Ramprasad Bismil – Hard as a Diamond,Yet Soft as a Flower
(11 June 1897 – 19 December 1927)
No other song, with the obvious exception of Bankim Chandra’s Vande Matram, induced so many young men to lay down their lives for the country than Ram Prasad Bismil’s Sar faroshi ki tamanna ab hamarey dil mein hai; dekhna hai zor kitna bazu-e-qatil main hai. He was member of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.Today marks birth anniversary of this exemplary man, Ramaprasad Bismil, who lived like a hero and died like a hero. In him were blended those great qualities which Indian culture has regarded as ideal and has held in great respect. The Motherland, trodden under the iron heel of the foreigner, should become free; the right way to achieve it was armed revolution – so he thought. No matter what problems and obstacles came in his way, no matter what thorns crowded his way, he walked with his head held high. Death lay in wait on that path. But yet he did not flinch. He was never treacherous to anyone. When he suspected treachery, he denounced the traitors without caring for their position or prestige. In a way, he had to die only because he was not prepared to be treacherous.
Bismil was born in 1897 in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh. He spent his early years gaining education in Urdu and English. Even at a young age, he got introduced to the Arya Samaj and he quickly took to their philosophy. After reading Swami Dayananda’s Satyaartha Prakash, Bismil became very influenced by the concept of Brahmacharya and started practicing it very strictly. He soon gave up his evening meals and sweet and spicy foods as well. This sincere practice made his face radiant, his mind calm and his body healthy. He regularly participated in the activities of the Arya Samaj, however their ideas and methods were very conservative. Ram Prasad was a radical and a revolutionary. He believed in using violence to attain freedom, while the others in the Shahjahanpur Arya Samaj stuck to non-violence. There were a few others like Bismil, who broke away from the Arya Samaj to form the revolutionary group – the Kumar Sabha.
In 1916, when he learnt about the 43 death sentences offered to freedom fighters in the Lahore Conspiracy case, a raging fire was ignited in Bismil’s heart. He made a vow that he will take his revenge on the evil British government for putting these patriots to death. Ram Prasad Bismil was upset that his countrymen were too pusillanimous to stand up to the injustices of the British. He thought that writing books would help inspire the sleeping countrymen. He wrote two books titled “How Did America Attain Freedom” and “A Message to My Countrymen”. He had to borrow money from his supportive mother to get these books published, but the sales of these books brought him enough money to pay back his debts. However, the British government banned these books. With the extra money he made, Bismil started buying some weapons from Gwalior. His initial weapons were muzzle pistols, but quickly started to understand more about weapons and started collecting them for his Kumar Sabha activists. Somehow the Gwalior police scented that Bismil’s interest in weapons. They tried to trap him by sending an undercover officer to him in the pretext of showing him where to buy new and powerful weapons. When that disguised man took Bismil to the weapons warehouse, Bismil realized that he was in fact being led to the house of the police inspector and he immediately escaped. Once he realized that the police had already scented him, he gathered all his weapons from his stock at Gwalior and escaped to his hometown Shahjahanpur.
When Bismil returned to Shahjahanpur, there were some misunderstandings and mistrust between the members of the Kumar Sabha over the trouble Bismil had gotten himself into with the Gwalior police. Despite trying to explain to them that he had gotten away safely, they plotted to kill him. Sadly, the ostracized Bismil escaped into hiding in the outskirts of Gwalior. When the police started threatening his parents about confiscating their property if they did not reveal the whereabouts of his son, Ram Prasad’s parents decided to sell their belongings and joined him in hiding. While in hiding, Ram Prasad became a farmer and a cowherd. He used his free time during this period to translate many Bengali works into Hindi. He also wrote several books of his own during this time. After World War 1, the government removed the charges that were pressed on revolutionaries earlier and this enabled Ram Prasad to return to Shahjahanpur and start over in life. Slowly he started to rebuild his family’s life by taking on jobs and starting up businesses. He also started reorganizing the revolutionary movement. Since he was very poor now, it was difficult for him to monetarily support the revolutionaries’ day to day activities. This forced some of his followers to turn to dacoity in order to get their money to run their freedom movement. But very soon, Ram Prasad realized that it was a futile effort to loot Indians to save India. Therefore, he began to encourage these young revolutionaries to find alternative subjects to loot from, preferably the British.
One day, while Bismil was traveling between Shahjahanpur and Lucknow by train, he noticed some British men bring bags of money and put them in the guard’s carriage. He also noticed that there was no specially appointed guard to take care of the money bags. Suddenly, Bismil realized that stealing this money was his only way to fund the revolutionaries that were fighting for the Indian cause. Near a stop called Kakori, he along with his accomplices, looted the money and escaped. The British government was shaken by this well planned dacoity. Investigations started immediately and 4 people were caught in this Kakori Rail Dacoity case. Among them was of course Ram Prasad Bismil – the mastermind, and 3 of his faithful friends – Ashfaqullah Khan, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Lahiri. These 4 people were sentenced to be executed.
Their sentence caused a huge wave of uproar across the country. All public leaders appealed on behalf of these 4 men. Dacoity was not a crime serious enough to be given a death sentence for. However, the British government remained unyielding. On the 18th of December 1927, Rajendra Lahiri was hanged. Ram Prasad and Ashfaqullah were executed on the 19th and Roshan Singh on the 20th. Thus ended yet another magnificent chapter in the history of the Indian freedom struggle. While awaiting execution in the Gorakhpur jail, Ram Prasad Bismil wrote a heart-rending autobiography in Hindi.
In his autobiography he has narrated how he was arrested and taken to the police station in connection with the Kakori case. ‘The arrests had kept the police officers busy throughout the night and they had not slept. They all went away. Even the one constable who was on guard was fast asleep. Only one clerk was in the station busy writing. He was Roshan Singh’s cousin. If I had wished, I could have simply walked out. But that clerk would have got into great trouble. I called him and told him that I would walk away if he was prepared to face the consequences. He knew me well. He fell at my feet and said that he would be arrested if I did so and that his wife and children would have to starve and die. I pitied him.’ After a little while Rama- prasad found an excuse to go out; the constable on guard went with him. The other constables said, “Put him in chains” but he declared, ” I have faith in him, he will not run away.” ‘We went to a lonely place. I placed my palms on the wall and looked back. The guard was watching a wrestling match and was absorbed in it. One leap and I could have scaled the wall. After that who could have caught me? But my inner self said, “Would you cheat and send to prison that poor constable who trusted you and gave you so much freedom? Is it right? What will his, wife and children think of you?” This thought filled my mind, I drew a long breath, called the guard and returned to the police station.’
Whether it was a clerk or a constable, the man who had trusted him should not be betrayed. This was his principle. Even in prison, the prison guards had great faith in him because of his conduct. Even after he was sentenced to death, his principles remained unchanged. He was not prepared to escape, leaving those who had trusted him in trouble. The Kakori Rail Dacoity is a great land, mark in the history of the revolutionary movement in India. It was the brave Rama- prasad Bismil who planned and executed it faultlessly.
Ramaprasad Bismil lives forever in our memory as a revolutionary, as a revolutionary writer/poet and, above all, as an ideal human being. “Even if I have to face death a thousand times for the sake of my Motherland I shall not be sorry. Oh Lord! Grant me a hundred births in Bharath. But grant me this, too, that each time I may give up my life in the service of the Motherland.”
This prayer should echo in each and every soul in free India.
Listen to Sarfaroshki Thamanna Aba Hamara Dilmein Hain from movie Shaheed
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