Udham Singh (26 December 1899 – 31 July 1940) was an Indian rebel for the Ghadar Party and the HSRA, best known for the assassination of Michael O’Dwyer, a lieutenant colonel of the Punjab in India, on March 13, 1940. His assassination was carried out in retaliation for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, O’Dwyer was in charge. Singh was subsequently prosecuted and convicted of murder and hanged in July 1940. While in custody he used the name Ram Mohammad Singh Azad, representing the three major Indian religions and his anti-colonial sentiments.
Udham Singh is a well-known figure in the Indian liberation movement. He is also called Shaheed-i-Azam Sardar Udham Singh (the word “Shaheed-i-Azam”, meaning “great martyr”). The Uttarakhand district (Udham Singh Nagar) was named after him in October 1995 by the Mayawati government.
Udham Singh’s Early Life
Udham Singh was born into a Punjabi Kamboj Sikh family on December 26, 1899 in Sunam, Sangrur district in Punjab, India. Her mother died in infancy, and her father, Tehal Singh, died some years later.His father was a farmer, and he worked as a security guard in the village of Upalli.
After the death of his father, Singh and his older brother, Mukta Singh, were taken over by Central Khalsa Orphanage Putlighar in Amritsar. In the orphanage, Singh was governed by the original Sikh culture and received the name Udham Singh. He passed his matric exam in 1918 and left the orphanage in 1919.
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre:-
On April 10, 1919, several Indian National Congress-affiliated leaders including Satyapal and Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested under the Rowlatt Act. Protesters protesting were shot dead by British soldiers, sparking riots. On April 13, more than 20,000 unarmed civilians gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar to celebrate the important Hindu and Sikh festival of Baisakhi, as well as to protest peace and imprisonment. Udham Singh and his friends from the orphanage were providing water to the crowd. Soldiers under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer opened fire on the crowd, killing several hundred; this is variously known as Amritsar Massacre or Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Udham Singh became involved in revolutionary politics and was heavily influenced by Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary party. In 1924, Udham Singh joined the Ghadar Party, placing Indians overseas in the destruction of colonial rule. In 1927, he returned to India with orders from Bhagat Singh, bringing in 25 allies and rebels and ammunition. Shortly after that, he was arrested for possession of an illegal weapon. The revolvers, ammunition, and copies of Ghadar Party’s banned paper called “Ghadr-i-Gunj” (“Voice of Revolt”) were confiscated. He was prosecuted and sentenced to five years in prison.
After his release from prison in 1931, Singh’s movements were regularly monitored by Punjab police. He entered Kashmir, where he managed to evade the police and fled to Germany. In 1934, he arrived in London, where he found work as an engineer. Independently, he plotted to assassinate Michael O’Dwyer, in his Singh books in 1939 and 1940, sometimes mispronouncing O’Dwyer’s surname as “O’Dyer”, leaving him likely to confuse O’Dwyer with General Dyer.
The Caxton Hall Shootout :-
On March 13, 1940, Michael O’Dwyer was scheduled to address a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Central Asian Society (now the Royal Society for Asia Affairs) at Caxton Hall, London. Singh hid a pistol inside the book, which had cut-out ad-shaped ad pages. The wool was purchased by a soldier in a bar. He then entered the hall and found an open seat. At the end of the meeting, Singh shot O’Dwyer twice while on his way to the booth. One of the bullets passed through his heart and right lung, killing him instantly, and others injured in the incident included Sir Louis Dane, Lawrence Dundas, the second Marquess of Zetland, and Charles Cochrane-Baillie, Baron Lamington II. Singh was arrested shortly after the shooting.
The Murder, Court Trial, and Execution:-
On April 1, 1940, Udham Singh was charged with the official murder of Michael O’Dwyer and was remanded in custody at Brixton Prison. At first he was asked to explain his motives, Singh said: I did it because I was angry with him. He deserved it.He added “I dont belong to the public or anyone else and i don’t care and have no problem with the death. What are the benefits of waiting until old age? … Is Zetland dead? He has to be. I put two on him? I bought a pistol from a soldier in a public house. My parents died when I was three or four years old. Only one died? I thought I could get more.
While he was in custody, he called himself “Ram Mohammad Singh Azad”: the first three names of the name reflect the three major Punjab religious communities (Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh); the last word “Azad” (literally “free”) reflects his anti-colonial sentiments.
While awaiting trial, Singh went on a 42-day hunger strike and was forced to be fed. On June 4, 1940, his trial began in Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, before Justice Atkinson, and V.K. Krishna Menon and St John Hutchinson represented. UG. B. McClure was a prosecuting attorney.When asked about his motive, Singh explained:
I did it because I was angry with him. He deserved it. He was a real suspect. I crushed him because he wanted to crush my people.For the past 21 years, I have been trying to find revenge. I’m glad I did this job.He said that “i am not afraid of death, I am dying for my country, I have seen my people starving in India for British rule. I protested about this and this was my job.
Udham Singh’s Speech:-
Following his conviction, he presented a statement ordered by a judge not to be published in the press. court record of his published statement and other matters. This was a success in 1996, when his speech was published along with three other files covering the trial, as well as the Ghadar Directory, a document compiled by British intelligence in 1934 describing 792 people considered as a threat including Udham Singh.
He began this speech by condemning British Imperialism:
“I say it down to British Imperialism. You say India has no peace. We have only slavery Generations of what so-called civilisation has brought us all that is filthy and deteriorating. the so-called intellectuals who call themselves the masters of civilization in the world are the blood of passion. “
This time he was interrupted by a judge, but after the discussion he went on to say:
“I don’t care about the death penalty. It doesn’t mean anything at all. I don’t care about death or anything. I don’t care about it at all. I’m dying for a purpose.” Striking the city railway, they exclaimed, ‘We are ruled by the British Empire.’ Udham Singh continued peacefully. ‘I do not fear death. I am proud of death, I have to free my homeland and I hope that when I am gone, I hope that in my place thousands of our people will come to chase away the filthy dogs; to liberate my country.
“I am standing in front of an English judge.
“I didn’t mean anything; but I’ll take it. I don’t care about it, but if you dirty dogs come to India the time will come when you will be cleansed from India. All your British imperialism will be broken.”
“Guns on the streets of India are killing thousands of poor women and children wherever they are called the flag of freedom and Christianity.”
“Your conduct, your conduct – I’m talking about the British government. I have nothing against the people of England. I have more friends in England living in England than I have in India.
“You people are suffering – workers. Everyone is suffering from these dirty dogs; these crazy animals. India is only a slave. Murder, mutilation and destruction – British Imperialism. People don’t read about it in the papers. We know what’s going on in India.”
This time the judge declined to comment further, but Singh continued:
“You ask me what I say. I say it. Because you are dirty. You don’t want to hear about what you are doing in India.
He also put his glasses in his pocket, applauded the three Hindustani words and shouted:
‘Down with the British Empire! Down with the dirty British dogs! “
He turned and left the booth, spat on the lawyer’s table.