Residents offered him shelter and help with requests to make Sunam his permanent abode, to which he denied, as he had different goals in his mind. In November 1919 he returned to Amritsar. At that time he joined a group of labourers and reached South Africa in November 1919 itself and engaged himself in organizing meeting to oppose British Crown of India. From here he set for America in a ship while serving as a coal Charge man to ship boiler and reached America in 1920. He met Lala Hardayal chief of Gaddar Party and learnt the art of making Bullets & got training in shooting. From here on the advice of Lala Hardayal he went to England with the sole objective of killing General Dyer, who had retired and had returned to London. But General Dyer died of paralysis in 1927. Governer Punjab Michael O'Dwyer was called back to London,  which became the target of Uham Singh, to fulfill his vow to take revenge for Amritsar Massacre  of 13th April,1919.

In London Udham Singh met twice Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in India Office Library and on the advise of Dr Ambedkar, Udham Singh joined Engineering courses. Dr Ambedkar advised Udham Singh to get equipped with higher education in London. In London Udham Singh met a German Lady Miss Merry, who promised him all help including financial help. When Dr. Ambedkar left for Bonn to study Sanskrit, Udham Singh returned to India in 1923 on call from Bhagat Singh, to whom Udham Singh called his Guru. Miss Merry also accompanied him and she was introduced to all known to Udham Singh.

In India at Lahore he joined National College of Lala Lajpat Rai and passed his F.A  ( now 10+2) in 1923 there after joined B.A. classes. This college was a training centre for the revolutionaries and Bhagat Singh too was a student there. He worked as teacher along with Sargar Bhagat singh  in the National School Kher Aligarh. Udam Singh went to Kanpur, again to Lahore and then to London for the Second time. He along with Miss Merry traveled across the Globe and went to Russia, France, Abyssinia, Scylia, Charybdis, Egypt, Island of White, Vikar of Bay etc. where he kept himself engaged in Revolutionary activities. In 1927 he returned to Lahore again on message from Bhagat Singh. He was not prepared to return to India with out accomplishing his set goal, but Miss Merry convinished him  by advancing argument that Bhagat Singh might have some plan to make Udham ‘s work easy or some more urgent job might had been set for him. Udham Singh brougt with him four persons, explosive material, some pistols and ammunition besides Miss Merry his most confident person.

Udham Singh continued to work for the set goal and kept close contact with other revolutionary persons. He was caught with loaded pistol No 85869 and sentenced for five years from 28 Sept1928 to 23 Sept 1932 in central Jail Multan and Rawalpindi. Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru & Sukhdev to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai of  shoot down  JP Sanders and this news was received by Udham singh on 17 Dec.1928 in jail ,when he said “Brother, you have full filled your promise, where as my vow is yet unfulfilled, you are great” After releasing from Jail, he went to Peshawer, then to Sunam and also to Jammu. From Jammu he went to Kashmir on foot in the disguise of a sadhu. Here he came in contact with Sardar Swarn Singh, Justice Dan Singh  and others and worked as labourer in the furniture shop of Faquiria. Udham Singh also went to Amar Nath as a Sadhu.

In1933 he along with Miss Merry went to London and lived for some time in Shephard Bush Gurudwara. He worked as a taxi driver too for the taxi of Shephard Bush Gurudwara. Udham Singh  worked as demestic driver to Sir Michael O'Dwyer  in Devons Shire U.K. and used to carry Dyer’s daughter Miss Golde to college so he under stood all lanes and surroundings of Dyer’s house . Udham Singh had earned the confidence of Miss Golde & other family members, from whom he collected house secrets and circumstances which had prompted Sir Michael O’Dwyer to order firing inJalianwala Bagh. He left the service of driver to Sir Michael O' Dwyer  but continued his revolutionary activities by meeting other revolutionaries. Golde is said to have tried to gained nearness to Udham Singh but timely reminding him, his solemn pledge by Miss Merry, he again started vigorously concentrating on his set goal

On 12 th  March 1940 Udham Singh got Laddos ( Indian Sweet,)  from the Indian restaurant through Balbir Singh another revolutionary and distributed among his colleagues. Every body thought that Udham Singh has   finalised his bride-to-be to marry her. On enquiry he said he has been already married to the cause of his mother land and every body shall know through news papers tomorrow the cause of his happiness.At last, the opportunity came on 13 March 1940, almost 21 years after the Jallianwala Bagh killings:  After praying in Shephard Bush Gurudwara and taking Parsad from the Granthi, he came back to home  and then reached Caxton Hall. A joint meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society was scheduled at Caxton Hall, and among the speakers was Michael O'Dwyer.  Udham Singh concealed his revolver in a book specially cut for the purpose and managed to enter Caxton Hall. He took up his position against the wall. At the end of the meeting, the gathering stood up and O'Dwyer moved towards the platform to talk to Lord Zetland. Udham Singh pulled his revolver and fired. O'Dwyer was hit twice and died immediately. Again Udham Singh fired at Lord Zetland (1876-1961, then secretary of State for India), the Secretary of State for India, injuring him but not seriously. Incidentally, Sir Luis Dane was hit by one shot, which broke his radius bone and dropped him to the ground with serious injuries. A bullet also hit Lord Lamington(1896-1951), whose right hand was shattered. If planned earlier Udham Singh could have escaped but  did not intend to escape.  So he was arrested on the spot.

