Chandra Shekhar Azad
Chandra Shekhar Azad on a 1988 stamp of India
23 July 1906
|Died||27 February 1931 (aged 24)|
|Organization||Hindustan Republican Association (later Hindustan Socialist Republican Association)|
|Known for||Indian Independence movement|
Chandra Shekhar Azad (/t͡ʃʌnd̪ɾʌːɑːd/; sometimes also spelled Chandrasekhar; 23 July 1906 – 27 February 1931), popularly known as by his self-taken name Azad ("The Free"), was an Indian revolutionary who reorganised the Hindustan Republican Association under its new name of Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA) after the death of its founder, Ram Prasad Bismil, and three other prominent party leaders, Roshan Singh, Rajendra Nath Lahiri and Ashfaqulla Khan. He often used the pseudonym "Balraj" when signing pamphlets issued as the commander in chief of the HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Republic Army).
Azad was born as Chandrashekhar Tiwari on 23 July 1906 in Bhabhra village (town) , in the present-day Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh. His forefathers were from Badarka village near Kanpur (in present-day Unnao District). His mother, Jagrani Devi Tiwari , was the third wife of Sitaram Tiwari, whose previous wives had died young. After the birth of their first son, Sukhdev Tiwari, in Badarka, the family moved to Alirajpur State.
His mother wanted her son to be a great Sanskrit scholar and persuaded his father to send him to Kashi Vidyapeeth, Banaras, to study. In December 1921, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement, Chandra Shekhar, then a 15-year-old student, joined. As a result, he was arrested. On being presented before a magistrate, he gave his name as "Azad" (The Free), his father's name as "Swatantrata" (Independence) and his residence as "Jail". From that day he came to be known as Chandra Shekhar Azad among the people.
After suspension of the non-cooperation movement in 1922 by Gandhi, Azad became more aggressive. 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 HSRA 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, in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy of India's train in 1926, and at last the shooting of J. P. Saunders at Lahore in 1928 to avenge the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai.
Azad made Jhansi his organisation's hub for some time. He used the forest of Orchha, situated 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from Jhansi, as a site for shooting practice and, being an expert marksman, he trained other members of his group. He built a hut near to a Hanuman temple on the banks of the Satar River and lived there under the alias of Pandit Harishankar Brahmachari for a long period. He taught children from the nearby village of Dhimarpura (now renamed Azadpura by the Government of Madhya Pradesh) and thus managed to establish good rapport with the local residents.
While living in Jhansi, he also learned to drive a car at Bundelkhand Motor Garage in Sadar Bazar. Sadashivrao Malkapurkar, Vishwanath Vaishampayan and Bhagwan Das Mahaur came in close contact with him and became an integral part of his revolutionary group. The then congress leaders from Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar and Sitaram Bhaskar Bhagwat were also close to Azad. He also stayed for sometime in the house of Rudra Narayan Singh at Nai Basti, as well as Bhagwat's house in Nagra.
The Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) was formed by Bismil, Chatterji, Sachindra Nath Sanyal Shachindra Nath Bakshi and Ashfaqulla Khan. In 1924. In the aftermath of the Kakori train robbery in 1925, the British clamped down on revolutionary activities. Prasad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Thakur Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri were sentenced to death for their participation. Azad, Keshab Chakravarthy and Murari Sharma evaded capture. Chandra Shekhar Azad later reorganised the HRA with the help of revolutionaries like Sheo Verma and Mahaveer Singh.
Azad and Bhagat Singh secretly reorganised the HRA as the HSRA in September 1928. so as to achieve their primary aim of an independent India based on socialist principle. The insight of his revolutionary activities are described by Manmath Nath Gupt a fellow member of HSRA in his numerous writings. Gupta has also written his biography titled "Chandrashekhar Azad" and in his book History of the Indian Revolutionary Movement (English version of above: 1972) he gave a deep insight about the activities of Azad and the ideology of Azad and HSRA.
Azad died at Azad Park in Prayagraj [then Allahabad] on 27 February 1931. The police surrounded him in the park after Virbhadra Tiwari (their old companion who later turned traitor) informed them of his presence there. He was wounded in the process of defending himself and Sukhdev Raj (not to be confused with Sukhdev Thapar) and killed three policemen and wounded others. His actions made it possible for Sukhdev Raj to escape. He shot himself after being surrounded by the police and left with no option of escape after the ammunition was finished. Also it is said that he used to Keep a bullet to kill himself in the event being caught by British. The Colt pistol of Chandra Shekhar Azad is displayed at the Allahabad [now Prayagraj] Museum.
The body was sent to Rasulabad Ghat for cremation without informing the general public. As it came to light, people surrounded the park where the incident had taken place. They chanted slogans against British rule and praised Azad.
Alfred Park in Prayagraj (previously Allahabad), where Azad died, has been renamed Chandrashekhar Azad Park. Several schools, colleges, roads and other public institutions across India are also named after him.
Starting from Manoj Kumar's 1965 film Shaheed, many films have featured the character of Azad. Manmohan played Azad in the 1965 film, Sunny Deol portrayed Azad in the movie 23rd March 1931: Shaheed, Azad was portrayed by Akhilendra Mishra in The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Raj Zutshi portrayed Azad in Shaheed-E-Azam.
The lives of Azad, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Bismil and Ashfaq were depicted in the 2006 film Rang De Basanti, with Aamir Khan portraying Azad. The movie, which draws parallels between the lives of young revolutionaries such as Azad and Bhagat Singh, and today's youth, also dwells upon the lack of appreciation among today's Indian youth for the sacrifices made by these men.
The 2018 television series Chandrashekhar chronicles the life of Chandra Shekhar Azad from his childhood to the legendary revolutionary leader. In the series young Chandrashekar Azad was portrayed by Ayaan Zubair, Azad in his teens by Dev Joshi and Adult Azad by Karan Sharma.
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