Chandra Shekhar Azad was born on 23 July 1906 in Jujhautiya Brahmins family of Pandit Sitaram Tiwari and Jagrani Devi in the bhabara (of jhabua District)|madhy Pradesh. He spent his childhood in the village Bhabhra when his father was serving in the erstwhile estate of Alirajpur
He got the natural training of a hardy and rough life along with the Bhils who inhabited the wild region. From his Bhil friends, early in life, be learnt wrestling and swimming. He also became more skilled with the bow and arrow. He learnt to throw the Bhala or Javelin, to shoot straight, to ride and use the sword, in all of which he became proficient.
He was even called Bhimsen or Bhim Dada later. After the early education in Jhabua, he was sent to the Sanskrit Pathashala at Varanasi, where a near relative of the family, probably maternal uncle was then living. He returned home after a few months and he was admitted in the local school at Alirajpur. Again his father sent him to Benares for the boy exhibited a strange waywardness.
This time he remained there and studied properly. On the whole, he was an average student. Political Initiation From the very outset, he had a deep aversion for study which was of no real but to simply churn out quill drivers or babus for the use of the British Raj in India. His stay at Benares however had a salutary effect upon his life, for he came in contact with many young men and ideas.
The atmosphere was such that he got the opportunity of studying many things, especially the unhappy events which were then happening in the country. Bit by bit, his mind was being drawn to the political situation of the country. Young Chandra Shekhar was fascinated by and drawn to the great national upsurge of the non-violent, non-cooperation movement of 1920-21 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
It is during this time, when the Jallianwala Baag massacre by British Army took place in Amritsar where hunderds (at least 2000) unarmed, peaceful and unwarned civilians were fired upon. This event had a profound effect on Indian national movement and inspired several young Indians, like Azad, into political movement for liberation. The young mind of Chandrashekhar was wax to receive and marble to retain.
From Chandrashekhar Tewari to Chandrashekhar ‘Azad’
To protest the massacre and demanding the liberation, various popular activities sprouted up throughout the country. While participating in one of these movements, Chandra Shekhar was arrested when he was just 16 years of age.
He was brought to court. The Magistrate asked him, “What is your name? Where do you live? What is your father’s name?” His answers were going to become very famous. He gave his name as ‘Azad’, his father’s name as ‘Swatantra’ and his place of dwelling as ‘prison cell’. Astonished was the Magistrate at these straight and bold answers. Azad was sentenced to fifteen canes. He was beaten very severely. At every beat, his body turned blue and red and blood oozed out freely. Azad was highly honored by the citizens and profusely garlanded when he came out from jail. His photos appeared in the Press with streamlined captions. From here on, he would be known far and wide as ‘Azad’, forever.
After this incident, Shri Provesh, the chief organiser of the Revolutionary Party in India, sought him and persuaded him to join it. Azad proved to be a restless worker. He issued secretly and silently, many leaflets and bulletins to drive away the misconceptions entertained by the people of the country. He proved a master propagandist. In physical strength, none equaled him and he was called Bhim Dada. Other eminent members of the party working along with Azad were Shri Yogesh Chatterji, Shri Sachin Sanyal and Shri Rabindranath Kar. Men in the party learned all the arts of modern warfare. The main problem was finance. Finances! From where could the money be had? This was the major issue before the party. To ask openly was impossible and to obtain it secretly was a much more difficult task.
The leaders of the party toured extensively in the land and collected a lot of money but it proved inadequate for the purposes of the contemplated actions. The leaders of the party sought the help of Azad. A secret commission was called and it decides in favour of dacoity of Government treasure. Verily it was a verdict and the men of the party started preparations for committing it somewhere. Result was the famous Kakori Case. Kakori is a railway station near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. The idea of the Kakori train robbery was conceived in the mind of Ram Prasad Bismil, while travelling by train from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow. At every station he noticed moneybags being taken into the guard�s van and being dropped into an iron safe. At Lucknow, he observed some loop holes in the special security arrangements. This was the beginning of the famous train dacoity at Kakori.
As per the plan, on August 9, 1925 members successfully looted the No. 8 Down Train from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow by stopping it at a predetermined location and holding the British soldiers at gun point. Just 10 young men had done this difficult job because of their courage, discipline, above all, love for the country. They had written a memorable chapter in the history of India’s fight for freedom. These revolutionaries were Ramaprasad Bismil, Rajendra Lahiri, Thakur Roshan Singh, Sachindra Bakshi, Chadrasekhar Azad, Keshab Chakravarty, Banwari Lal, Mukundi Lal, Mammathnath Gupta and Ashfaqulla Khan.
