Sardar Udham Singh: The historical background

The recent biopic, Sardar Udham, of a revolutionary nationalist in the British Era is the fourth film to adapt his life story and portray the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the plan to take revenge for it.

The Ghadar movement was started mainly by the Punjabi immigrants of the USA and Canada seeking international support for Indian independence in 1913. Its goal was to overthrow British Raj through an extremist route. Ghadar means revolt in Punjabi and Urdu. Its founding fathers were Kanshiram, Bhai Parmanand, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Harnam Singh and Lala Har Dayal. Its weekly paper The Ghadar is meant for free circulation and headquartered in Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco. The caption on the masthead is printed as Angrezi Raj ka Dushman (an enemy of the British Raj).

“Holy Book for Patriots”

The movement stirred the patriotism and courage among the Indian diaspora and the native Indian youth from secret activities. ‘Gadar Di Goonj’ collection of poems that were secular in nature called Indians to revolt. It wrote:

Hindus Sikhs Pathans and Muslims, pay attention you all people in the army.

The time of worship is over now, it is time to take up the sword.

“Fifty-six years have elapsed since the revolt of 1857; now there is an urgent need for a second one”, proclaimed the Ghadar.

The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army was founded in 1928 under the collective leadership of young socialist militants. They made individual heroic deeds. Saunders, a British police officer was shot dead by Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and Rajguru for his Lathi charge on Lala Lajpat Rai. This group again threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly and circulated a pamphlet that read, “To make the deaf hear.” The youth of Punjab, UP, Bihar and Bengal looked at them as their heroes. They joined the movement in numbers to deny their life for the freedom of India.

On April 13, 1919, on the eve of the Baisakhi festival, thousands gathered in Jallianwala Bagh to make a peaceful protest for the arrest of Satyapal. Then Lieutenant Governor of Punjab Michael O’Dwyer declared martial law on Amritsar. General Reginald Dyer opened fire on the civilians resulting in hundreds dead and thousands injured. It marked a Black day for the British raj in world history. Preaching democracy, liberty and other kinds; boasting the culture and civilization of the whites; the English made a cruel and barbaric act which is a shame.

These three were the major forces for Sardar Udham Singh to revenge O’Dwyer. Jallianwala Bagh massacre is the cause; the Ghadar movement and HSRA were the means to achieve it. Udham Singh an associate of Bhagat Singh was present at the place of the massacre and witnessed the tragic episode of history. His owe to take revenge took twenty-one years meanwhile he associated himself with HSRA and travelled abroad getting help from Ghadarites in the US, Canada and UK and getting support from socialists in Russia.

Finally on 13 March 1943, he shot dead Michael O’ Dwyer in Caxton Hall, London. He justified himself before the English court that he had nothing against British people. In fact, he claimed that he had more English friends in England. He was against the British government and made slogans when he was sentenced to death, “Down with British imperialism!”

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