The Saga of Two friends…………..

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“Patriotism brings with him all sort of troubles and pains, but a man who chooses it, all the troubles and pains become comforts and ease for him. That is why we remain cheerful up to our aim.’”

“Even if I have to face death a thousand times for the sake of my Motherland, I shall not be sorry. Oh Lord! Grant me a hundred births in Bharath. But grant me this, too, that each time I may give up my life in the service of the Mother land.”

Pandit Ramaprasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla always treated as the symbol of Hindu Muslim Unity of India . There was a strong friendship was cultivated between Ashfaqulla Khan and Ram Prasad Bismil. Ram Prasad was an Aryasmaji whereas Ashfaqulla Khan was a devout Muslim. They were so dyed-in-the-wool to the cause of the nation that their religion did not come in the way of their firm resolve to join together for the freedom struggle.

Pandit Ramaprasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan was one among selected band of martyrs who dreamed of a free India and made the supreme sacrifice, so that the dream might come true. By their unique sacrifice, Ashfaqulla Khan and Pandit Ramaprasad became an immortal revolutionary, an unforgettable name in the Indian freedom struggle history.

Ram Prasad Bismil was born in 1897 at Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Ramaprasad was taught Hindi by his father and was sent to learn Urdu from Moulvi. He wished to join an English medium school and got hold of admission in one of such schools. In 1915 Ramaprasad joined Arya Samaj. He was a very talented poet; all of his poems were having the intense patriotic and devoted feeling and several inspiring patriotic verses are attributed him. The poem Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna is popularly attributed to him, although it has been suggested that Bismil Azimabadi actually wrote the poem whereas Ram Prasad “Bismil” immortalized it. It is believed that Bismil refers to Bismil and Azimabad refers Ashfaqulla Khan. He always dreamed a socialist India as a free nation and wholehearted himself to the sovereignty of the country.

When he was a student of 9th class, he read in newspaper, news regarding the death sentence of Bhai Parmanand, a famous scholar and companion of Lala Har Dayal. Then Bismil was just 18 years , he au fait with go to the Arya Samaj Temple of Shahjahanpur daily, where Swami Somdev, a friend of Bhai Paramanand, was staying. A revengeful anger had burst out in the mind of Bismil through this incident. He composed a poem in Hindi titled “My Birth” (hi. mera janm) and showed it to Swami Somdev. In that poem he showed his commitment to root out the British Empire from India. Though swami tried to aback him, he was strong willed and joined Indian National Congress.

Ashfaqulla Khan was, a loyal friend of Bismil, a great revolutionary, a real martyr who sacrificed his life for the cause of freedom. Ashfaqulla Khan was born on 22 October 1900 in Shahjahanpur, a historical city of Uttar Pradesh. His father, Shafiq Ullah Khan belonged to a Pathan family who was famous for militancy. His elder brother Riyasat Ullah Khan was a class mate of Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil. When Bismil was declared absconder after the Mainpuri Conspiracy, Riyasat used to tell his younger brother Ashafaq about the bravery and shayari Urdu poetry of Bismil. Since then Ashfaq was very keen to meet Bismil, because of his poetic attitude. In 1920, when Bismil came to Shahjahanpur and engaged himself in business Ashfaq tried so many times to contact him but Bismil paid no attention as he was  a Muslim..

In 1922, when Non-cooperation movement started and Bismil organized meetings in Shahjahanpur to tell the public about the movement, Ashfaqulla met him in a public meeting and introduced himself as a younger brother of his class mate. He also told Bismil that he wrote poems under the pen-names of ‘Warsi’ and ‘Hasrat’. He was shocked as he had noted before passion and patriotic feelings of Harzt’s poem, Bismil listened to some of his couplets in a private get- together at Shahjahanpur and since then they became good friends. Ashfaqulla often wrote something and showed it to Bismil who immediately corrected or improved the same. Thus a very good poetic alignment between Ashfaqulla and Bismil developed and it was so familiar that whosoever listened to them in any of the poetic conferences called Mushaira in Urdu language was overwhelmed with surprise. Their friendship was so strongly fastened that they always moved together, ate together and worked together. They were called two bodies but one soul.

