The forgotten martyrs of freedom struggle

As in the past so many years, this time too, St Stephen’s College failed to commemorate the martyrdom of two of its alumini, Amir Chand and Awadh Bihari, on May 8. The day this year, marked the centenary year of the death of the two forgotten heroes.

Sanjay Narain an alumini of St Stephen’s says that he has never heard of them before. And if it’s “true that they are martyrs” he would “like to persuade the authorities to recognise them.”

When contacted by Metrolife, Dr Valson Thampu, Principal, St Stephen’s said, “I am very appreciative of the two people who took part in the Indian Freedom Struggle so early on. And if not till now, I would definitely like to do something from next year.”

Though Chand and Bihari may not be the only forgotten heroes of the Indian Freedom Struggle, but Suhas Borker, himself a Stephanian and a patron of history, especially wanted to commem-orate them.

Borker tells Metrolife, “From 1971 to 76, I was in St Stephen’s, today, the most reputed college of Delhi University. During my college years I had written an article on the two martyrs which was published in the college journal. The then principal, William Shaw Rajpal, was enthused by the research and documentation that went into the article. I have also sent the same article to the National Archives of India (NAI).”

The NAI along with Borker’s research took the copy of the register where Chand and Bihari had signed when they first entered St Stephen’s.

Borker relates the story of the two Stephanians, who were hanged by the British for participating in the Freedom Struggle, to Metrolife. “The British shifted their Imperial Capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912. There was not such a strong opposition felt in Delhi at that time. But various groups were already secretly functioning towards the cause of revolution. Main conveners of the group, which was not named, were Awadh Bihari and Amir Chand,” says Borker.

On 23 December, 1912, as the inaugural procession of the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge passed through Chandni Chowk, a bomb was hurled at the vice regal howdah. Hardinge was wounded and a howdah attendant was killed.

The blast also killed a boy and wounded several onlookers in the crowd. Chand and Bihari were  arrested in February 1914 and charged with the conspiracy to kill Lord Hardinge in the Delhi Conspiracy Case. Both were hanged on 8 May, 1915, at Delhi Central Jail (presently the Maulana Azad Medical College Campus).

In his article, Borker quoted Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who expressed his disagreement with the two rebels in the New York Times. Terming the incident a ‘catastrophe’ Gandhi said, “In Indian opinion, these are misguided youth, who do not know that freedom comes from self-sacrifice and purification and not by inflicting pain
on others.”

Chand and Bihari, had both been students of St Stephen’s College and were teachers at a Nationalist School in Kinari Bazar. Bihari was much younger to Chand and considered Chand his guide.

Amar Farooqui, Professor of History at Delhi University says, “Basant Kumar Biswas and Rash Bihari Bose were also part of the rebellion. It was apparently Biswas, dressed in a burqa, standing on the terrace of the then Punjab National Bank building in Chandni Chowk from where he threw the bomb. Amir Chand was then in Lahore.”

Farooqui says, “It’s commendable that when freedom struggle was not in full motion, these young men, merely 20, had started responding to colonialism. Also, Hardinge saw it as a lapse of intelligence in the CID (Crime Investigation Department), then led by Charles Cleveland. Hardinge bypassed Cleveland and suspended him. A serious investigation followed after which some bomb portions were found in Chand’s residence.”
He says that it took months to locate Chand and Bihari as the two enjoyed high repute in the society. Chand had received the C F Andrews award and the Anglo Indian Sanskrit school where he was the headmaster, was Cambridge protected.

Sucheta Mahajan, professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says, “INA was formed much after 1940s. Another important inference that I can derive is that they came from the university which was ‘traditionally’ inclined towards the British Raj. And this may be why the college does not want to recognise them.”

A small plaque in the present day Maulana Azad Medical College says, “Deshbhakton ko iss sthaan par faasi di gyi hai.” The names also include that of Rash Bihari Bose, Basant Kumar Biswas and Bal Mukand along with that of Amir Chand and Awadh Bihari.

Farooqui says, “Biswas and Mukand never died in Delhi. It shows how casually our freedom fighters’ martyrdom has been taken.”

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