Shaheed Udham Singh


mauja maan di

Shaheed Udham Singh Kamboj was one of the great patriots of India, with a burning desire to see his motherland free from the clutches of British colonialism and imperialism. Udham Singh Kamboj was a son of Tehal Singh and born on 26th December, 1899 at Sunam, Sangrur District, Punjab. He belonged to Kamboj family of Jammu gotra (sub-caste) and by his historic martyrdom upheld the valiant Kshatriya tradition of the Kambojas, a tradition which they have always kept up since their glorious Vedic Aryan days. Udham Singh was known at various stages in his relatively short life by the following names: Sher Singh, Udham Singh, Udhan Singh, Ude Singh, Uday Singh, Frank Brazil and Ram Mohammed Singh Azaad. Tehal Singh's name before taking amrit paan was Chuhar Singh. Tehal Singh was at that time working as a watchman on a railway crossing in the neighbouring village of Upall. He died in 1907.

As Udham Singh's parents died at very early age of seven, he became orphan and was got admitted along with his elder brother Sadhu Singh in Centre Khalsa Orphanage Pultighar, Amritsar on October 24, 1907 with the help of Bhai Kishan Singh Rogi.
As both brothers were administered the Sikh initiatory rites at the Orphanage, they received new names, Sher Singh becoming Udham Singh and Mukta Singh becoming Sadhu Singh. Sadhu Singh did not live long and expired in the year of 1917 which caused a great shock to Udham Singh. He got his educational training in various arts and crafts there and started up a painter shop with the sign board of Ram Muhammad Singh Azaad, which shows that he was a great son of Mother India and believe in secularism above any caste and religion.
Udham Singh left the Orphanage after passing the matriculation examination in 1918. He was present in the Jallianwala Bagh on the fateful Baisakhi day, 13 April 1919, when a peaceful assembly of people was fired upon by General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, killing over one thousand and three hundred people. The event which Udham Singh used to recall with anger and sorrow, turned him to the path of revolution. Soon after, he left India and went to the United States of America. He felt thrilled to learn about the militant activities of the Babar Akalis in the early 1920's, and returned home. He had secretly brought with him some revolvers and was arrested by the police in Amritsar, and sentenced to four years imprisonment under the Arms Act in 1928. On release in 1932, he returned to his native Sunam, but harassed by the local police, he once again returned to Amritsar and opened a shop as a signboard painter, assuming the name of Ram Muhammad Singh Azaad. This name, which he was to use later in England, was adopted to emphasize the unity of all the religious communities in India in their struggle for political- freedom.

(This picture shows the Sangat at the Old Shepherds Bush Gurdwara London on the Guru Nanak Parkash Gurpurb in 1937)

(standing right at the back)
Udham Singh was deeply influenced by the activities of Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary group. In 1935, when he was on a visit to Kashmlr, he was found carrying Bhagat Singh's portrait. He invariably referred to him as his guru. He loved to sing political songs, and was very fond of Ram Prasad Bismal, who was the leading poet of the revolutionaries. After staying for some months in Kashmlr, Udham Singh left India. He wandered about the continent for some time, and reached England by the mid-thirties. He was on the lookout for an opportunity to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy.
The long-waited moment at last came on 13 March 1940. On that day, at 4.30 p.m. in the Caxton Hall, London, where a meeting of the East India Association was being held in conjunction with the Royal Central Asian Society, Udham Singh fired five to six shots from his pistol at Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who was governor of the Punjab when the Amritsar massacre had taken place. O'Dwyer was hit twice and fell to the ground dead and Lord Zetland, the Secretary of State for India, who was presiding over the meeting was injured. Udham Singh was overpowered with a smoking revolver. He in fact made no attempt to escape and continued saying that he had done his duty by his country.
On 1 April 1940, Udham Singh was formally charged with the murder of Sir Michael O'Dwyer. On 4 June 1940, he was committed to trial, at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, before Justice Atkinson, who sentenced him to death. An appeal was filed on his behalf which was dismissed on 15 July 1940. On 31 July 1940, Udham Sin*gh was hanged in Pentonville Prison in London.

(Udham Singh being led away by Police outside Caxton Hall, after shooting O'Dwyer ,13 March 1940, almost 21 years after the Jallianwala Bagh killings)
Udham Singh was essentially a man of action and save his statement before the judge at his trial, there was no writing from his pen available to historians. Recently, letters written by him to Shiv Singh Jauhal during his days in prison after the shooting of Sir Michael O'Dwyer have been discovered and published. These letters show him as a man of great courage, with a sense of humour. He called himself a guest of His Majesty King George, and he looked upon death as a bride he was going to wed. By remaining cheerful to the last and going joyfully to the gallows, he followed the example of Bhagat Singh who had been his beau ideal. During the trial, Udham Singh had made a request that his ashes be sent back to his country, but this was not allowed. In 1975, however, the Government of India, at the instance of the Punjab Government, finally succeeded in bringing his ashes home. Lakhs of people gathered on the occasion to pay homage to his memory.