In the year 1927 a glorious chapter of the freedom movement came to an abrupt end as four young men were hanged to death for their courageous contribution to the independence of their country from colonial rule. Three of them attained martyrdom on December 20 and one on December 17, all in jails of the then United Provinces ( present day Uttar Pradesh). Together all four of them are known as Kakori martyrs because of an episode near  Kakori railway station, not far from Lucknow.

As  we observe the death anniversary of these martyrs—Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Rajendranath Lahiri and Roshan Singh during this week, we should recall also their commitment to national unity and communal harmony, and to the ideals of equality and justice. They were working in very difficult conditions but still succeeded in spreading the ideals of the freedom movement among a large number of people, particularly youth, due to their courage and their noble determined conduct even after their arrest in imprisonment in various jails.

They were keen to read and learn a lot at an early age as they were searching for answers to big questions to find their less taken path. What they studied increased their commitment to equality and justice for all people and one obvious way of going ahead on this path in those days was to fight for the freedom of the country.

All of these four young men were known for their many sided accomplishments. Ram Prasad Bismil, although the most senior among them was himself a very young man in his 20s. He had already emerged as a prominent leader of the revolutionaries in the United Provinces at this young age. He had also written a lot, prepared Hindi adaptation of some important English books,  turned into a small-scale publisher( incurring a loss, of course!) and had done some useful hard work as a farmer. In jail he wrote his biography, a valuable book, which was smuggled out with difficulty in installments and finally published with the help of that great editor  and freedom fighter Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. His message to youth was to work on durable basis among peasants and workers, particularly in villages and take up some entrepreneurial work in villages which can support their livelihood. He was a very talented poet and his poetry is still popular.

Ashfaqullah Khan was a very sensitive youth and a very talented poet. His observations reflect great maturity at a young age. Ram Prasad and Ashfaq were like brothers to each other, Bismil being the elder one. Ashfaq was known for his very deep sincerity, commitment and courage.

Rajendranath Lahiri was also a learned youth who wrote articles and had literary leanings. He was still studying for his masters in history when he was arrested.

Roshan Singh was known for his great courage and his earlier association with farmers’ concerns and movements.

The supreme sacrifice of these four young martyrs has remained a source of inspiration, and in present times it is particularly important to recall their commitment to unity and communal harmony, and to obtaining justice for farmers and workers.

Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements.


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