Born Chandra Shekhar Tiwari
23 July 1906
Badarka, Unnao District, near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died 27 February 1931 (aged 24)
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Other names Azad
Occupation Revolutionary leader, freedom fighter, political activist
Organization Hindustan Republican Association (later on Hindustan Socialist Republican Association)
Political movement Indian Independence Movement
Chandra Shekhar Azad (23 July 1906 – 27 February 1931), popularly known as Azad (“The Liberated”), was one of the most important Indian revolutionaries who reorganised the Hindustan Republican Association under the new name of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) after the death of its founder Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil and three other prominent party leaders, Thakur Roshan Singh, Rajendra Nath Lahiri and Ashfaqulla Khan. He is considered to be the mentor of Bhagat Singh and chief strategist of the HSRA.
Chandra Shekhar Azad was born on 23 July 1906 in Jujhautiya Brahmin clan of Bhumihar Brahmins, (William Crooke writes, “A branch of the Kanaujia Brahmins (Kanyakubja Brahmins) who take their name from the country of Jajakshuku, which is mentioned in the Madanpur inscription.) in the family of Pandit Sitaram Tiwari and Jagrani Devi in the bhabara (of alirajpur District)|Madhya Pradesh. He spent his childhood in the village Bhabhra when his father was serving in the erstwhile estate of Alirajpur
He learned archery from the tribal Bhils of erstwhile Jhabua district which helped him later on during the arms struggle against the Britishers.
His mother Jagrani Devi wanted to make her son a great Sanskrit scholar and so she persuaded his father to send him to Kashi Vidyapeeth, Banaras for studying Sanskrit. In December 1921, when Mohandas K. Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement, Chandra Shekhar, then a 15 year old student, joined the movement. As a result, he was arrested and presented before a magistrate. When the magistrate asked his name, he immediately replied “Azad”, meaning The Liberated. When he was asked to tell his father’s name, he answered- “Swatantra” meaning Freedom. Then, the magistrate asked- “Where do you live?” He answered- “Jailkhana” meaning prison. He was sentenced to imprisonment for fifteen days with hard punishments. Over the punishment he again commented- “Sir! I replied so because I was sure you would send me to prison”. This reply of Chandrashekhar elicited a round of laughter from the jury. The magistrate, who had totally lost his temper by now, asked the policemen to flog him fifteen times. With each stroke of the whip, he shouted loudly- “Bharat Mata Ki Jai !” (en.Hail Mother India!). From that day onward, Chandrashekhar Tiwari assumed the title ‘Azad’ and came to be known as Chandrashekhar ‘Azad’.
After suspension of the non-cooperation movement in 1922 by Gandhi, Azad became more aggressive on his stance. He committed himself to achieve complete independence by any means. Azad also believed that India’s future lay in socialism. He met a young revolutionary Pranvesh Chatterji who introduced him to Ram Prasad Bismil who had formed the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), a revolutionary organisation. Azad was impressed with the aim of HRA, i.e., an independent India with equal rights and opportunity to everyone without discrimination of caste, creed, religion or social status. On introduction, Bismil was impressed by Azad, when Azad reportedly put his hand over the lighing lamp and did not remove it till his skin burnt. He then became an active member of the HRA and started to collect funds for HRA. Most of the fund collection was through robberies of government property. He also wanted to build a new India based on socialist principles. Azad and his compatriots also planned and executed several acts of violence against the British. Most of his revolutionary activities were planned and executed from Shahjahanpur which was also the hometown of Ram Prasad. He was involved in the famous Kakori Train Robbery of 1925, in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train in 1926, and at last the shooting of J.P. Saunders at Lahore in 1928 to avenge the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai.
Formation of Hindustan Republican Association
Appalled by the brutal violence, Azad felt that violence was acceptable in such a struggle, especially in view of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919, when a British Army unit killed hundreds of unarmed civilians and wounded thousands in Amritsar. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre deeply influenced young Azad and his contemporaries.
Activities in Jhansi
Chandra Shekhar Azad made Jhansi his organisation’s hub for a considerable duration. He chose the forest of Orchha situated at about fifteen kilometers from Jhansi for shooting practice. He was an expert marksman and used to train other members of his group in . Near the forest he built a hut aside a Hanuman Temple on the banks of the Satar River. He lived there under the alias of Pandit Harishankar Brahmachari for a long period, and started teaching kids of the nearby village Dhimarpura. In this way he managed to establish good rapport with the local residents. The village Dhimarpura was renamed as Azadpura by the Madhya Pradesh government.
While living in Jhansi, he also learnt to drive a car at Bundelkhand Motor Garage in Sadar Bazar of the cantonment area. Sadashivrao Malkapurkar, Vishwanath Vaishampayan and Bhagwan Das Mahaur came in close contact with him and became an integral part of his revolutionary group. The then congress leaders from Jhansi Pandit Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar and Pandit Sitaram Bhaskar Bhagwat were also close to Azad. He also stayed for sometime in the house of Master Rudra Narayan Singh situated at Nai Basti and Pandit Sitaram Bhaskar Bhagwat’s house in Nagra.
