Born on 15th May, 1907 in Ludhiana, Punjab, Sukhdev Thapar played a prominent part in India’s struggle for freedom. He was the son of Sh. Ram Lal and Smt. Ralli Devi. He was a revolutionary and made use of revolutionary tactics to teach lessons to the British government officials.
Role in freedom movement
Sukhdev was a popular member of HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Republican Association). In order to make nationalism more popular among the masses, he and a few other revolutionaries launched an organization named Naujawan Bharat Sabha in 1926.
His nationalist activities impressed the younger generation of India. When he was imprisoned in 1929 and went on a hunger strike, a large number of youth came forward and joined the freedom struggle. However, the most prominent incident of his life would be the shooting of J.P Saunders, who was the Assistant Superintendent of Police.
The assassination was actually meant for James A Scott. However, because of confusion Saunders was shot. The murder was organised in a response to the untimely death of Lala Lajpat Rai, who had been brutally beaten up and had died because of the injuries. After killing Saunders, Sukhdev successfully escaped. However, in April 1929, he bombed the Central Legislative Assembly and let himself be caught and imprisoned.
For the murder of Saunders, he was executed by hanging along with his accomplices – Rajguru and Bhagat Singh on 23rd March, 1931. The execution was actually scheduled for 24th March but because of wide protests, the government advanced the date.
He was hanged after dark and his body was cremated in complete secrecy. His ashes were unceremoniously deposited in the river Sutlej. In fact, his relatives had not been informed about the change of date nor were they allowed to visit him prior to his hanging.
Flaws in execution
The execution was done in haste. Never before had the British government hanged anyone after dark. Moreover, as opposed to the British government’s law, no magistrate had watched over the hanging. Post execution, his body was not taken away for cremation through the prison’s front gate. Rather, the jail authorities demolished a back wall to transport the body. Because of the abovementioned acts, the British government suffered massive criticism.
Praised by Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi supported non-violent ways of protest. Yet, when Sukhdev was scheduled to be hanged, Mahatma Gandhi sought to discuss the matter with the then Viceroy. Unfortunately, nothing positive came out of the discussion. Later on, after his demise, Mahatma Gandhi wrote in a journal named Young India about how much he valued the feeling of patriotism that Sukhdev and his accomplices had. He also pleaded with the people of India to become patriotic and brave like them.
Impact on India’s freedom movement
Sukhdev had been actively involved in the freedom movement of India until his execution. He had made a special connection with the youth of India. After his death, he began to be considered a martyr and to avenge his death a majority of young Indians joined the freedom movement.