Why Do Rajguru and Sukhdev Remain Unsung Heroes?

Bhagat Singh’s fame seems to have eclipsed the heroics of his compatriots – Rajguru and Sukhdev.

Updated
Politics
4 min read
Statues of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev at the India-Pakistan Border.
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(This story was first published on 30 March 2015. It has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Rajguru’s birth anniversary.)

Inquilab Zindabad! The call to revolution was what bound three of India’s greatest revolutionaries – Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev – as one. Each member of the trio had been equally instrumental in garnering the change they wanted to see for their motherland.

But even now, Bhagat Singh’s fame seems to have eclipsed the heroics of his compatriots Rajguru and Sukhdev. Unfortunately, they are not given their due prominence in India’s freedom struggle.

Forgotten Heroes of the Freedom Struggle

So, are we slowly forgetting the contributions of these two revolutionaries who embodied tremendous courage, patriotism and self-sacrifice?

Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev Thapar were 24 and Hari Shivaram Rajguru just 23 years when they were hanged on 23 March 1931 for killing the British Superintendent of Police John Saunders.

Bhagat Singh, born in Banga village, Lyallpur district (now Faisalabad, Pakistan), on 27 September 1907, represented the radical wing of the freedom movement. It is common knowledge that the revolutionary’s tale has  inspired many biographical movies on him. In fact, as India’s most-beloved martyr, he has popularly earned the epithet of ‘Shaheed ’ Bhagat Singh. The relatives of Rajguru and Sukhdev, meanwhile, wage a lonely battle to keep the memories of their ancestors alive.

Sukhdev’s house in Naughara Mohalla of Ludhiana.
Sukhdev’s house in Naughara Mohalla of Ludhiana.

Sukhdev was born in 1907 in Naughara Mohalla of Ludhiana. Today, the martyr’s ancestral home wears a desolate look and is almost a picture of neglect. According to his relatives, Sukhdev lived here till his family moved to Lahore. The house has been maintained by the Sukhdev Thapar Memorial Trust since the 1960s.

 A plaque outside Sukhdev’s residence detailing contributions  used by Sukhdev Thapar Memorial Trust to build a community centre.
A plaque outside Sukhdev’s residence detailing contributions used by Sukhdev Thapar Memorial Trust to build a community centre.

Sukhdev Thapar Memorial Trust claim they have developed a community centre without any help from the government. The Trust holds medical camps and invites schoolchildren to pay a visit to the house , in order to spread awareness about the revolutionary.

Picture of Sukhdev’s first cousin Shanta Jhanjhi who visited the house on 23 March every year.
Picture of Sukhdev’s first cousin Shanta Jhanjhi who visited the house on 23 March every year.

Sukhdev’s first cousin Shanta Jhanjhi visited the house every year on 23 March while she was alive. In 2012, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) took over the maintenance of the house. The trustees claim that the ASI has completely altered the look of the house.

Tribute: A Mere Lip Service?

Pictures of Sukhdev hung inside the renovated room of his house in Ludhiana.
Pictures of Sukhdev hung inside the renovated room of his house in Ludhiana.

Members of the Trust claim that the martyr remains largely unknown due to the apathy of the state government. They also complain that his contributions have been highlighted only in the last few years. These members appealed to the President in 2012 demanding the installation of Sukhdev’s statue alongside Bhagat Singh’s in Parliament.

Trust president Ashok Thapar in 2015 said they had also sought cancellation of an FIR filed against the revolutionary which would nullify the criminal charges against him. Sukhdev’s relative Sandeep Thapar minced no words when he said that Sukhdev and Rajguru have largely remained the unsung heroes of India’s freedom struggle.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government recently sanctioned Rs 5 crore for the restoration of Rajguru’s ancestral wada in Rajgurunagar, around 40 kilometres from Pune. Rajgurunagar’s residents have been struggling to keep the revolutionary’s memories alive, even as the restoration project has been entangled in red tape.

Every year, only around 500 people attend the programme , most of whom are local residents.

We would appreciate government efforts to make this day more special.
Satyasheel Rajguru, Rajguru’s great-grand nephew to Pune Mirror

The three young comrades may have hailed from different backgrounds but they were united by the same mission: freeing India from the yoke of British imperialism. They were hanged a day earlier than they were scheduled to be, in 1931, after a hurried trial defying wide public opinion. Their martyrdom is commemorated across India every year.

In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the trio on the 84th anniversary of their death at Hussainiwala in Punjab where their last rites were performed.

But the question is, has our tribute to the martyrs been reduced to paying mere lip-service to the altar of their sacrifice once every year? Rajguru’s family probably thinks so. And they could be right.

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