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A ‘reunion’ of revolutionaries

A ‘reunion’ of revolutionaries

Photo for representation. PTI file photo

Harjot Singh Sidhu

IN July, I paid a visit to Allahabad (Prayagraj). During the Indian freedom struggle, Allahabad was an epicentre of political and revolutionary activities. The fourth and eighth sessions of the Indian National Congress were held in the city in 1888 and 1892, respectively. At the turn of the century, Allahabad became a nodal point for the revolutionaries. The city also has a connection with Shaheed Bhagat Singh. In 1928, he spent a night in the Holland Hall hostel of Allahabad University with Ajay Ghosh, a freedom fighter and a leader of the Communist Party of India. Great revolutionaries such as Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan and Thakur Roshan Singh hailed from the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh) and were actively operating in Allahabad.

Arguably the most famous park associated with the freedom struggle is the Chandra Shekhar Azad Park, which was built in the heart of Allahabad in 1870 to mark the visit of Prince Alfred. Spread over 133 acres, it was known as Alfred Park and Company Bagh during British rule.

I visited the park in the evening and watched the mesmerising light-and-sound show depicting Azad’s life. On February 27, 1931, the CID head at Allahabad, JRH Nott-Bower, was tipped off by someone that Azad was at Alfred Park along with his aide, Sukhdev Raj. Bower took cops along to the park to arrest him. The police cordoned off the place. Some constables, along with DSP Thakur Vishweshwar Singh, entered the park armed with rifles; a shootout ensued. Azad killed three policemen, but was badly wounded while defending himself and helping Raj. Azad told him to leave the park and gave him cover fire; Raj managed to escape. Azad hid behind a tree and began to fire from there. The police fired back. After a long shootout, holding true to his pledge to always remain Azad (free) and never be captured alive, he shot himself in the head with his last bullet. The cops found Azad’s body, but they were afraid of coming close despite knowing that he was dead.

After paying homage at Azad’s statue, I went to the Allahabad Museum. While entering the premises, I told the museum staff that I belonged to Punjab. Later, a staff member came running to me and said: ‘Sir, since you are from Punjab, I want to tell you that last year, relatives of Bhagat Singh visited the park and the museum. They brought mitti (soil) from Khatkar Kalan, the native village of the martyr.’ Then she took us to a jamun tree, where the mitti was sprinkled. The tree stood beside Azad’s statue.

It seemed that the two revolutionaries had been reunited after almost a century. Both had sacrificed their lives for the nation within a few weeks in 1931 — Bhagat Singh, whose birth anniversary falls today, was 23, while Azad was 24.


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