May 28 was the 92nd death anniversary of Bhagwati Charan Vohra, who sacrificed his life in 1930 at the age of only 25 while making preparations for rescuing Bhagat Singh from jail. As he was preparing for his own martyrdom, Bhagat Singh paid rich tribute to Bhagwati Charan Vohra, says Bharat Dogra
Bhagwati Charan Vohra came from a very rich family; he was perhaps the wealthiest among his comrades. Yet, right from his teens, he did not show any interest in enjoying this wealth and, instead, was inclined towards the Freedom Movement.Heparticipated in Gandhiji’s Non-Cooperation Movement when he was just 16.
Because of the accepted practice of child marriage in those times, Bhagwati was already married to Durgaat. With rare maturity, he shared his mission with his wife, who was even younger than him. Fortunately, she was very receptive to his ideals, and the two started planning their life to achieve their shared goals. They named their son Shachi, after the legendary revolutionary Shachindranath Sanyal.
Bhagwati contributed at an intellectual level as well as in action to the Freedom Movement. He formed a close friendship with the two other most prominent revolutionaries from Lahore – Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev. Since he was financially well-placed, his house in Lahore was where many revolutionaries met and were well looked after. Both Bhagwati and his wife were drawn further and further into the Independence struggle.
Durga came to be well-known among the revolutionaries as Durga Bhabhi. Bhagwati Charan soon earned a reputation as a selfless person who was willing to take up any hazardous or difficult task for the sake of his party and the Freedom Movement. And Durga, too, is identified with many daring acts during the struggle.
There was an exceptionally difficult time when, partly due to some misunderstanding and partly due to some people acting in bad faith, Bhagwati was unjustly suspected by some revolutionaries of having betrayed their cause. But these suspicions were proved to be baseless and trust was soon restored.
Bhagwati was very studious and when he was not on in the frontline, he was busy in the world of books. He had an important role in preparing many party documents, which are still remembered and read. However, his scholarly nature did not deter him from accepting risky assignments.
Bhagwati sctually managed to evade arrest even when many other revolutionaries were falling into the hands of the police. He then got involved in making a daring plan for Bhagat Singh and some other revolutionaries to escape from prison. However, this plan did not succeed. He was involved in testing of some bombs in Punjab and in the course of the work, suffered a fatal accident. His contributions to the Independence struggle deserve to be better known.
A family of Freedom fighters
A fascinating aspect of the Freedom Movement in India is the collaboration among various streams of the movement, and their different meeting points. The family of Lala Gurudas Mal Talwar (or Gurdasmal) in the Northwest Frontier Province contributed in very important ways to different streams of the Freedom Movement in the early years of the 20th Century. Bharat Dogra tells us more
Badshah Khan or Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (also known as the Frontier Gandhi) was emerging as a beloved leader in the Northwest Frontier Province. Like his friend and mentor Mahatma Gandhi, Badshah Khan was firmly committed to communal harmony and protection of minorities.
In the region, Hindus and the Sikhs comprised the minorities and there were numerous cases of the Khudai Khidmatgars of Badshah Khan saving the lives of Hindus and Sikhs in very difficult conditions. Lala Gurudas, who was devoted to the Freedom Movement, and his family were increasingly drawn towards the Khudai Khidmatgars and their work.
The family was also open to other ideas. Lala’s elder son Hari Kishan Talwar was attracted to the ideas of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. He started working with revolutionaries and was involved in some violence against the colonial regime. He was arrested and subjected to terrible torture but did not break down.
On January 26, 1931 Hari Kishan was sentenced to death but was happy to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Bhagat Singh (who too had been given a death sentence). He went on a hunger strike demanding permission to meet Bhagat Singh at least once before he was hanged. After nine days, the authorities accepted his demand. Bhagat Singh was executed on 23 March while Hari Kishan was hanged on 9 June. Both were just 23.
As Lala Gurudas Mal had taken a very bold stand in the course of his son’s trial, he incurred the wrath of the colonial rulers. He was implicated in some cases and arrested. A few weeks after his son was hanged to death, Lala Gurudas Mal died in jail.
Mal’s younger son Bhagat Ram Talwar had a many-sided personality and contributed to the Independence Struggle in many ways. He was a leading player in the escape of Subhash Chandra Bose from Calcutta to Kabul. Someone very familiar with the language and culture of the Pashtuns was needed for the purpose and Bhagat Ram Talwar fulfilled this role with great courage and capability. His contacts also proved very helpful. Later, he became an important activist in the peasant movement.
This single family made significant contributions to the mainstream peaceful Independence Movement led by Gandhiji, to the military mobilisation by Nataji and also to the revolutionary movement of Bhagat Singh, all within the span of about 15 years.
October – December 2022