I was Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, in 1967. Two of my predecessors had tried to mobilise funds by donations to construct a memorial but nothing worthwhile emerged. I tried to do the same but realised that my efforts would not succeed. Lachhman Singh Gill, who belonged to Ferozepore, was the Chief Minister of Punjab at that time.
The Punjab Government has made a small museum in his village, Khatkar Kalan, in Jalandhar district. There is also a statue outside the museum by the roadside. However, there is no national-level memorial dedicated to him. It was after nearly four decades that his samadhi was made.
One day I proposed to the CM that a proper samadhi be constructed in memory of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. He was shocked when I told him that no memorial had so far been set up at the site of the cremation of the three martyrs. I also mentioned to him that efforts made to mobilise donations had been of no consequence.
We got to work immediately thereafter. The first step was to properly identify the site. I, along with SDM, tehsildar and elders of the area, went to the spot in Hussainiwala and marked the area for setting up the samadhi.
Bhagat Singh was born in 1907 at Banga in Lyallpur. The death sentence was passed on Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev on October 7, 1930, by the Special Tribunal, which also fixed October 27 as the date for their execution. There were many legal wranglings, and leading lawyers like Diwan Badri Das tried their best to save their lives. However, Bhagat Singh and his two companions were finally executed on March 23, 1931, at 7.15 pm. No relatives were allowed to see the bodies of the martyrs. People came to know of their execution only after slogans of Inqualab Zindabad were raised in jail. The same night their bodies were transported to Hussainiwala, near Ferozepore, where they were cremated by the riverside and their remains consigned to the Sutlej.
The spot was roughly marked by the local people. Sometimes it would be washed away by floods.
I sent the tehsildar along with a few other persons to Bhagat Singh’s village, Khatkar Kalan to see whether any photograph of his with a turban was available. The family had a few photographs. One of these, a group photograph of students who had performed in a drama, showed Bhagat Singh in turban. This was taken when he was in Class XII. The style of his turban could be clearly seen in the picture. These pictures were given to the sculptor for making Bhagat Singh’s bust. That is how for the first time we got a picture of Bhagat Singh as he must have looked during most of his life.
The architect quickly made the plans for the samadhi. It was a rectangular pool with a wide parikarma around it. In the centre was a square platform where the cremation took place. A narrow gangway led from the parikarma to the centre.
The work on the samadhi had begun at a feverish pitch. Lachhman Singh Gill would often ring up to tell me that the samadhi had to be ready by March 23.
It was decided to hold the inaugural function at 2 pm on March 23, 1968. People around were quite aware of the occasion. The CM arrived at Ferozepore in the morning. Final touches were still being given to the samadhi. The dedication ceremony finally started at 4 pm.
Army band was in attendance in ceremonial dress. Soldiers in uniform carried three huge wreaths. Behind them were Chief Minister Lachhman Singh Gill, the local Divisional Commander of the Army, I and a few other selected persons. Behind us was the Army band playing patriotic songs. Parikarma started in a slow march and we did three rounds of the pool. The crowd around stood absolutely silent, paying full respect to the martyrs. There was no sound or movement in the crowd. At the end of three rounds, three soldiers, each with a wreath, marched on the gangway towards the centre. They were followed by Gill. The Chief Minister laid the three wreaths at the square. They all walked back in complete silence while a lone drummer played on. The crowd silently and peacefully dispersed. No speeches were made. Finally, after 37 years, the nation got a samadhi for the martyrs.
I must mention one more thing. Bhagat Singh’s elder brother, Kultar Singh, was alive and present there. I requested him to join the dedication ceremony. He belonged to the Communist Party. For reasons best known to him, he declined, saying that it was a government function.