With Bhagat Singh
The HRA was formed by Ram Prasad Bismil, Yogesh Chandra Chatterji, Sachindra Nath Sanyal and Shachindra Nath Bakshi in 1924 just after two year of the Non co-operation movement. In the aftermath of the Kakori train robbery in 1925, the British clamped down on revolutionary activities. Prasad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Thakur Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri were sentenced to death for their participation. Chandra Shekhar Azad, Keshab Chakravarthy and Murari Sharma evaded capture. Chandra Shekhar Azad later reorganized the HRA with the help of revolutionaries like Sheo Verma and Mahaveer Singh. Azad was also a close associate of Bhagwati Charan Vohra who along with Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru, helped him to transform the HRA into the HSRA in 1928 so as to achieve their primary aim of an independent India based on socialist principle.
Death of Shahaadat
In the last week of February 1931, Azad went to Sitapur Jail and met Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. He hoped that Vidyarthi would involve in the case of Bhagat Singh and others as he had previously done in the Kakori conspiracy case. Vidyarthi suggested him to go to Allahabad and meet Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. If he could be convinced, Nehru would be able to persuade Gandhi to talk to the Viceroy Lord Irwin and reach an agreement with the British Government in the forthcoming Gandhi-Irwin Pact.Chandra Shekhar Azad met Pandit Nehru on 27 February 1931 early morning and asked help to stop capital punishment of these three Krantikari(Bhagat Singh,Rajguru and Shukhdev). Pandit Nehru did not agree with him on some points and told him to leave immediately.So,Azad had to return back with an empty hand.
On the same day, Azad went to the Alfred Park . He sat under a tree of Jamun . He was discussing some confidential matters with a fellow party member, Sukhdev Raj (Not to be mistaken with Sukhdev).Azad was betrayed by one of his own friends turned to an informer to the police. Deputy Superintendent of Police Bisheshwar Singh along with S.S.P. (C.I.D.) John Nott-Bower and many other policemen arrived there from behind. Nott-Bower pointed his pistol towards Azad and told Bisheshwar Singh that this corpulent man was the person about whom he was informed just now by some reliable sources. Seeing a policeman pointing out his pistol towards him, Azad immediately dragged out his Colt pistol from pocket and fired at Nott-Bower, hitting him in the right wrist. Seeing his senior officer soaked in blood, Bisheshwar Singh abused Azad and fired on him. Azad immediately shot Bisheshwar Singh in his mouth, breaking his jaw. Within a few minutes, the police surrounded Alfred Park. During the initial encounter, Azad suffered a severe bullet wound in his right thigh. But even then he killed three policemen and wounded many and made it possible for Sukhdev Raj to escape by providing him a cover fire. After Sukhdev Raj escaped, Azad managed to keep the police at bay for a long time.
Finally, with only one bullet left in his pistol and being completely surrounded and outnumbered, Chandra Shekhar Azad shot himself, keeping his pledge to never be captured alive. However, the British reported that he was killed in the police encounter by a troop lead by John Reginald Hornby Nott-Bower. The police officers who came after the death of Azad did not approach his dead body for more than half an hour. Only after a gun was fired into the body, and no movement was noticed, did the police touch him. The file related to Azad is preserved in C.I.D. Headquarters, 1, Gokhale Marg, Lucknow. The Colt pistol of Chandra Shekhar Azad shown on the left hand side is displayed at the Allahabad Museum within the Chandrashekhar Azad Park.
There were two wounds on the lower part of his right leg, one of which fractured the tibia; another bullet was extracted from the right thigh. The fatal wound appeared to be on the right side of the head and another in the chest. The body was sent to Rasulabad Ghat for cremation without informing general public.As it came to light,People surrounded the park where the incident had taken place.They made slogans against the British rule and saluted to Shaheed Azad.
He once claimed that as his name was “Azad”, he would never be taken alive by police. Allegedly, he was aware of the informer who betrayed him to the police.
Azad is an icon to the Indians today. Alfred Park, where he became “Shaheed”, has been renamed Chandrashekhar Azad Park. Several schools, colleges, roads and other public institutions across India are also named after him.
Starting from Manoj Kumar’s 1965 film Shaheed, every film or commemoration of the life of Bhagat Singh has featured the character of Azad. Sunny Deol portrayed Azad in the movie 23rd March 1931: Shaheed. In the movie The Legend of Bhagat Singh, starring Ajay Devgan, Azad was portrayed by Akhilendra Mishra.
The lives of Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Rajguru, Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan were depicted in the 2006 film Rang De Basanti, with Aamir Khan portraying Azad. The movie, which draws parallels between the lives of young revolutionaries such as Azad and Bhagat Singh, and today’s youth, also dwells upon the lack of appreciation among today’s Indian youth for the sacrifices made by these heroes.
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