Revolutionary to the core
Durga Das Khanna worked in close coordination with martyrs Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev.
has no caste, and his only religion is his motherland. Durga Das
Khanna, a close associate of Bhagat Singh, who later went on to
become the chairman of the Punjab Vidhan Parishad, was no
exception. Long after his death, his life continues to be a tale
of determination to succeed in his endeavours, a story of the
unfolding of a free India and an example worth emulating.
Today, exactly a
century after Khanna was born in an orthodox Hindu family into
the business of money-lending on July 30, 1908, his motto of
putting country before self, his plain-speaking and his
commitment to being upright under all circumstances continue to
be a source of inspiration, and lives on in mind and spirit as a
Not one to be
attracted by money and with no interest in his family business,
Khanna’s calling lay elsewhere—in his fight for India and
Independence. Soon after completing schooling, his first
"invisible influence" in favour of the freedom
movement came from his college Principal, ED Lucas. After that
there was no looking back as his involvement with the revolution
and the revolutionaries.
reader, Khanna’s first meeting with Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev,
in fact, happened because of books he had borrowed from a
friend. Though the first meeting ended on a note of divergent
views about Mahatma Gandhi and his slogan for non-violence,
Khanna, in subsequent meetings, came to be greatly influenced by
Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev and was taken into the fold of the
revolutionary organisation, the Hindustan Socialist Republican
Working in close
coordination with the duo and party to a number of
"conspiracies’ against the British, Khanna was active in
students’ circle in Panjab University as well. He organised
students’ conferences and was catalytic in the creation of
students’ organisations, which became the spearhead of the
revolutionary movement in Punjab.
During his long
career in politics, Khanna played an active role and rubbed
shoulders with the likes of Lala Lajpat Rai, Pandit Jawaharlal
Nehru, Indira Gandhi and many more.
He was sentenced
to death along with Ranbir of Milap and Chaman Lal Mardan
in what was then known as the governor shooting case.
During the Quit
India Movement in 1942-45, he was the only "top security
prisoner" in Punjab, spent three years in jail and was an
active participant in the movement.
determined soldier of the struggle for Independence, which took
him in and out of jail, Khanna was disturbed by the Partition in
1947. Later, terrorism in Punjab came as a second shock.
However, the final blow came with the assassination of Indira
A week later
Khanna, then 76, died of respiratory failure. In his memory, his
son, Brij Khanna, established the Durga Das Foundation, a
charitable institution, which runs a state-of-art school,
Strawberry Fields, which combines tradition of values with the
modernity of technology.
The foundation is
a non-profit, non-governmental organisation with interests in
education, culture and community development, governed by a
board comprising trustees drawn from various spheres.