As the 77th death anniversary of the freedom fighter Udham Singh ushered in on Monday, his revolver–that avenged Jallianwalah Bagh- remains in the custody of Metropolitan Police, UK. Not just his revolver, his diaries cobbler knife and ammunition are in their possession.
The revolver was used to kill Michael Francis O’Dwyer- former lieutenant governor of Punjab under whom the Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place– in Caxton Hall, London on March 13, 1940. Udham Singh was hanged for assassination on July 31, 1940.
According to an RTI reply by Union ministry of external affairs, the United Kingdom, in a communique sent in 2004, has declined to return the belongings of Udham Singh, claiming that they were part of evidence. Bhagat Singh’s pistol has been returned to Hussainiwala border museum in Ferozepur. Udham Singh used to be closely associated with Bhagat Singh.
Who was Udham Singh?
Born in Sunam town, Punjab on December 26, 1899, Udham Singh grew up at a time of political turmoil– a time where there was growing resentment against the British rule. In the year 1919, the colonial government passed Acts which increased repressive wartime measures. Mahatma Gandhi called for a country wide protest against the Black Act– which saw a great deal of response in Punjab. The British administration, in retaliation, arrested local leaders like Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. Unrest broke out between civilians and British troops over this. To restore order, the governor Michael Francis O’Dwyer gave command of several troops to Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer. Dyer banned gatherings.
On April 13, 1919, it was Baisakhi. A crowd of more than 10,000 men, women and children gathered at Amritsar’s Jallianwallah Bagh for a meeting, unaware of the ban. Some of them had come to attend fairs during festival. Udham Singh and his friends were present– given responsibility to serve water to the crowd. Singh witnessed the massacre that happened when Dyer came with his troops, sealed off the only exit and opened fire on the peaceful and defenseless crowd. The carnage continued till the ammunition ran out. Singh was deeply scarred by the event and after this got actively involved in armed resistance against the British rule.
The bloodbath at Jallianwalah Bagh was the boiling point in India’s history of freedom struggle. Dyer, after a Committee sanctioned by the Raj to investigate into massacre, had to resign and return to England.
Assassination of Dwyer
In 1933, Singh reached England with the sole purpose of assassinating the former Governor. Brigadier Dyer had died of stroke few years before– while Udham Singh was serving jail time for possession of illegal arms and for running the radical publication Ghadar di Gunj.
As O’Dwyer approved of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Singh held him responsible for the event. Udham Singh shot Michael at Caxton Hall. He did not try to resist arrest. During the trial, he said his name was Mohammed Singh Azad–as a sign that all religions were united against the colonial rule. After he was hanged on July 31, his remains were repatriated to India and cremated at his birth place, Sunam. His ashes were scattered in Satluj– as was done with the likes of revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.