A monument to Chandra Shekhar Azad in his ancestral village of Badarka
Popular far beyond his lifetime as a fearless freedom fighter and daring revolutionary, Chandrashekhar Azad was a notable personality in the freedom struggle of India. His sheer patriotism and undisputed courage became the source of inspiration for many others like Bhagat Singh. He was also known as the revolutionary face of the country and was the founder of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, along with other freedom fighters like Sukhdev and Rajguru.
Azad was born as Chandrashekhar Tiwari in a village of Madhya Pradesh on 23 July 1906. His parents were Pandit Sitaram Tiwari and Jagrani Devi, the family hailing from the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh. He completed his early education in Bhavra and to fulfill his mother’s wish, he went to Varanasi Sanskrit Pathshala. At the age of 15, he was deeply moved by the Jalianwala Bagh incident, which developed his nationalistic sentiments early. He joined the Non-Cooperation Movement launched By Gandhiji, but was soon arrested by the British. It was during his trial that he acquired the monicker Azad (meaning "free"), which was how he answered the judge when asked his name. He later took a vow that he would never be arrested in his life and would embrace death as a free soul.
Azad was deeply hurt by the Chauri Chaura incident and the consequent suspension of the Non-Cooperation movement by Gandhi. He decided to turn aggressive and extremist, wanting to obtain independence for his country at any cost. He was a staunch believer in socialism and met Ram Prasad Bismil in due course. Bismil was the founder of the Hindustan Republican Association that aimed towards a free country with equal rights for everyone, irrespective of social status, caste or creed. Bismil liked Azad and included him to be a member of this revolutionary organisation. His job was to collect funds for the group by any means, which sometimes even led to robbing government properties. Apart from this, he and his associates were involved in several violent plans against the British and these were executed from Shahjahanpur.
He was an active member of the group that robbed the Kakori train in 1925; attempted to blow up the train of the Viceroy in 1926; and killed British ASP John Poyantz in revenge of the death of Lajpat Rai. For as long as he lived, he gave sleepless nights to the British government.
Formation of HSRA
Azad had a earned several followers that included Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and others. Their main job was to harass the British government to an extent so that they would be compelled to leave India. In 1924, when all the founders of HRA were arrested and sentenced to death, Azad took the responsibility to reorganise it, renaming it as Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. The people who helped him in doing so were eminent personalities in Indian freedom struggle like Mahaveer Singh, Sheo Verma, and Bhagwati Charan Vohra.
On 27 February 1931, Azad went to meet one of his associates in Allahabad’s Alfred Park but soon was surrounded by the police. Clearly, he had been betrayed by one of his own. A gunfight followed, but there was no way Azad could have come out of it. Determined not to get arrested, he killed himself with the last bullet of his gun before the British could even touch him.
Azad's file is still kept in the CID headquarters of Lucknow. The pistol which he used to shoot himself is preserved in the Allahabad Museum. Several movies have been made on him, like Rang De Basanti, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, among others.