By Intikhab Hanif

Dawn : March 25, 2018

LAHORE: For the first time in its history, the Punjab government is exhibiting on Monday contents of the case file of the trial of revolutionary Bhagat Singh and others who were hanged to death on March 23, 1931, in Lahore, among various other historic documents.

The exhibition will be inaugurated at the tomb of Anarkali, the main storehouse of the Punjab archives department, by Additional Chief Secretary Umar Rasool.

Bhagat Singh, a Sandhu Jat, was born in 1907 to Kishan Singh and Vidyavati at Chak No 105 GB, Banga village, Jaranwala Tehsil, Lyallpur (now Faisalabad). He was an Indian socialist revolutionary whose two acts of violence against the British in India and execution at the age of 23 made him a hero of the Indian independence movement.

In December 1929, Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Rajguru, shot dead a 21-year-old British police officer, ASP John Saunders, in Lahore, mistaking him for the British police superintendent, James Scott, whom they actually intended to assassinate. They believed that Scott was responsible for the death of Indian nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai, by having ordered a baton charge to disperse a rally taken out in Lahore to condemn the Rowlatt Act. Lala Lajpat was injured and later died in hospital.

Saunders was shot eight times from within the DAV (now Islamia College Civil Lines). Another associate, Chandra Shekhar Azad, shot dead police constable Charan Singh, who chased Bhagat Singh and Rajguru as they fled and entered the college after targeting the ASP. They all escaped through the college hostels.

The archives say that another associate was deputed outside the main gate of the SSP Office opposite the DAV College to signal the emergence of James Scott. But this associate mistook Saunders as he began to leave the police headquarters on a motorcycle, and alerted the waiting Bhagat Singh and Rajguru who opened fire.

After escaping, Bhagat Singh and his associates went underground. He surfaced in April 1929 in the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi and tossed two improvised bombs inside the House from the visitors’ gallery. They also showered leaflets on the legislators below, shouted slogans, and then courted arrest. Bhagat Singh later revealed the bombs were only for impact and not killing anyone.

Awaiting trial, Singh gained much public sympathy after he joined co-accused Jatin Das in a hunger strike, demanding better prison conditions for Indian prisoners. Das died from starvation in September 1929. Bhagat Singh was convicted and hanged in March 1931, aged 23.

The case files contain documents showing how the British India police and agencies had busted the team of Bhagat Singh comprising around 24 to 25 members from different parts of India and established their links with the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army and the Naujawan Bharat Sabha.

The documents (exhibits in legal jargon) to be displayed for the first time include postmortem reports of ASP Saunders and Constable Charan Singh, documents of the parties, their manifestos and literature.

The case file shows that Bhagat Singh was brought to Lahore for trial of the bomb case by an additional sessions judge. He and the co-accused were awarded life imprisonment which they were to undergo in Andaman Islands (called Kala Pani). They filed an appeal against the conviction and in the meantime the authorities came to know that Bhagat Singh and others had killed ASP Saunders and Constable Charan Singh.

A trial by a tribunal was started which was called The Lahore Conspiracy Case in which two members of Bhagat Singh’s group became approvers and facilitated conviction of their comrades.

The documents to be put on display also include addresses of places where Bhagat Singh and his comrades used to stay, including a factory on Ravi Road, a rented house in Gowalmandi, another in Mozang and in Kashmir Building on McLeod Road. Admission register of a comrade from the DAV college, books, novels and revolutionary literature which Bhagat Singh would read are also being displayed. The books include Punjab Tragedy, Zakhmi Punjab, Ganga Das Dakoo, Sultana Dakoo, The Evolution of Sinn Fein and History of the Sinn Fein Movement.

Letters written by Bhagat Singh from Jail to his father and for getting A Class after declaring himself and others as political prisoners and books, newspapers, record of the hotels where he and other stayed when underground would also be displayed.

The petition for the facilities are handwritten by Bhagat Singh and carry his signatures. The revolutionary significantly did not end each application with the customary ‘yours truly or ‘obediently’. Instead he chose the words “Yours etc. etc.” showing his resilience in the face of tyranny.

The most important are the court’s orders convicting the accused, black warrants and the jailer’s report confirming the hanging of Bhagat Singh and his comrades in Lahore.