23 July: Remembering Chandrasekhar Azad on his Birth Anniversary
Chandra Shekhar Tiwari, popularly known as Chandrashekhar Azad (23 July 1906 — 27 February 1931), was an Indian revolutionary who organized and led a band of militant youth during India’s independence movement.
Azad was born on July 23, 1906, as Chandra Shekhar Tiwari in Bhavra village of Madhya Pradesh in the family of Pandit Sitaram Tiwari and Jagrani Devi. Azad’s mother asked his father to send their son to Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi. He was deeply affected by the massacre in Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. He joined the freedom struggle in 1921 while he was just a school student.
In December 1921, when Mahatma Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement, Azad took part in it. After joining the movement, he was arrested by the British police and when he was presented before a magistrate, he gave his name as “Azad” (Urdu: “Free” or “Liberated”), his father’s name as “Swatantrata” and his address as “prison”. Although because of his age he was not imprisoned, he was given a severe flogging by the police. The Indian National Congress soon lionized him, and he gained popularity among the Indian people.
After the suspension of the non-cooperation movement in 1922 by Gandhi, Azad was disappointed. He met a young revolutionary, Manmath Nath Gupta, who introduced him to Ram Prasad Bismil who had formed the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), a revolutionary organisation. 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 was involved in the Kakori Train Robbery of 1925, the shooting of J. P. Saunders at Lahore in 1928 to avenge the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai, and at last, in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy of India’s train in 1929.
Azad lost his life in a face-off with the British police in Alfred Park in Allahabad on February 27, 1931. After single-handedly fighting the police for a while with just a pistol and a few cartridges, Azad shot himself in the head, fulfilling his vow of dying as a free man and not as a British captive. The Colt pistol of Chandra Shekhar Azad is displayed at the Allahabad Museum.