The centenary of Madan Lal Dhingra's martyrdom falls on 17 August 2009.
India won freedom due to the blood and tears shed by hundreds of nameless revolutionaries and their families who braved British barbarity and faced death. The struggle for freedom was carried out not only in India, but also abroad, by people such as Shyamji Krishnavarma, Veer Savarkar, Madam Bhikaji Cama, Barrister Sardar Singh Rana, Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, Sardar Ajit Singh, Lala Hardayal, Rasbehari Bose, Raja Mahendra Pratap and Champakraman Pillay. In this illustrious list of fiery patriots, Madan Lal Dhingra stands out for his sheer courage and supreme sacrifice. Madan Lal Dhingra went to the gallows on 17 August 1909. The centenary of his martyrdom is an occasion for us to remember his immortal saga.
Madan Lal Dhingra was born on 18 September 1883 in Amritsar. His father was an eye specialist and Civil Surgeon of Amritsar. Madan Lal was the sixth of his seven sons. Two of Madan Lal's brothers were doctors, two other brothers were barristers. Madan Lal was married and had a son. If he had desired, he could have lived a life of luxury. But he chose to be a martyr for India's freedom struggle.
Madan Lal Dhingra studied for Diploma in Civil Engineering at University College, London from 1906-09. He was very closely associated with Savarkar while in London. Together, they hatched the plan to assassinate Sir Curzon Wyllie who was Dhingra's personal acquaintance.
On 01 July 1909, Dhingra went as planned to a meeting at Imperial Institute. After the meeting was over, Curzone Wyllie seemed ready to leave. Dhingra now approached Curzon Wylie under the pretext of talking to him. The two opened the glass door and left the hall. As they reached the landing, Dhingra lowered his voice as if he wanted to discuss something confidential. Curzon Wylie brought his ear close to Dhingra. Sensing the opportunity, Dhingra removed the Colt revolver from his right coat pocket and pumped two bullets at point-blank range. The time was 11.20 pm. As Curzon Wyllie reeled, dhingra fired two more bullets. A Parsee doctor Cawas Lalkaka tried to come in between but Dhingra fired at him as well. However, Dhingra's attempt to shoot himself failed and he was overpowered.
After his arrest, the Police Officer asked Dhingra, "Do you want us to inform any of your friends of your arrest?" Dhingra cleverly replied, "There is no need. They will know about my arrest in tomorrow's newspapers." The Police were trying to find out if they could implicate any of Dhingra's friends. He proved a match for them. Dhingra was taken to Walton Street Police station.
When produced before Mr Hoarce Smith the Magistrate of Westminster Police Court, Dhingra said, "I do not plead for mercy; nor do I recognise your authority over me." Dhingra was committed to the Sessions Court. Dhingra bluntly asked the Court, "...If the Germans have no right to rule over England what right have the English got to rule over India ?" During the trial Indians were not allowed inside the Court.
It was 17 August 1909. Several Indian youth had mournfully gathered outside the gates of the prison. They were however denied entry inside. Entry was also denied to the waiting journalists. At the stroke of nine, Madanlal Dhingra began his last journey to the gallows. A Christian preacher named Hudson walked up to him to say the final Christian prayer for him. But Dhingra turned him away saying that he was a Hindu. The Deputy Under-Sheriff of London Metcalf read out the death warrant to Dhingra in the presence of Deputy Governor Hales of Pentonville prison and asked him the usual questions. But Dhingra ignored their questions and walked calmly to the noose. His bravery left the accompanying offcers dumb-founded. Officer Pierpoint stood at the hangman's noose waiting for Dhingra. Dhingra smiled at him and ascended the steps to the platform. He himself placed the noose round his neck. Soon thereafter, the wooden platform underneath was withdrawn.
The Times, London of 18 August 1909 reported on page 7 column 2, " Shortly after 9, death was announced. Pierpoint was the executioner. An application for leave to have the body cremated was refused and it will be buried in accordance with the usual custom, within the walls of prison."
After Dhingra went to the gallows, the Times, London wrote an editorial (24 July 1909) titled 'Conviction of Dhingra'. The editorial said, "The nonchalance displayed by the assassin was of a character, which is happily unusual in such trials in this country. He asked no questions. He maintained a defiance of studied indifference. He walked smiling from the Dock."
As desired by Gyan Chand Varma, Sardar Singh Rana , who was then in Paris, published Dhingra's last testament on a postcard along with his photograph. Savarkar in turn sent a large number of these copies to India. Madanlal Dhingra's final statement was as inspiring as his actions. Titled "Challenge" it read as follows:
"I admit the other day; I attempted to shed English blood as an humble revenge for the inhuman hangings and deportations of patriotic Indian youths. In this attempt, I have consulted none but my own conscience; I have conspired with none, but my own duty.
"I believe that a nation held down in bondage with the help of foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to a disarmed race, I attacked by surprise; since guns were denied to me, I drew forth my pistol and fired.
"As a Hindu I felt that a wrong done to my country is an insult to God. Her cause is the cause of Sri Ram! Her services are the services of Sri Krishna! Poor in health and intellect, a son like myself has nothing else to offer to the Mother but his own blood and so I have sacrificed the same on her altar.
"The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die and the only way to teach it, is by dying ourselves. Therefore I die and glory in my martyrdom! This war of Independence will continue between India and England, so long as the Hindu and the English races last (if the present unnatural relation does not cease!)
"My only prayer to God is: May I be reborn of the same Mother and may I redie in the same sacred cause, till the cause is successful and she stands free for the good of humanity and the glory of God!"
Madan Lal Dhingra's coffin was exhumed on 12 December 1976 in the presence of Natwar Singh, then Acting High Commisioner for India. This coffin too was flown back to India.
You can read more about Madan Lal Dhingra by clicking here.
Madan Lal Dhingra lives on in the hearts of his country men. Humble salutations to his memory!