Bhagat Singh 1907 – 23 March 1931) was an Indian socialist revolutionary whose two acts of dramatic violence against the British in India and execution at age 23 made him a folk hero of the Indian independence movement .
In December 1928, Bhagat Singh and an associate, Shivaram Rajguru, fatally shot a 21-year-old British police officer, John Saunders, in Lahore, British India, mistaking Saunders, who was still on probation, for the British police superintendent, James Scott, whom they had intended to assassinate. They believed Scott was responsible for the death of a popular Indian nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai as a result of having ordered a lathi charge in which Rai was injured, and, two weeks thereafter, died of a heart attack. As he exited a police station on a motorcycle, Saunders was felled by a single bullet fired from across the street by Rajguru, a marksman. Lying injured on the ground, he was then shot up close several times by Singh, the postmortem report showing eight bullet wounds. Another associate of Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, shot dead an Indian police constable, Chanan Singh, who attempted to pursue Singh and Rajguru as they fled
After having escaped, Singh and his associates publicly announced avenging Lajpat Rai's death, putting up prepared posters that they had altered to show Saunders as their intended target, their own names appearing under pseudonyms. Singh was thereafter on the run for many months, and no convictions resulted at the time. Surfacing again in April 1929, he and another associate, Batukeshwar Dutt, set off two improvised explosive devices inside the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi. They showered leaflets from the gallery on the legislators below, shouted slogans, and then allowed the authorities to arrest them. The arrest, and the resulting publicity, brought to light Singh's complicity in the John Saunders case. Awaiting trial, Singh gained much public sympathy after he joined fellow defendant Jatin Das in a hunger strike, demanding better prison conditions for Indian prisoners, the strike ending in Das's death from starvation in September 1929. Singh was convicted and hanged in March 1931, aged 23.
Bhagat Singh became a popular folk hero after his death. Jawaharlal Nehru wrote about him: "Bhagat Singh did not become popular because of his act of terrorism but because he seemed to vindicate, for the moment, the honor of Lala Lajpat Rai, and through him of the nation. He became a symbol; the act was forgotten, the symbol remained, and within a few months each town and village of the Punjab, and to a lesser extent in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name." In still later years, Singh, an atheist and socialist in life, won admirers in India from among a political spectrum that included both Communists and right-wing Hindu nationalists. Although many of Singh's associates, as well as many Indian anti-colonial revolutionaries, were also involved in daring acts and were either executed or died violent deaths, few came to be lionized in popular art and literature to the same extent as Singh.
Bhagat Singh was a Sandhu Jat, born in 1907 to Kishan Singh and Vidyavati at Chak No. 105 GB, Banga village, Jaranwala Tehsil in the Lyallpur district of the Punjab Province of British India present-day Pakistan. His birth coincided with the release of his father and two uncles, Ajit Singh and Swaran Singh, from jail. His family members were Hindus and Sikhs; some had been active in Indian Independence movements, others had served in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army. His ancestral village was Khatkar Kalan, near the town of Banga, India in Nawanshahr district (now renamed Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar) of Punjab.
His family was politically active. His grandfather, Arjun Singh followed Swami Dayananda Saraswati's Hindu reformist movement, Arya Samaj, which had a considerable influence on Bhagat. His father and uncles were members of the Ghadar Party, led by Kartar Singh Sarabha and Har Dayal. Ajit Singh was forced into exile due to pending court cases against him while Swaran Singh died at home in Lahore in 1910 following his release from jail .
Unlike many Sikhs of his age, Singh did not attend the Khalsa High School in Lahore. His grandfather did not approve of the school officials' loyalty to the British government. He was enrolled instead in the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic High School, an Arya Samaji institution. The Arya Samaj philosophy greatly influenced him throughout his life.
In 1919, when he was 12 years old, Singh visited the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacr hours after thousands of unarmed people gathered at a public meeting had been killed. When he was 14 years old, he was among those in his village who welcomed protesters against the killing of a large number of unarmed people at Gurudwara Nankana Sahib on 20 February 1921. Singh became disillusioned with Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence after he called off the non-cooperation movement. Gandhi's decision followed the violent murders of policemen by villagers who were reacting to the police killing three villagers in 1922 Chauri Chaura incident. Singh joined the Young Revolutionary Movement and began to advocate for the violent overthrow of the British Government in India.