A 15-year-old boy was arrested in taking part in the Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and was presented before a magistrate. When asked his name, the boy replied – “Azad” (The Free), to the question regarding his father’s name, the boy replied – “Swatantrata” (Independence) and when asked about his residence, the boy replied -“Jail”. Such was the attitude of Chandra Shekhar Azad from a young age.
When the non-cooperation movement was called off by M.K. Gandhi in 1922, Azad became disillusioned and started meeting revolutionaries such as Manmath Nath Gupta who spent about 21 years in jail due to his participation in Kakori train robbery and due to the fact that he couldn’t stop writing against the British government. Manmath Nath Gupta lived a 92 year-long life and became a prolific writer having written hundreds of books in Hindi, English, and Bengali. One of his books also exclusively deals with the life and activities of Chandra Shekhar Azad.
Through Manmath Nath Gupta, Chandra Shekhar Azad got the opportunity to meet Ram Prasad Bismil. Ram Prasad Bismil was a poet-writer and one of the founders of the revolutionary organization – Hindustan Republican Association. Sachindra Nath Sanyal was also the founder and national organizer of the Hindustan Republican Association, among others. Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee was another founder who also coordinated the activities of the Anushilan Samiti. Ram Prasad Bismil was involved in the Mainpuri conspiracy in 1918, where he was involved in loots to collect funds for his revolutionary party ‘Matrivedi’. He also planned the looting of the government treasury that was present in a train near Kakori in 1925. However, Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, Roshan Singh, and Rajendra Nath Lahiri were arrested and hanged in December 1927. Rajendra Nath Lahiri was also involved in the Dakshineswar Bomb Case.
The hanging of the prominent party leaders as wells as the arrest of many others left the other revolutionaries – the likes of Chandra Shekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh – in a leadership position to lead their revolutionary activities. The Hindustan Republican Association was renamed as ‘Hindustan Socialist Republican Association’ because Bhagat Singh was primarily influenced by the thoughts of Lenin.
The death of Lala Lajpat Rai in November 1928, due to the blows of lathi he received while he was peacefully protesting against the Simon Commission in Lahore left many young revolutionary leaders devastated. Lala Lajpat Rai was one of the nationalist leaders of the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate likened by the revolutionaries. Many of the revolutionaries had also close links with Arya Samaj which Lala Lajpat Rai was influenced by.
However, in order to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, John Saunders was mistaken as James Scott and was killed by a planned plot made by Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt also threw bombs at the empty treasure benches in the Central Legislative Assembly in April 1929 in order to awaken the youth and let the message of HSRA be heard in order to end British imperialism. They didn’t try to escape and Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru were hanged on 23 March 1931.
Chandra Shekhar Azad – true to his name and his ability to deceive Britishers could never be arrested again. For instance, he had lived under the alias of Pandit Harishankar Bramhachari and was able to escape every time. But due to the information received from an insider who turned traitor the Britishers were able to surround him in a park in Allahabad on 27 February, 1931. He saved Sukhdev Raj but later shot himself as he never wanted to be held in captive by the Britishers. He was just 24 years of age at that time. That park in Allahabad has been named after him as ‘Azad Park’.