Back in India, there was a strong reaction to this assassination. While the Congress-controlled English speaking press of India condemned Singh's action in general terms, independents like Amrit Bazar Patrika and New Statesman took different views. In its March 18, 1940 issue, Amrit Bazar Patrika wrote, "O'Dwyer's name is connected with Punjab incidents which India will never forget". The most telling reaction came from the common man on the street who hailed Udham Singh as a hero and patriot. Indians all over regarded Singh's action as justified and an important step in India's struggle to end British colonial rule in India

As never expected but unfortunately, in a statement to the Press, Mahatama Gandhi had condemned the Caxton Hall shooting saying that "the outrage has caused me deep pain. I regard it as an act of insanity.I hope this will not be allowed to affect political judgment". A week later, Harijan, Gandhi’s newspaper further wrote: "We had our differences with Michael O'Dwyer but that should not prevent us from being grieved over his assassination. We have our grievances against Lord Zetland. We must fight his reactionary policies, but there should be no malice or vindictiveness in our resistance. The accused is intoxicated with thought of bravery Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru wrote in his National Herald: "Assassination is regretted but it is earnestly hoped that it will not have far-reaching repercussions on political future of India. Most of the press worldwide remembered the story of Jallianwala Bagh and held Michael O'Dwyer fully responsible for the events. Singh was called "fighter for freedom" by The Times, London,
While in Police custody, Udham  Singh remarked: "Is Zetland dead? He ought to be. I put two into him right there" indicating with his hand the pit of his stomach in left side.  Udham Singh remained quiet for several minutes and then again said: "Only one dead eh'. I thought I could get more. I must have been too slow. There were a lot of women about, you know"

Just  after  thirteen day of the Caxton Hall  firing ,on 1 April 1940, Udham Singh was formally charged with the murder of Michael O'Dwyer. On 4 June 1940, he was committed to trial, at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, before Justice Atkinson. When the court asked about his name, he replied "Ram Mohammad Singh Azad", which Singh believed would demonstrate his transcendence of race, caste, creed, and religion. Singh explained his actions to the court at his trial:He did it because he had a grudge against him. He deserved it.Atkinson sentenced him to death.

On 31st July 1940, Udham Singh was hanged at Pentonville Prison. As with other executed prisoners, he was buried later that afternoon within the prison grounds. In March 1940, Indian National Congress leaders, including Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mahatama Gandhi, condemned the action of Udham Singh as senseless, but in 1962, Nehru did an about-turn and applauded Singh with the following statement in the daily Partap: "I salute Shaheed-e-Azam Udham Singh with reverence who had kissed the noose so that we may be free.".

In July 1974, Udham Singh's remains were exhumed and repatriated to India at the request of S. Sadhu Singh Thind an MLA from Sultanpur Lodhi at that time. He asked Indira Gandhi to force the then British Government to hand over Udham Singh's remains to India. Sadhu Singh Thind himself went to England as a special envoy of Indian Government and brought back the remains of the Shaheed. He was given a martyr's reception. Among those who received his casket at Delhi airport were Shankar Dayal Sharma, then president of the Congress Party, and Zail Singh, then chief minister of Punjab, both of whom later went on to become Presidents of India. Indira Gandhi, the prime minister, also laid a wreath. He was later cremated in his birthplace of Sunam in Punjab and his ashes were immersed in the Ganga river.

References   :-
1.Savtantantra Sangram Ke Mahabalidani Udham Singh by Dr.Rajpal Singh
Publishers -Raj Rajlaxmi Prakashan Brahmpuri Delhi-53
3.Wikipedia, and 4. Jhooth Na Bol PandeHindi Book by Sardar  Gurnam Singh Mukatsar Punjab


  1. A stirring account of Udham Singh's life... well documented and detailed... it moved me very much. I am impressed by your research into Udham Singh. Keep up the good work.
    Talat Afroze, Lahore, Pakistan and now residing in Toronto.
    May 26th 2012

  2. thanks,see other essays also on Dalit vision