Chandrasekhar Azad (July 23, 1906 – February 27, 1931) was a great Indian freedom fighter and revolutionary thinker. Revered for his audacious deeds and fierce patriotism, he was the mentor of Bhagat Singh, the famous Indian martyr. Chandrasekhar Azad is considered one of the greatest Indian freedom fighter along with Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Ram Prasad Bismil, and Ashfaqulla Khan.
Young Azad was one of the young generation of Indians when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement. But many were disillusioned with the suspension of the struggle in 1922 owing to the Chauri Chaura massacre of 22 policemen. Although Gandhi was appalled by the brutal violence, Azad did not feel that violence was unacceptable in the struggle, especially in view of the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, where Army units killed hundreds of unarmed civilians and wounded thousands in Amritsar. Young Azad and contemporaries like Bhagat Singh were deeply and emotionally influenced by that tragedy.
As a revolutionary, he adopted the last name Azad, which means "Free" in Urdu. There is an interesting story that while he adopted the name "Azad" he made a pledge that the Police will never capture him alive. Azad and others had committed themselves to absolute independence by any means. He was most famous for The Kakori Rail Dacoity in 1925 and the assassination of the assistant superintendent of Police John Poyantz Saunders in 1928. Azad and his compatriots would target British officials known for their oppressive actions against ordinary people, or for beating and torturing arrested freedom fighters.
Azad was also a believer in socialism as the basis for a future India, free of social and economic oppression and adversity.
With Bhagat Singh
Bhagat Singh joined Azad following the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, an Indian leader who was beaten to death by police officials. Azad trained Singh and others in covert activities, and the latter grew close to him after witnessing his resolve, patriotism and courage. Along with fellow patriots like Rajguru and Sukhdev, Azad and Singh formed the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, committed to complete Indian independence and socialist principles of for India's future progress.
Betrayed by an informer on 27 February 1931 Azad was encircled by British troops in the Alfred park, Allahabad. He kept on fighting till the last bullet. Finding no other alternative, except surrender, Azad shot himself in the temple.
Escape and Death
On the 27th of February, 1931 Chandrashekhar Azad met two of his comrades, the names of whom are highly disputed. However, most people belive that they were a Veer Bhadra and a Prithvi Raj Azad. Prithvi Raj claims that he was there along with Veer Bhadra for a briefing on his mission to Russia. The Revolutionaries of the HSRA or the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association were planning a revolution in India with the help of the Communists of Russia. He further states that Veer Bhadra excused himself saying he had an appointment and left. He had been behaving highly suspiciously for a few days. A few minutes later a brigade of policemen suddenly fired a shot and had the park surrounded. Azad asked Prithvi Raj to flee and said that he would continue the fight. He was injured in his leg. The superintendent asked him to raise his hands and come out. Next moment he fell to the ground in agony as a bullet ripped through his arm. The brigade opened merciless fire in the course of which Azad was badly injured. He himself had already shot at least three policemen dead and many more were injured. At Alfred Park, behind an ancient tree, Azad made his last stand, a bold and defiant one. Till his last breath the soldiers were terrified of his sharp shooting skills. And this was to be the final stage of a heroic epic, the final scene in his life as well as the romantic revolutionaries of the HSRA. Seeing no way out Azad loaded his last bullet into his gun, it would be the last bullet he ever fired; he would be the last man he ever killed in the struggle for Indian Independence. Chandrashekhar Azad put the gun to his temple and shot himself. He had vowed to remain Azad or free all his life. He said that as long as he had his bumtulbukara or his pistol no one would ever catch him alive. He said that he would never be taken to the gallows tied up the way monkeys are, and made to dance by the British. His favourite couplet and only known composition is as follows: "Dushman ki goliyon ka hum samna karenge Azad hee rahein hain, azad hee raheinge!" Years of man hunt, terror, raids, assassinations and demonstrations had at last ended for the British Raj. With him all the revolutionaries were finished. The next time the British would face so grave a problem and so fierce an enemy would be 10 years later in 1941. There would be a much more developed and well organised army then lead by none other than the Netaji - Subhash Chandra Bose, an ardent supporter and sympathizer of Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh.
Azad is a hero to many Indians today. Alfred Park was renamed Chandrasekhar Azad park, as have been scores of schools, colleges, roads and other public institutions across India. Ever since Manoj Kumar's Shaheed Bhagat Singh film made in 1964, Azad's character has become central to any film or commemoration of the life and deeds of Bhagat Singh and his friends. He was played by Sunny Deol in 2002, in a film on Bhagat Singh.
The patriotism of Azad, Sukhdev, Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan was also depicted in Rang De Basanti, a contemporary Bollywood film starring Aamir Khan that released in February 2006. The movie, which draws parallels between the lives of young freedom fighters such as Azad and Bhagat Singh and today's youth, also dwells upon the lack of appreciation among Indian youth today for the sacrifices made by these freedom fighters. The film also depicts the famous Kakori train robbery