India's revenge for Jallianwala Bagh massacre: All about Sardar Udham Singh

Sardar Udham Singh is an Indian revolutionary who is known for the revenge of thousands of killings that took place by the Britishers at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919.

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India's struggle for independence will always be unforgettable in history. However, a few events will also serve to remind citizens of the horrific stories that unfolded in the land before the country achieved its full independence. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre is one such event. The turning of a peaceful gathering into a bloodbath in Amritsar not only shook the country in 1919 but continues to leave an impact to this day. However, while we remember the massacre as a stain on Indian land, what we often forget is to remember the Indian who did not let the horrific incident fade into the dark history of India but sought revenge for the lives of thousands of citizens. Yes, we are talking about Sardar Udham Singh.



In the year 1919, on April 13, the day of Baisakhi, thousands of people from neighboring villages gathered for festivities and a fun fair. After the cattle fair, the crowd assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, a public garden spanning 6-7 acres and surrounded by walls on all sides. Anticipating potential insurrection, Colonel Reginald Dyer, who had already banned meetings, marched with his troops. Historical references suggest it was unlikely for the general public to be aware of the ban.

General Dyer closed all exits and ordered his men to open fire on the gathering, indiscriminately targeting men, women, and children. The order resulted in the deaths of almost 379 people, with 1,100 wounded, according to British Indian sources. However, the Indian National Congress claimed the death toll to be over 1,000, with 1,500 wounded. Recognizing the damage Dyer had inflicted on India, the British House of Commons removed him from his position and barred him from employment in India. Initially, the British Empire had considered Dyer a hero.

The Indian revolutionary we must remember!


Source Sardar Udham Singh

Born in Sunam village of Sangrur district in Punjab back in 1899, Sardar Udham Singh was associated with the Ghadar Party and the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. His father, Tahal Singh Kamboj, worked as a watchman at a railway crossing in Upali. However, Singh lost his parents at an early age and was admitted to the Central Khalsa Orphanage at Putlighar in Amritsar. It was here that Sher Singh, Udham Singh's birth name, was changed to Udham Singh after he and his brother converted to Sikhism.

In 1918, Udham Singh passed his matriculation examination and left the orphanage. This was a time of major political turmoil in Punjab, and youth were actively involved in it, including Udham Singh.

On the day of the massacre, Udham Singh was serving water to the people gathered at the park. His experience during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre left him not just shocked but also resentful. Vicky Kaushal's film, "Sardar Udham Singh," which performed well at the box office, vividly depicts scenes following the massacre and how Udham Singh was impacted by it. These scenes have been given utmost importance and time before unfolding the story of revenge.

Two decades later, Udham Singh avenged the deaths of thousands of Indian citizens and came to be known as "Shaheed-i-Azam Sardar Udham Singh." However, he was immediately arrested after killing Michael O’Dwyer and was tried in Britain, resulting in his subsequent hanging in London’s Pentonville prison in July 1940.

A glimpse into Udham Singh's revenge


Source Michael O’Dwyer

Soon after the incident, Singh traveled to East Africa in the early 1920s to work as a laborer before arriving in the USA. He also worked as a toolmaker at a Ford factory in Detroit. Later, in San Francisco, he met members of the Ghadar Party, including immigrant Punjabi-Sikhs who were organizing a revolutionary movement from the USA. He also traveled all over America, and a few allies like Sher Singh, Ude Singh, and Frank Brazil joined him to assist in revolutionary activities.

Singh returned to India on the instructions of Bhagat Singh in 1927 and dedicated himself to the publication of Ghadr-di-Gunj, a radical journal of the Ghadar Party. During this time, he was arrested for illegal possession of arms and sentenced to imprisonment for five years. After being released on October 23, 1931, he learned that in 1927, Brigadier-General Dyer had died of a heart attack after a series of strokes. He also learned that Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were hanged on March 23, 1931, for their role in killing John P. Saunders, a British policeman, in 1928.

Afterward, Singh traveled to Kashmir and then to Germany, eluding the police. He then traveled to Italy, France, Switzerland, and Austria before reaching London in 1934. He worked as a carpenter, signboard painter, motor mechanic, and even as an extra in a couple of Alexander Korda films. However, nothing could deter him from his motive to assassinate Michael O’Dwyer, who endorsed the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

Upon learning that Michael O’Dwyer was going to address a joint meeting of the Central Asian Society (now Royal Society for Asian Affairs) and the East India Association at Caxton Hall, London on March 13, 1940, Singh managed to buy a revolver from a soldier in a pub, concealed it in the pocket of his jacket, and entered the hall. As the meeting was about to conclude, he approached and fired two shots, one passing through O’Dwyer's heart and right lung, killing him instantly. Singh also managed to wound Lord Zetland, the Secretary of State for India, Sir Louis Dane, and Lord Lamington.

According to records, Singh did not attempt to flee after the killing and was taken into custody. The main reason for choosing a public place for the assassination, as per reports, was to draw global attention to the British atrocities carried out in India.

Repatriation to his land

Three decades after his death, in 1974, on the orders of MLA Sadhu Singh Thind, Udham Singh's mortal remains were repatriated to India. Thind personally brought back the casket, which was then received by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Giani Zail Singh, the then Chief Minister of Punjab, and Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then President of the Congress party. Udham Singh's remains were cremated according to Sikh rites in Sunam, his native place, while his ashes were immersed in the River Sutlej.

However, a portion of the ashes was retained to be kept in a sealed urn at Jallianwala Bagh, where the tale of his fate began in 1919.

With inputs from Jagran Josh, The Indian Express, The Print, The Open University.

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