Martyr Shivram Hari Rajguru
A great freedom fighter whose sacrifice intensified the flame of freedom and who, with his sacrifice, created a permanent place for himself in the hearts of Maharashtra
Shivram Hari Rajguru was the most enthusiastic soldier of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army. He was known amongst his party as Shahadat ke betab aashik, one eager for sacrificing his life for the party’s cause. Rajguru was born in Khed village in Pune district. He was also known by the name Raghunath.
As a fourteen year old youth, on failing in the English subject, his elder brother punished him by making him read out an English lesson before his new wife. Rajguru could not bear this insult. He left the house with only the clothes he was wearing and the 9 paisa given him by his mother to buy oil and 2 paisa given him by his sister to buy fruit. Later he first reached Nashik and then finally reached Kashi for his studies. Most of his time in Kashi was spent reading at the Lokmanya Tilak Library, listening to speeches and debates organised by the Maharashtra Vidya Mandal and at the gymnasium run by the BharatSeva Mandal in learning traditional gymnastics. Rajguru’s requirements were perfectly met; his personality started to bloom.
In those days, places like Kolkata, Patna, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi, Meerut, Delhi, Lahore were the ground zero for freedom fighters and Pandit MadanMohan Malviya’s Hindu University was the secret point of congregation for all freedom fighters.
In between Rajguru acquired his degree in gymnastics (VyayamVisharad) from the Shri Hanuman Vyayam Shala in Amravati and also trained under Seva Dal with Dr, Hardikar in Hubli. He returned to Kashi soon after. Around this time, Rajguru came in contact with Chandrashekhar Azad, a revolutionary, who introduced Rajguru to the other revolutionaries. Azad, was adept at imparting his skills unto others, and Rajguru was quick at grasping skills from others; such was the happy union of the two. Vanquishing the British was the supreme purpose of this union, and Rajguru was ever hasty towards this goal, ready to sacrifice himself for the cause. It was as if he was eager for martyrdom. His sentiments and behaviour with regards to this cause was indeed astonishing. His eagerness with respect to this issue was so intense that he wished that nobody else, not even the great freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, should become a martyr before him.
Azad and Rajguru came together at Kashi, but Azad left soon after, telling Rajguru to be patient and to wait until the Party summoned him for a task appropriate for him. Only a few days later, Rajguru was called. He was selected along with Shiv Varma to slay a treacherous member. Both Rajguru and Varma reached Delhi. But they were in a fix as they had just one pistol between them and the target, aware of the plan of execution against himself, would rarely step out of his house. Deciding that Rajguru should follow the target to the location he went to between 7 pm to 8 pm every evening, Sharma went to Lahore to arrange for another pistol. But he returned three days later without one. Since it was evening when he returned to Delhi, he proceeded directly to the ‘site’. On finding police vehicles, searchlights and sounds of gunshots the spot, Sharma realised that Rajguru had executed the plan…
Rajguru had successfully executed the target with just one bullet shot and escaped via the railway track heading toward Mathura. When the police followed him and started firing at him, he slipped under the railway tracks and into fields nearby. The field was flooded with water. Just then, the police reached the place and lit up the place from all sides with their searchlights and started firing. This search went on for two-three hours. The police had not imagined that Rajguru would manage to stay hidden for that long in the quagmire and the thorns. Finally after some hours, the police gave up the search. Rajguru immediately saw his opportunity and escaped towards Mathura. He ran past two stations, then finally boarded the train heading for Mathura. Alighting at Mathura, he washed his clothes in the Yamuna river and slept contentedly right there on the sand. On the third day he reached Kanpur and revealed this entire story to Varma, who was flabbergasted! But on hearing that the dead man was not actually the target but an innocent man who resembled the target, Rajguru was mortified and actually started crying. Varma somehow managed to pacify him.
Rajguru became known to India only during the slaying of Saunders.
