March 23 is celebrated as Shaheed Diwas or Martyrs’ Day in India. The day commemorates the hanging of India’s three freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru. The three young freedom fighters, who believed in the ideology of making some noise to wake up the slumbering British rulers, were hanged by the colonialists on March 23, 1931 in Lahore Jail. Leader of the trio and one of the most revered young voices from Punjab was Bhagat Singh, who was born on September 28, 1907 in Lyallpur, Punjab. Together with his companions Rajguru, Sukhdev, Azad, and Gopal, Singh fought against the British.
The group was deeply affected by the assassination of Lala Lajpat Rai. A lawyer by profession, Rai led a non-violent protest against the Simon Commission when it visited Lahore on October 30, 1928. The British Raj police reverted with lethal force, carrying out a lathi-charge. It was during this lathi charge that Singh witnessed a brutal attack on Rai, who suffered serious injuries in the police assault and eventually died on November 17, 1928, of a heart attack.
Sukhdev, born on May 15 1907 in Ludhiana, came in contact with Singh in 1921 when he was a student of National College. He joined the underground revolutionary organisation, Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), which included Singh, Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad. The association declared itself socialist in 1928.
Singh and his partners decided to strike back at the British in their own way. In 1928, they planned to kill the police chief responsible for the death of Rai, one of the founders of National College, during a silent march opposing the Simon Commission. However, they failed to identify their target and junior officer J.P. Saunders was killed. Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev had to flee Lahore to escape the death penalty.
In 1929, he and an associate threw a bomb at the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi to protest the implementation of the Defence of India Act by cheering the slogan of “Inquillab Zindabad (long live the revolution)”. Besides being a freedom fighter, Singh also worked as a writer and editor in Amritsar for Punjabi and Urdu language newspapers that talked about Marxist theories.