1931: Death and Dance

GBK Hooja
GBK Hooja

Editor's note: The following is an extract from the prologue of Shahdaynama, a book written by GBK Hooja. The book is currently out of print. A new edition is expected to be published in 2020.

Bhupi (my younger brother Bhupendra Hooja) also desired that I should write a note on how Bhagat Singh became Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

As I sat mulling over the question, old memories appeared on my mind's screen. The painful memories of the manhoos (inauspicious) night of 23 March, 1931 comes back to me, as I type these lines. I was a resident student of D.A.V. College, Lahore, and a member of Naujawan Bharat Sabha. As the news of the execution of the three heroes came in, the D.A.V. College Hostel was plunged in hushed silence and grief. The boarders decided to march or cycle to the Central Jail. On the way, they were met by several other such columns. The mansions and multi storied buildings of Lahore appeared to be quivering as though hit by an earthquake.

On reaching the jail, we were informed that a fleet of vehicles was seen moving out of the jail at about 7 p.m., and heading towards Ferozepur. So onward to Ferozepur, we wended our way. Half way down the road, we were met by Dr. Gopi Chand returning in a car with the precious remains of the martyrs. On the following day, the eastern bank of the river Ravi was overflowing with mourners, men and women, young and old. Shouts of Inquilab Zindabad rent the air. The Punjabi mothers mourned: Ghori charan di umar jinan di, ajj suli te charde nein (At an age when they should have mounted wedding mares, they have mounted the gallows)!

Another memory which stands out is of 31 December, 1929, mid-night.

The darling of the youth, the debonair, aristocratic and young Congress President, Jawaharlal has declared ‘Complete Independence' as India's political goal, amidst tumultuous and sky-rending shouts of Vande Mataram and moves out to join the Red Shirts of N.W. F.P. in their camp for celebrations. The tall Pathan, Khan Badshah takes him in his embrace and the duo dance the Dance of Freedom with unbounded joy and abandon, surrounded by contingents of Khudai Khidmatgars, resplendent in their red livery and baggy salwars. It is a sight for gods to see, and envy.

© Rakshat Hooja. Published April 2020.

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