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Madan Lal Dhingra: Indian revolutionary and pro-independence activist

Madan Lal Dhingra, a name etched in the annals of Indian history, was a passionate revolutionary and pro-independence activist who dedicated his life to the cause of freeing India from British colonial rule. His story is one of unwavering commitment to the nation’s struggle for freedom, marked by a tragic end that continues to inspire generations.

Early Life and Education

Madan Lal Dhingra was born on September 18, 1883, in Amritsar, India, into an educated and prosperous Hindu Punjabi Khatri family. His father, Dr. Ditta Mal Dhingra, held a prestigious position as a civil surgeon, and Madan Lal was one of their eight children. All seven sons, including Madan Lal, pursued higher education abroad.

Dhingra’s academic journey began at Amritsar’s MB Intermediate College, followed by studies at Government College University in Lahore. During his time in Lahore, he was deeply influenced by the nascent nationalist movement, which was primarily focused on seeking Home Rule at the time. His concern for India’s poverty and famines led him to explore solutions rooted in self-government (Swaraj) and the Swadeshi movement.

Dhingra ardently embraced the Swadeshi movement, which aimed to enhance India’s self-sufficiency by promoting local industries and boycotting British goods. He believed that the British colonial government’s policies favored British imports at the expense of Indian industries, stifling economic development in India.

Revolutionary Years

In 1904, as a student pursuing a Master of Arts degree, Dhingra led a protest against the college’s decision to use imported British cloth for the college blazers. His principled stand led to his expulsion. Despite his father’s advice to apologize and reconcile, Dhingra chose to live life on his terms, working as a clerk in Kalka and later as a factory laborer. He even attempted to organize a union but was dismissed for his efforts.

His journey took him to Bombay, where he worked in various low-level jobs. Concerned about his well-being, his elder brother, Dr. Bihari Lal, convinced him to pursue higher education in Britain. In 1906, Dhingra left for London, enrolling at University College to study mechanical engineering.

Association with India House

In London, Dhingra arrived a year after the establishment of Shyamji Krishna Varma’s India House in 1905—a gathering place for Indian revolutionaries in Highgate. Here, he came into contact with notable figures like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Shyamji Krishna Varma, who admired his unwavering commitment to India’s independence struggle.

Savarkar’s belief in revolution and the cult of assassination left a significant impression on Dhingra, aligning his focus with the independence movement.

Assassination of Curzon Wyllie

Before his infamous act, Dhingra had attempted to assassinate Lord Curzon, a former Viceroy of India, and had planned a similar act against Bampfylde Fuller, the former Lieutenant-Governor of East Bengal. However, he was late for a meeting with Fuller, preventing him from carrying out his plan. Dhingra’s target then shifted to William Hutt Curzon Wyllie, a British official.

On the evening of July 1, 1909, Dhingra attended the annual ‘At Home’ event hosted by the Indian National Association at the Imperial Institute. As Curzon Wyllie left the hall with his wife, Dhingra fired five shots, four of which hit their target. Unfortunately, Cawas Lalcaca, a Parsee doctor who tried to save Curzon Wyllie, succumbed to Dhingra’s sixth and seventh bullets. He was arrested on the spot by the police.

Trial and Execution

Dhingra’s trial took place at the Old Bailey on July 23, 1909. Representing himself during the trial, he refused to recognize the court’s legitimacy. He stated that his assassination was an act of patriotism in the name of Indian independence. Dhingra also clarified that he had not intended to kill Cawas Lalcaca.

Despite his passionate defense, he was sentenced to death. After the judge delivered the verdict, Dhingra remarked, “I am proud to have the honor of laying down my life for my country. But remember, we shall have our time in the days to come.” On August 17, 1909, Madan Lal Dhingra was hanged at Pentonville Prison.

Conclusion

Madan Lal Dhingra’s life and sacrifice exemplify the unyielding spirit of India’s freedom struggle. His dedication to the cause of independence, unwavering principles, and ultimate sacrifice continue to inspire generations of Indians. Dhingra’s legacy lives on as a symbol of courage and commitment to the dream of a free and sovereign India.

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