The two became bosom friends. So much so that they moved together, ate together and worked together. An incident in this connection is worth mentioning. Once Ashfaqulla had severe fever and under the very high temperature he was muttering Ram, my dear Ram. Ashfaq parents got perturbed and thought Ashfaqulla had been overpowered by some evil spirit since he was uttering the name of Ram, the Lord of Hindus. They called their neighbor. The neighbor assured them explaining that Ashfaqulla was remembering Ram Prasad Bismil, his friend whom he is in the habit of addressing as Ram. Bismil was called. Ashfaq muttering came to a stop and both embraced each other.

In February 1922 some agitating farmers were killed in Chauri Chaura by the police. The police station of Chauri Chaura was attacked by the people and 22 policemen were burnt alive. Gandhi, without ascertaining the facts behind this incident declared an immediate stop the non-cooperation movement without consulting any executive committee member of the Congress. Bismil and his group of youths strongly opposed Gandhi in the Gaya Congress of 1922. When Gandhi refused to rescind his decision, a number of people left congress and moved to violent revolution including Bagath Singh and Azad. A meeting of such groups organized in UP, formed a revolutionary party, Hindustan Republican Association (HRA).

Bismil was one of the founder members of the Hindustan Republican Association, a historical revolutionary organization known for its ideology and constitution…Ram Prasad Bismil with Ashfaqulla Khan joined the revolutionary organization Hindustan Republican Association in his youth and came in contact with other revolutionaries including, among others, Premkishan Khanna, Ashfaqulla Khan, Chandrasekhar Azad, Thakur Roshan Singh, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Bhagawati Charan, Rajguru Rai Ram Narain and Govind Prasad great grand son of Raja Tikait Rai Wazir Nawab of Oudh Awadh.

On 9th August, 1925, Along with nine revolutionary colleagues, they executed a meticulous plan for the looting of the government treasury carried in a train at Kakori. This happened on August 9, 1925 and is known as the Kakori Train Robbery. The incident created great upheaval in British India. The retribution was severe when the revolutionaries were caught. In a long drawn case, Ram Prasad, Ashfaqulla, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Lahiri were sentenced to death. Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan was hanged by the British authorities on December 19, 1927 in Gorakhpur (located in the present Indian state of Uttar Pradesh), while Rai Ram Narain was jailed for life.

The incident created a great upheaval in British India. The retribution was severe when more than 40 revolutionaries were arrested from all over India. As per official record of the British Government, a criminal conspiracy case was filed against 28 active members of HRA by the Special Magistrate Ainuddin after a long time. 21 persons were presented before Session Court of Special Judge A. Hamilton on 21 May 1926. Abbas Salim Khan, Banvari Lal Bhargava, Gyan Chattarji and Mohd. Ayuf were the assessors (legal advisers) of the Judge. On April 6, 1927 the verdict of court came out of the special court of Lucknow. This special court was established by the then British Government in the Ring Theatre.[29] Court’s verdict was published in 115 pages and the charges were proved in such a manner that no body could escape the punishment.

The police submitted charge sheet against him in the court. During the Court proceedings the Superintendent of Police who was a Muslim went to Ashfaq’s jail room and tried to break him from the revolutionaries. The S.P. said: “Ashfaq, I am also Muslim. I am very sorry for your arrest. I can have you released if you accept my advice. You Government approver and give testimony against Ramprasad Bismil. He is a Hindu and wants to establish the rule of Hindus. You should not be with him”. Ashfaq got enraged to hear the words of the Muslim S.P. and retorted, “I warn you, never utter such unholy words from your mouth. Ram Prasad is my brother. I would rather die under the rule of Hindus than to live under the British rule’

They refused to produce mercy petition for the death sentence saying that the death is better than begging to the British emperor

A committee consisting of eminent lawyers like Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Nehru, Sriprakasha, Acharya Narendra Dev, Govind Vallabh Pant and Chandra Bhanu Gupta was formed to defend the revolutionaries in the Kakori train robbery case. Their effort to save the revolutionaries, however, failed in the court of justice under the British rule which sentenced to death Ramaprasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan Rajendra Lahiri and Roshan Singh. The others were given life sentences.

