23 March, 1931: Three Indian freedom fighters faced the noose for crimes against the crown. That’s how the British saw it. But the truth is that they were scared. These men had given a voice to the nation. 200 years of oppression, but a revolution was in the offing and for all the crimes and misery the Brits put our country through, an independent India was not acceptable to them.
But thanks to men like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru, who gladly walked to the gallows, sacrificing their lives for a bigger cause, the people believed in the idea of poorna swaraj (complete freedom).
Of course, they did not get the recognition that the likes of MK Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru did. They did not get the title of Mahatma, but they got the brave prefix of Shaheed.
They weren’t the only ones. The road to freedom left a lot of unsung heroes in its wake. A few movies, songs and articles later, we all started talking about Bhagat Singh. It took him years to be recognised. But some statues, localities, roads and institutions named after these men does not do justice to the sacrifices they made.
Yes, we’ve started talking about Bhagat Singh, but what of the people with him?
We rarely speak of his comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev. They too put their lives on the line. They too went to jail. They too were hanged in the Lahore Conspiracy Case. It is great that we remember Bhagat Singh. But please let’s remember the others who died for India on the very same night.
It takes outstanding courage to do what they did. Sukhdev – like Bhagat Singh, was only 23 – and Rajguru only 22. Boys who had to turn into men overnight.
From the Rani of Jhansi to Chandrashekhar Azad, two centuries worth of martyrs laid down their lives for our freedom. Everybody had their part to play and Rajguru and Sukhdev did everything they could to play theirs selflessly.
Some termed John Saunders’ death as revenge for Lala Lajpat Rai’s demise, some call it murder. But ultimately, it was sacrifice. A part of the freedom struggle that led to the hanging of three extremely brave souls.
They lived together, they fought together, they were hanged together and they were cremated together. It is up to us to remember them together as well.