Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad

Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad was a fearless revolutionary and one of the greatest freedom fighter of India. He will always remain immortal in the annals of Indian history as a man who sacrificed his life on the altar of freedom. Chandra Shekhar Ji was born on 23 July 1906 in village Bhavra in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh to Pandit Sita Ram Tiwari and Jagrani Devi. He received his early schooling in Bhavra. For higher studies he went to the Sanskrit Pathashala at Varanasi. Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad joined the freedom struggle when still young. In 1921, he received his first punishment for revolutionary activities. He was sentenced to fifteen lashes. With each stroke of the whip the young patriot shouted "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". He was undaunted and he badly scared the British with his courage and rebellion against the oppression of the Indians. He is considered to be the mentor of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and chief strategist of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association-HSRA.

“दुश्मन की गोलियों का हम सामना करेंगे, 
आजाद ही रहे हैं, आजाद ही रहेंगे.”

Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad's mother Jagrani Devi wanted to make him a great Sanskrit scholar and so she persuaded his father to send Chandra Shekhar to Kashi Vidyapeeth, Benaras for studying Sanskrit. In December 1921, when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement, Chandra Shekhar Azad, then a 14-15 year old student , joined the Non-Cooperation Movement. As a result, he was arrested and presented before a British magistrate. When the magistrate asked his name, he immediately replied "Azad", meaning The Liberated. When he was asked to tell his father's name, he answered- "Swatantra" meaning Freedom. Then, the magistrate asked- "Where do you live?" He answered- "Jailkhana" meaning prison. He was sentenced to imprisonment for fifteen days with hard punishments. Over the punishment he again commented- "Sir! I replied so because I was sure you would send me to prison". This reply of Chandra shekhar elicited a round of laughter from the jury. The magistrate, who had totally lost his temper by now, asked the policemen to flog him fifteen times. With each stroke of the whip, he shouted loudly- "Bharat Mata Ki Jai !" (en.Hail Mother India!). From that day onward, Chandra shekhar Sitaram Tiwari assumed the title 'Azad' and came to be known as Chandra shekhar Azad.

After suspension of the non-cooperation movement in 1922 by Gandhi, Azad became more aggressive on his stance. He committed himself to achieve complete independence by any means. Azad also believed that India's future lay in socialism. He met a young revolutionary Pranvesh Chatterji who introduced him to Ram Prasad Bismil who had formed the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), a revolutionary organisation. Azad was impressed with the aim of HRA, i.e., an independent India with equal rights and opportunity to everyone without discrimination of caste, creed, religion or social status. On introduction, Bismil was impressed by Azad, when Azad reportedly put his hand over the lighing lamp and did not remove it till his skin burnt. He then became an active member of the HRA and started to collect funds for HRA. Most of the fund collection was through robberies of government property. He also wanted to build a new India based on socialist principles. Azad and his compatriots also planned and executed several acts of violence against the British. Most of his revolutionary activities were planned and executed from Shahjahanpur which was also the hometown of Ram Prasad. He was involved in the famous Kakori Train Robbery of 1925, in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy's train in 1926, and at last the shooting of J.P. Saunders at Lahore in 1928 to avenge the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai.

Appalled by the brutal violence, Azad felt that violence was acceptable in such a struggle, especially in view of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919, when a British Army unit killed hundreds of unarmed civilians and wounded thousands in Amritsar. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre deeply influenced young Azad and his contemporaries.

Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad made Jhansi his organisation's hub for a considerable duration. He chose the forest of Orchha situated at about fifteen kilometers from Jhansi for shooting practice. He was an expert marksman and used to train other members of his group in Orchha. Near the forest he built a hut aside a Hanuman Temple on the banks of the Satar River. He lived there under the alias of Pandit Harishankar Brahmachari for a long period, and started teaching kids of the nearby village Dhimarpura. In this way he managed to establish good rapport with the local residents. The village Dhimarpura was renamed as Azadpura by the Madhya Pradesh government.

While living in Jhansi, he also learnt to drive a car at Bundelkhand Motor Garage in Sadar Bazar of the cantonment area. Sadashivrao Malkapurkar, Vishwanath Vaishampayan and Bhagwan Das Mahaur came in close contact with him and became an integral part of his revolutionary group. The then congress leaders from Jhansi Pandit Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar and Pandit Sitaram Bhaskar Bhagwat were also close to Azad. He also stayed for sometime in the house of Master Rudra Narayan Singh situated at Nai Basti and Pandit Sitaram Bhaskar Bhagwat's house in Nagra.