The Simon Commission had come to Lahore without a single Indian member. PunjabKesari Lala LajpatRai blocked the Commission’s path in Lahore. Police officer Scott along with Saunders launched an intense baton attack on Lalaji, in which Lalaji was killed. In a tremendously large public meeting on the same day, wife of fellow freedom fighter Chittaranjan Das issued an open challenge, that some Indian youth should avenge this cruelty before the fire of Lalaji’s burning pyre cooled down. On hearing this, Sardar Bhagat Singh became agitated. He laid a proposal to slay Scott, before the party. After killing Scott, it was necessary to argue before the court as to why Scott had to be slain. And Bhagat Singh was capable of doing this. But this plan wasn’t acceptable to Rajguru. Rajguru was adamant, and the party finally relented and recruited him too on the mission.
It was so decided that Jay Gopal would keep a watch on Scott’s movements at the Mallroad Police Station and Bhagat Singh and Rajguru would start firing at Scott at his signal. Accordingly, the three stationed themselves outside the Police Station, but for four days, Scott did not turn up at the location. Finally on the fifth day, a British officer emerged from the station. Jay Gopal signalled to Bhagat Singh this was probably Scott himself, but Bhagat Singh signalled back that this most probably wasn’t Scott. But Rajguru did not interpret Bhagat Singh’s signal, and started firing in the officer’s direction. Bhagat Singh immediately fired eight shots from his own pistol and ensured that the officer was absolutely dead on the spot. Hearing the shots, people from inside the police station ran out. One officer among these headed towards Rajguru. Just then, Rajguru’s pistol refused to work. Rajguru quickly pocketed his pistol and holding the officer by his waist, banged his head so hard that the officer was knocked out cold till the entire confusion was over. In the melee, the magazine from Bhagat Singh’s pistol suddenly fell down. On realising this, Rajguru, putting his own life at risk and showing great presence of mind, dexterously picked up the magazine. Everyone in the party including Chandrashekhar Azad was pleased with Rajguru for this brave feat of his. On hearing that the dead officer was non other than Saunders, they were also happy that their efforts were not a complete waste (since Saunders too had a part to play in Lalaji’s death).
After the Saunders slaying, Bhagat Singh escaped to Lahore in the guise of a military officer. Bhagvaticharan Vohra’s wife Durga along with their son had pretended to be Bhagat Singh’s family. Rajguru pretended to be his servant and Azad accompanied Bhagat Singh in the guise of a priest from Mathura. Thus, all three escaped from Lahore to Rajkot in broad daylight right under the nose of the police.
After this feat of courage, Rajguru started a class to teach martial arts right in front of the main Kashi police station in the East India Company’s garden. His fearlessness knew no bounds now. Rajguru thus resided fearlessly and openly in Kashi for several months. People also saw a public demonstration of his archery skills during the Ganesh festival. But not a soul even imagined that such a simple man was actually a great revolutionary! Rajguru was successful in avoiding the police for many months. But finally in September of 1929, the police managed to capture him in Pune.
Later Rajguru participated in events such as a fast unto death in prison, non-cooperation against the court proceedings. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and other revolutionaries were with him in all this. All the revolutionaries knew their fate, but Shivram Rajguru was happy in having made friends, similarly a new enthusiasm was generated among the revolutionaries due to Rajguru.
The revolutionaries started a fast in the prison demanding that all revolutionaries be treated as political prisoners. Rajguru obviously was at the helm of this protest. Using a rubber tube, everyday the prison doctor would try to force feed milk to the revolutionaries with the help of ten – twelve assistants. All the revolutionaries including Rajguru had to suffer tremendously due to these efforts. They were subjected to a lot of physical torture and distress. But despite all this, the revolutionaries were resolute on their fast.
The Lahore case reached a judicial decision and Shivram Rajguru, along with Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev were quietly hanged. On 23rd March 1931, Rajguru, Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev happily faced the hangman. That moment was the ultimate high point in their life. Their sacrifice inspired innumerable youth of India. A new enthusiasm, energy and patriotism swept the entire nation. Even today, the memory of martyr Rajguru inspires us.