Saturday, July 23, 2011

Azaaad

1921, Benares(India):
Non-co-operation movement had just been launched under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. A group of supporters were mercilessly subject to severe lathi-charge by a British police-man. A school-going boy, hardly 15 years old, seeing the incident from a distance, could not keep his temper within bounds. He grabbed a stone and, aiming it with perfection, struck the sub-inspector right on his forehead. It started bleeding and another police-man, in order to get hold of the boy, chased him. The boy, however, made his getaway. The police-man, after carrying out a rigorous search at the schools in the neighbourhood, finally located the boy in his room in a Dharamshala. To his surprise, the walls of the little room were totally covered with portraits of Gandhiji, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Ray and the likes.

The boy was put in a dark prison which was poorly ventilated. The unbearable cold assisted the police in making the lives of prisoners more miserable, as if it already weren't. In spite of all this, the boy, much different from the boys of his age, was not one to be shaken by such mundane problems. The sub-inspector, expecting the boy to be struck with fear and cold, paid a visit at midnight. He was shocked to see him busy exercising himself, shedding sweat despite the cold.

The next day the boy was produced before the magistrate, Khereghat, who was notorious for awarding cruel punishment to offenders. The boy, seemingly unaware of all this, boldly came to the accused-stand.

"What is your name?", the judge questioned.
"Azad (freedom)", was the bold reply.
Not sensing anything strange, the judge continued, "What is your Father's name?"
"Swadhinata (Independence)", was the immediate reply.
"Place of residence?".
"Jail".
Baffled, the judge proclaimed- "15 lashes by cane". Without any further questioning, he dismissed the case.

15 lashes is something that would make even a brave adult shudder. But the boy remained cool. He was tied to a plank. Sparing just a vest on his tender body, the jailer began the flogging. One after the other, the blows landed, each more devastating than the previous. There were tears in the eyes of the onlookers (the punishment was carried out in the presence of the public, to create fear). But, with every blow, the boy shouted- "Bharat Mata Ki jai", "Vande Mataram", "Mahatma Gandhiji ki Jai". His skin peeled out. But, there was no place either for tears or fear. People there were awestruck by his courage and patriotism. Ever since this incident, the boy, Chandrashekhar Tiwary came to be called as Chandrashekhar Azad" or simply "Azad". When he was released, he vowed that he would never be arrested by the British and would die as a free man.

Chandrashekhar was born in Jhabua District of Madhya Pradesh on July 23, 1906. Being inspired by leaders like Gandhiji, he plunged into freedom struggle at the tender age of 15. Deeply pained by the treatment infringed on the Indians by the British, he decided that fighting back with arms was the best solution. He, along with his friends Bhagat Singh, Rajguru became revolutionaries. In order to raise funds for their anti-British activities, the revolutionaries resorted to robbing the rich, sometimes even from their very homes. However, they sent each of them, receipts for the money that had been robbed and each pie of the loot was accounted for. Their amount would be returned after India became free, it was promised. Once, on being questioned by his friend about this practice, Azad replied,
"For me, first comes the freedom of the country. I don't consider the looting of the rich a sin. They grow rich on sucking the blood of the poor. The wealth amassed by them belongs to the country. It is no sin to use this money for the good of the country." There was nothing that he wouldn't do if the country would become free. Attempting to describe his patriotism with mere words would be foolishness.


It had been decided by the revolutionaries that during the process of robbing the rich, none would resort to maltreating, especially when it came to women. But during the second robbery, in which Azad too was involved, a member, overcome by lust, misbehaved with a girl notwithstanding Azad's requests not to do so. Azad shot him dead and then begged the lady's pardon for his colleagues misconduct.

To evade the police, Azad once took refuge at the home of an old widow. On knowing that she was in dire need of money for her daughter's marriage, Azad even requested her to bring him to the police and get the prize-money of Rs 5,000 that he carried on his head, to which the widow refused. When Azad left her home, he left a large part of the money he had.

The influence of the revolutionaries was such that, the owner of a store looted by them, on sensing that it was the handiwork of Azad and his team, asked the police to drop the case (garodia store dacoity).

He was unmarried and lived the austere life of a ‘Brahmachari’, till his last breath. For his ceaseless activities, he was rightly called quick-silver.
In February 1931, a close associate of Azad, in order to claim the price on Azad's head, double-crossed him (as has happened numerous times in our history) and tipped the police about his movements. Having been surrounded by nearly 100 police in a park (which now has a memorial in his name), he fought them single-handed, killing many policemen. When he realised that only the last bullet was left in his pistol and that there was no way to escape the British, he shot himself in the head, thereby keeping up his promise that he would never let the British arrest him, even at the cost of death.

Despite his sacrifice, Azad has sunk into the annals of history without much remembrance. Most school text-books only consider him a "Terrorist", which is highly unfortunate. Our current leaders are in a state of utter confusion. They declare great patriots as "terrorists", whereas, the real terrorists are happily looked upon as 'heroes'. What more.
A certain 'leader' of U.P has proposed to rename a college originally named after Azad, just because she thinks him a "terrorist". The same person can erect statues in her glory, at our expenses, but cannot tolerate a great leader, who sacrificed his life for the country. Isn't it shameful that such are our leaders?

Before I conclude, it is worth mentioning Azad's most popular quote-
दुश्मनों की गोलियों को हम सामना करेंगे. आज़ाद रहे हैं, आज़ाद ही रहेंगे ( I shall not run away from the bullets of the enemies. Freedom was always mine, it shall always be.)
(Azad's photo after sacrificing himself at Allahabad )


References:1. "Chandrashekhar azad- An immortal revolutionary of india"

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