After this event, the Government let loose a period of repression, search and arrests in the country. Many revolutionaries were arrested. After deliberations of 18 months, the court awarded punishments. Four of the members – Ramaprasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, Rajendra Lahiri and Roshan Singh were sentenced to death; the others were given life sentences. Sad was the outcome of this whole operation for it lost its best and powerful men in the scramble. However Azad remained at large, never to be captured by British, and to continue doing the revolutionary struggle. During the next phase of the struggle he menored a whole team of revolutionaries to shake the British Raj
Untired Revolutionary Organizer
Azad disguised as a Sadhu, came to Jhansi and from there via Khandwa came to Indore. For a few days he went to his birthplace Alirajpur but did not stay there for long. Again he came back to Indore and after staying there in disguise for sometime, he left Indore. For some time, he also remained hidden in a hanuman temple as a priest.
Taking a circuitous he traveled across the trackless jungle of the Vindhya valleys on foot. This was the hardest period in his life and he had to undergo many hardships. The sun scorched him by day and the cold chilled him by night. He was often at a loss to obtain food for himself.
He at last reached Kanpur where the headquarters of Hindustan Socialist Republican Army was set up, which Azad had to re-organize. This was the first task to fill the vacuum of leadership with capable youth. At this time, he came in contact with the ablest and devoted men who wanted to overthrow the British Government by armed revolution. Incidentally, he met at Kanpur, Shri Bhagat Singh, Shri Rajguru and Shri Batukeshar Dutta.
The henchmen of the British Government were on the track of Azad. When a secret conference was being held between these men in a private lodging, the police all of a sudden rushed to the scene. A regular scuffle ensued and a party member named Shri Shukla met the assault single handed and was killed on the spot. Others, however, very skillfully managed to escape. Azad had in mind to teach a lesson to the intruders and on this particular occasion, he felt an overwhelming temptation to shoot but was held back.
Convocation of all the revolutionary leaders from different provinces of India was held in Delhi in September, 1928, near the old fort. Leaders from all over India took a serious review of the political situation in the country and decided on a course of action. Policy of “One for One” was decided in the terminology of the revolutionary organizations. Then, all of them departed to their respective provinces. It is rather difficult to know about the resolutions of meeting now.
Avenging the killing of Lala Lajpatrai
Hardly, had the leaders time to arrange their regional teams in order, than a serious situation arose in the country. Lala Lajpatrai, the ‘Lion of Punjab’ led a strong protest against the Simon commission in Lahore. The police with inhuman brutality charged the leaders with lathis. Lalaji was struck. It proved a deadly blow and later lies succumbed to his injuries. While dying he said, “The blows I got are but the death-knells of the British Empire in India”.
No sooner did Azad hear of this dastardly crime, then he turned black with rage. He rushed to Lahore and conferred there with his friends. Suitable action to avenge the insult was planned. It seemed to Azad that even his life would be too small a price to pay for the action. Selecting a few of his trusted followers, he explained to them the plan of his action and gave necessary instructions.
As previously arranged, this operation was directed by Chandrashekhar Azad, Rajguru, Bhagat Singh and Jaigopal. All these chiefs remained in hiding behind the Police Office in Lahore. As soon as Scott and Saunders came out, a volley of bullets struck them. Saunders was killed and Scott saved himself. Thus, Lalaji’s death was avenged.
Once again, Azad was never captured. Vigilant police of the British rule in India were on the look out for Azad. All attempts to catch him proved fruitless. There are numerous stories related to Azad�s hide and seek with British Raj during these days. He was an expert in using camouflage, which he used on various occasions. His stories of escaping the British police became the talk of common household. Police were bewildered and tired.
At long last came the fateful day. On February 27, 1931 Azad was hiding in Alfred Park of Prayag, Allahabad in Utar Pradesh, waiting for a colleague for a secret meeting. Police had the clue and a successful net was drawn around the park. There are some unconfirmed and somewhat controversial accounts of one of his comrades having been a traitor and police spy.
Anyways, police laid down a cordon with a troop of 80 sepoys to surround the Alfred Park and started fire. He only had a short range pistol with him and limited bullets. For quite sometime he held them at bay single-handedly with a small pistol and few cartridges.
Fighting back bravely, he used the bullets to only target the british sepoys. In the end, Left with only one bullet, he fired it at his own temple and lived up to his resolve that he would never be arrested at the hands of British. He used to fondly recite a Hindi sher, probably his only poetic composition:
‘Dushman ki goliyon ka hum samna karenge,
Azad hee rahein hain, Azad hee rahenge’
“(Will face the enemies bullets’ Will remain free, Will Remain Free’)
( Chandra Shekhar Azad sacrifices his life from the movie Bhagat Singh)
Azad became Azad forever. Only being of 24 years in age, this illustrious son of Bharat Mata laid down his life, to live forever in the heart of Indian nationalists.
His image of a proud young Indian with the naked back and Janeu (Hindu religious thread) and left hand shaping the mustache would keep inspiring the generations of Indian nationalists for a long long time.