On March 23, 1931, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged by the British Raj for their involvement in the killing of John Saunders, who they mistook for British police superintendent, James Scott. Scott was their target because they believed he was instrumental in the death of nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai.
The executions were to be carried out on 24 March 1931, but the three prisoners were hanged a day before, on 23 March at 7.30 p.m.
A few months before he was hanged, Bhagat Singh, who used to read a lot in jail, had written in a pamphlet titled ‘Why I am an atheist’: “I know the moment the rope is fitted round my neck and rafters removed from under my feet, that will be the final moment….With no selfish motive, or desire to be awarded here or hereafter [in after-life], quite disinterestedly have I devoted my life to the cause of independence, because I could not do otherwise. The day we find a great number of men and women with this psychology who cannot devote themselves to anything else than the service of mankind and emancipation of the suffering humanity, that day shall inaugurate the era of liberty.
Bhagat Singh studied at Lahore’s National College and founded the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, a youth body, in March 1926. He also became a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. Its important leaders included Chandrashekhar Azad and Ashfaqulla Khan.
Bhagat Singh studied at Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School. Hours after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, Bhagat, then a boy of 12, visited the site of the killings in Amritsar. When Mahatma Gandhi called off the Non-cooperation movement after the killing of policemen at Chauri Chaura, Bhagat Singh, still a boy, felt alienated from the philosophy of non-violence. He subsequently became a member of the Young Revolutionary Movement, which supported using violent means to overthrow the British empire.
Bhagat Singh, a member of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), with the aim to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai conspired to attack James A. Scott, who had ordered the lathi charge.
Rajguru, Sukhdev and Chandrashekhar Azad were also a part of this conspiracy.
However, because of a case of mistaken identity they shot John P. Saunders instead.
A massive manhunt was launched to capture the group.
In the meanwhile, Bhagat Singh, accompanied by Batukeshwar Dutt, threw two crude bombs into the Central Assembly chamber to protest against the Public Safety Bill, and the Trade Dispute Act on April 8, 1929.
The crude bombs were not designed to kill, but injured a few.
History claims that Bhagat Singh was construed and feared as a “gun-toting nationalist” by the colonisers. Infact, Singh had wanted to meet a soldier’s death and requested the British authorities that he and his associates, Sukhdev and Rajguru, either be blown by a cannon or be shot dead instead of being hanged like criminals, which was not considered and his request rejected. Singh had even written to the Punjab Governor just before his execution that he and his associates had fought like soldiers to free their motherland from the British Colonial rule, they should be granted the honour of dying like soldiers.
Shaheed is a 2002 Indian Hindi historical biographical film about Bhagat Singh, directed by Guddu Dhanoa which depicts the events leading up to the hanging of Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh and his companions Rajguru and Sukhdev on 23 March 1931. The film stars Bobby Deol as Bhagat Singh, his elder brother Sunny Deol as Chandrashekhar Azad and Amrita Singh in her comeback role as Bhagat Singh’s mother. Aishwarya Rai has a special appearance in a song.
This is the second time real-life brothers Sunny and Bobby Deol appear in a film together after Dillagi (1999). They later appeared together again in several films like Apne (2007), Heroes (2008) and Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011).
The film’s release coincided with another film based on Bhagat Singh directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and titled The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Both films bombed at the box office and were both declared disasters. However both were critically appreciated. The film picked up a Zee Cine Technical Award for Best Art Direction by Nitish Roy. Simple Kapadia, the costume designer of the movie also distinguished herself with a perfect replica of the 1930s costumes, making the movie even more realistic. This makes the movie more interesting.