The HRA was formed by Ram Prasad Bismil, Yogesh Chandra Chatterji, Sachindra Nath Sanyal and Shachindra Nath Bakshi in 1924 just after two year of the Non co-operation movement. In the aftermath of the Kakori train robbery in 1925, the British clamped down on revolutionary activities. Prasad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Thakur Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri were sentenced to death for their participation. Chandra Shekhar Azad, Keshab Chakravarthy and Murari Sharma evaded capture. Chandra Shekhar Azad later reorganized the HRA with the help of revolutionaries like Sheo Verma and Mahaveer Singh. Azad was also a close associate of Bhagwati Charan Vohra who along with Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru, helped him to transform the HRA into the HSRA in 1928 so as to achieve their primary aim of an independent India based on socialist principles

In the last week of February 1931, Azad went to Sitapur Jail and met Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. He hoped that Vidyarthi would involve in the case of Bhagat Singh and others as he had previously done in the Kakori conspiracy case. Vidyarthi suggested him to go to Allahabad and meet Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. If he could be convinced, Nehru would be able to persuade Gandhi to talk to the Viceroy Lord Irwin and reach an agreement with the British Government in the forthcoming Gandhi-Irwin Pact.Chandra Shekhar Azad met Pandit Nehru on 6 February 1931. Pandit Nehru did not agree with him on some points, but was moved by Chandra Shekhar' s fervent patriotism and gave him 1200 rupees, which Chandra Shekhar needed for his work.

On February 27, Azad went to the Alfred Park on his bicycle. He sat under a tree of Jamun after propping his bicycle on the tree. He was discussing some confidential matters with a fellow party member, Sukhdev Raj when Deputy Superintendent of Police Bisheshwar Singh along with S.S.P. (C.I.D.) John Nott-Bower arrived there. Nott-Bower pointed his finger towards Azad to tell Bisheshwar Singh that this corpulent man was the person about whom he was informed just now by some reliable sources. Seeing a policeman pointing out his finger towards him, Azad immediately dragged out his Colt pistol from pocket and fired at Nott-Bower, hitting him in the right wrist. Seeing his senior officer soaked in blood, Bisheshwar Singh abused Azad. Azad immediately shot Bisheshwar Singh in his mouth, breaking his jaw. Within a few minutes, the police surrounded Alfred Park. During the initial encounter, Azad suffered a severe bullet wound in his right thigh, making it difficult for him to escape. But even then he made it possible for Sukhdev Raj to escape by providing him a cover fire. After Sukhdev Raj escaped, Azad managed to keep the police at bay for a long time.

Finally, with only one bullet left in his pistol and being completely surrounded and outnumbered, Chandra Shekhar Azad shot himself, keeping his pledge to never be captured alive. However, the British reported that he was killed in the police encounter by a troop lead by John Reginald Hornby Nott-Bower who was awarded with the King's Police Medal (KPM Award) in 1949. According to the reliable sources, a C.I.D. Inspector Ram Vadan Singh reported to Chowdhury Vishal Singh, the Officer-In-Charge of Colonelganj Police Station Allahabad that his S.S.P. along with one Dy.S.P. had been seriously injured from an attack by some Indian revolutionary. The police officers who came after the death of Azad did not approach his dead body for about half an hour. Only after a gun filled with buckshot was fired into his thigh, and no movement was noticed in the body, did the police touch his dead body.[2] The file related to Azad is preserved in C.I.D. Headquarters, 1, Gokhale Marg, Lucknow.

Azad is a hero to many Proud Indians today. Alfred Park was renamed Chandrashekhar Azad Park, as have scores of schools, colleges, roads and other public institutions across India. Ever since Manoj Kumar's film, Shaheed Bhagat Singh in 1964, Azad's character has become central to any film or commemoration of the life of Bhagat Singh. He was played by Sunny Deol in 2002, in the movie 23rd March 1931: Shaheed. In the movie "The Legend of Bhagat Singh", starring Ajay Devgan, Azad (played by Akhilendra Mishra) had a prominent role as well. The patriotism of Azad, Rajguru, Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan was also depicted in Rang De Basanti, a contemporary Bollywood film starring Aamir Khan that was released in February 2006.

Quotes by Chandra Shekhar Azad
  1. If yet your blood does not rage, then it is water that flows in your veins. For what is the flush of youth, if it is not of service to the motherland.
  2. We will face the bullets of the enemies, we are free and will remain free.

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