There is an acute need to remember and celebrate the revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle now more than ever. It is important to know how, many people shed not only their tears but their blood as well in order for us to breathe the air of freedom. Neither was our Independence struggle all about Ahimsa as many would have you believe nor were the British threatened by it. In fact, the biggest challenge for the British was the “Mutiny of 1857”.

General G.D. Bakshi, in his book, Bose or Gandhi, Who Got India her Freedom? argues that the reason India was granted independence was because of British’s fears that a military revolt in India against British rule would be triggered by soldiers of the Indian National Army (INA) returning from World War II. It is said that the then British Prime Minister Clement Attlee said the same thing when he came to India.

It must be kept in mind while learning about our revolutionaries that during the British Raj, most of them were either sentenced to death or imprisoned permanently in the infamous Andaman jail. Thus their actions should be judged based on these facts.

Today is the birthday of one such revolutionary, Chandra Sekhar Tiwari or Chandra Sekhar Azad as we know him, who is said to be the mentor of  Bhagat Singh.

Chandra Sekahr Azad was born on July 23, 1906 in Alirjapur district of Madhya Pradesh. His father was Pandit Sitaram Tiwari and mother was Jagarani Devi. Chandra Sekhar’s mother wanted him to be a Sanskrit scholar and sent him to Varanasi to pursue studies.

How did Tiwari become an ‘Azad’?

 The Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 in which the British murdered 100s of unarmed civilians, had a profound effect on Chandra Sekhar. He was 13 then. At the age of 15, he took part in the non-cooperation movement declared by Gandhi. He was arrested during a protest and taken to court. When the magistrate asked him what his name was, he said Azad, which means ‘Freedom’. As he a minor, hewas not jailed; But was given 15 lashes as punishment. From then on he was known as Chandrasekhar Azad, who vowed never to be arrested by British police as long as he was alive.

Congress splits

Young revolutionaries like Azad, Bhagat Singh and Sukdev enthusiastically participated in Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement. But the abrupt cessation of the Non-Cooperation Movement by Gandhi in 1922, without any consultation or discussion at the Congress meeting, caused a split within the party. As a result, a revolutionary faction led by Ram Prasad Bismil was formed. The Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) was founded by Bismil, Chatterji, Sanyal, Shachindra Nath Bakshi and Ashfaqulla Khan in 1924. Deeply disappointed by Gandhi, Azad lost faith in the national leadership of the Congress. He abandoned the non-violent path to Indian liberation and embarked on a revolution.

 Azad stayed in Jhansi for some time. He practised sniper training in the Orchha forest, about 15 km from Jhansi. He also coached others in his team. The village of Timarpura, where Azad lived under another name, Pandit Harishankar, has now been renamed as ‘Azadpura’ by the Madhya Pradesh government.

Revolutionary activities

By 1924, Azad had joined the HRA with Bhagat Singh and Sukdev Thapar. The HRA’s most important adventure, Kakori train robbery took place in 1925. On August 9, 1925, they hijacked the train from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow at gunpoint and robbed the money that was being taken to the British treasury. Unexpectedly, it became a murder case as someone was shot during the robbery. A total of 40 people were arrested from all over India. Of them, Ram Prasad Bismil, Thakur Roshan Singh, Rajendra Nath and Ashfaqulla Khan were sentenced to death after trial. Their execution took place in December 1929; Two more were sent to the Andaman prison; 15 were acquitted due to lack of evidence; 3 people escaped. Others were sentenced for four to 14 years in prison. Azad was the only one of the main culprits who went into hiding without being arrested.

Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA)

Azad restructured the HRA in 1928, changing its name to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HRSA). It could largely be attributed to Bhagat Singh’s attraction to socialism. In 1928 the Simon Commission came to India to investigate the political situation in India and to send a report to England. There was not even an Indian member in it. HRSA strongly opposed this and decided to bomb the members of the Simon Commission.

A peaceful protest led by Punjab Lion Lala Lajpat Rai against the Simon Commission took place in Lahore to which the police replied with violence. Lala Lajpat Rai, who was injured in the lathi-charge, died a few days later. This caused great turmoil. Sivaram Rajguru, Sukdev Thapar, Chandrasekara Azad and Bhagat Singh, who decided to take revenge for this, planned as allies. Assistant Superintendent Commissioner John Sanders was shot and killed by Bhagat Singh and Rajguru. Azad shot the constable who chased them while fleeing. All four went into hiding.

 Bhagat Singh and Padukeshwar Dutt, who threw bombs at vacant seats during a meeting of the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi in 1929, volunteered to be arrested there. It was later explained that this was done to raise awareness about the controversial Public Security Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill that were to be passed there. They raised slogans like ‘Inqulab Zindabad’ when arrested. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukdev were sentenced to death after the trial.

Meeting Jawaharlal Nehru

In the final week of February 1931, Azad met Jawaharlal Nehru while all his associates were on death row. If the Gandhi-Irwin Pact were to be signed and passed, the situation would become even worse for the revolutionaries. So he went to meet Nehru at his residence Ananda Bhavan in Allahabad (now Pragyaraj) to stop the execution. About this meeting, Nehru wrote in his autobiography. Nehru paints Azad, as a not so great revolutionary of his time and tries to undermine his popularity by writing that he remembers him only vaguely. Nehru refers to Azad as a terrorist many times in just three paragraphs and accuses him and his associates of having ‘fascist’ ideas. However the conversation about Bhagat Singh’s pending execution is not in Nehru’s autobiography.

“I remember a curious incident about that time, which gave me an insight into the mind of the terrorist group in India”

“Many of them, it seems to me, have definitely the fascist mentality”.

Angered, Azad left Anand Bhavan.


The date of Azad’s visit to Anand Bhavan is unclear. Azad visited Alfred Park on February 27, 1931. He was accompanied by another revolutionary Sukveer Raj. Suddenly John Not-Bower with the Deputy Superintendent of Police Bisheshwar Singh came there to catch Azad. When Azad saw a policeman pointing his finger at him, he immediately pulled his pistol out of his pocket and fired at Not-Bower’s wrist. Watching this, Bisheshwar Singh abused Azad. Azad immediately shot Bisheshwar Singh in the mouth and broke his jaw. Within minutes, police surrounded Alfred Park and a bullet pierced Azad’s right thigh, making it difficult for him to escape. Even then, Azad kept covering for Sukveer Raj so that the latter could escape. Finally, with only one bullet remaining in his gun, Chandra Shekhar Azad shot himself instead of being arrested by the police at the age of 24. Shortly afterwards, people gathered around the park chanting slogans praising Azad.

Within a month of his death, his associates Bhagat Singh, Sivaram Rajguru and Sukdev Thapar were hanged. HRSA disbanded without its key leaders. The death of these young fighters accelerated the Indian independence struggle. The ideal of Swarajya was instilled in the minds of the people.


 In 2016, Surjit Azad, the nephew of Chandra Sekhar Azad, accused Nehru of informing the police of Azad’s whereabouts. We do not know the truth. Alfred Park, where Azad died, was renamed Chandrasekhar Azad Park and a statue of him has been installed there in his remembrance. Many films and plays have been made about his life. Recently,  Prime Minister Modi praised Azad for “sacrificing his life but not bowing to foreign rule”.

“Dushman ki goliyon ka hum samna karenge, Azad hee rahein hain, Azad hee rahenge” (I will face the bullets of the enemy. I have remained free and will remain free!) was Azad’s words. At the age of 15, he vowed to be free as long as he lived and kept it to the last.


Edited by my wonderful friend @Mahakrish_

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.