The whole country protested against the death sentences. Petitions were made to the Viceroy to reduce their death sentence into life imprisonment. Even the Privy Council was also approached but all in vain, the British could not be moved down.

On 19 December 1927 Bismil woke up at 3.30 a.m. as usual in the morning, did his formal duties of daily routine, meditated for half an hour, bore new dhoti-kurta and sat in the waiting of his long awaited beloved death. At the appropriate time the Magistrate came along with the Jailor, unlocked the condemned cell and asked Bismil to get ready. The Magistrate was astonished to see him smiling. Bismil rose up immediately and said – “Let us move!”

He went cheerfully up to the gallows saying his last good bye to whosoever met in the way. He stood up at the altar of gallows, kissed the noose and spoke very loudly his last wish – “I wish the downfall of British Empire!” Then he whispered the vedic prayer “Om vishvaani dev savitur duritaani paraasuv, yad bhadram tann aasuv.” (en.O God of all creature! let the ill will be removed and the good prevail in our souls.) And put the noose around his neck like a garland.

The hangman pulled the lever of gallows and the body of Bismil hanged in the open air. For half an hour he was kept hanging to safegaurd the certainty of death. In this way a daredevil son of Mother India departed for the common cause of every Indian’s freedom.

By an eyewitness account, on a Wednesday, four days before he was hanged, two English officers looked into the solitary cell where Ashfaqulla Khan was lodged. He was in the middle of his namaz. “I’d like to see how much of that faith remains in him when we hang the rat”, quipped one of them. But Ashfaq continued his prayer as usual and both of them went away murmuring like a wind’s way.

On Monday, 19 December 1927, Ashfaqulla Khan is known to have taken two steps at a time, as he walked up to the post. When his chains were released, he reached for the hanging rope and kissed it by saying these words: “My hands are not soiled with the murder of man. The charges framed against me are a bare false. God will give me the justice.” And at last he recited in Urdu the shahada. The noose came around his neck and the movement lost one of its shining stars in the sky.

In his last message which has been referred to earlier Ashfaqulla warned that the tablique and shudhi movements were dividing the Hindus and Muslims and coming in the way of our struggle for independence. It is well known that tablique movement was started as a   campaign to purify the Muslim rituals and life style in confirmation with Koran as understood by conservative elements. Similarly the shudhi movement was started by those who believed that Hindus who got converted to Islam should be brought back to Hindu fold again. As a   sharp critic of all these movements Ashfaqulla Khan felt that such movements would divide the joint platform of Hindus and Muslims to fight against British Rule. He sincerely believed     that nationhood is not constituted by religion.

At a time when we are experiencing the growth    of fundamentalism and communalism, let us take a lesson from Ashfaqulla’s life and faith in Indian unity and communal harmony.  Ashfaqulla Khan’s life had made a strong impact on the subsequent phases of our freedom struggle. Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Jatindra Nath Das were greatly influenced by him and reorganized the revolutionary activities culminating in their martyrdom. We owe a debt of gratitude to these revolutionaries for their sacrifices which accelerated India’s independence. Today when we have assembled here on the Birth Centenary of this great Indian who at the young age of 27 went to the gallows for the unity and freedom of India, we     have to ask ourselves how can we pay our debt to these brave young heroes? Words are not enough to pay the debt. We have to follow in practice the spirit of freedom and unity and     eschew every trace of communalism from our society and politics. And we will have to set   an example to our youth and to the succeeding generations of patriotism and unity and communal and social harmony so that they will have some reason to look back upon us with pride as we are to-day looking upon Ashfaqulla and his colleagues.

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