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Chandra Shekhar Azad

Chandra Shekhar Azad ( 1906-1931)

Pandit Sita Ram Tiwari, father of Chandra Shekhar Azad, was a poor, orthodox brahmin, who had to leave his home village Badarka in U.P. in search of livelihood. He served as a watchman in a State garden in Bhavra, a village formerly in Alirajpur State and now in the Jhabua District of Madhya Pradesh. It was here, in a bamboo hut plastered with mud, that Jagrani Devi gave birth to Chandra Shekhar Azad on July 23, 1906.

Chandra Shekhar received his early schooling in Bhavra. He was fond of wandering and hunting with Bhil boys of his neighbourhood, with bow and arrows. This was very much disliked by his orthodox father. When Chandra Shekhar was about 14 year old, he somehow reached Varanasi. There he entered a Sanskrit pathshala, where he was provided free board and lodging. Till his death, he was unmarried and lived the austere life of a ‘brahmachari’, which he began in this pathshala.

Those were the days of the great national upsurge of non-violent non-cooperation movement of 1920-21 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Young Chandra Shekhar, along with other students, was fascinated and drawn into it. By nature he loved energetic activities more than passive studies. Very soon he became a favourite of the local leaders like Shiva Prasad Gupta. When arrested, he was so young that handcuffs were too big for his wrists.

He was put on trial before a magistrate who was notorious for his brutality towards freedom fighters. Chandra Shekhar’s attitude in the court was defiant. He gave his name as ‘Azad’ his father’s name as ‘Swatantra’ and his residence as ‘prison’. The magistrate was provoked. He sentenced him to fifteen lashes of flogging. Chandra Shekhar’s body was stripped and tied to the flogging triangle. As lash after lash tore his skin, he shouted slogans; ‘Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai’, ‘Bandemataram’ etc. his amazing endurance, courage and fortitude were highly appreciated and he was publicly honoured as ‘Azad’. The name stuck thereafter.

When the non-cooperation movement was withdrawn, the revolutionary movement again flared up. Chandra Shekhar’s natural aptitudes led him to contact Manmath Nath Gupta. Through him he joined the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army where he soon gained the admiration of its leaders. They lovingly called him ‘quick-silver’ for his restless energy. He took an active part in every armed action of the party under the leadership of Ramprasad Bismil. He was involved in the Kakori Conspiracy (1926), the attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train (1926) the Assembly Bomb Incident, the Delhi Conspiracy, the shooting of Saunders at Lahore (1928) and the Second Lahore Conspiracy.

The present contributor attended a secret meeting with Chandra Shekhar Azad and Sukhdev Raj in the Alfred Park, Allahabad, in February 1931.

Azad was of the opinion that the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army
had moved far ahead and that no purpose would be served by asking individuals to take to armed action. The time had come to pass on to mass revolutionary actions culminating in a socialist revolution. To achieve that, it was necessary to make a thorough study of the methods that were so successfully used by the Bolsheviks in Russia.

For this purpose, as a regular member of the H.R.S. Army, the present contributor was asked to proceed to Russia on his own resources. The only help the party would give him was an automatic pistol with a magazine of eleven cartridges. The assignment was fulfilled in letter and spirit, but, alas, Azad was no more there to guide and instruct the group further.

As is believed by most of the knowledgeable revolutionary comrades of the time, Azad was betrayed by an associate who turned a traitor. On February 27, 1931, in the Alfred Park, Allahabad, Azad was surrounded by a well-armed police party. For quite some time he held them at bay, single-handed, with a small pistol and a few cartridges. Even the enemy was all praise for his sharp shooting skill and courageous composure. As he could hit quite a few of the assailants who were firing at him from behind covers. Left with only one bullet, he fired it at his own temple and lived up to his resolve that he would never be arrested and dragged to the gallows to be hanged.


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