THE LAHORE CONSPIRACY CASE
The more one examines the proceedings of the Lahore Conspiracy Case, the more one is impressed by the subtle policy of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. The Lahore Conspiracy Case cost the Government very dearly, because by means of this very trial, Bhagat Singh and others achieved to a very great extent those very things which the Government dreaded so much.
As soon as the hunger strike was over and the proper trial was expected to begin, Bhagat Singh formed a small group of three members, namely, he himself, Sukhdeva and Bijoy Kumar Sinha, which began to think as to how best to realize the aims of their party by utilizing this very trial. They determined that the whole proceedings should be so conducted as to best serve to propagate their ideas, aims, objects and methods.
First of all, they had to fight for the preliminary rights of the undertrials. Hitherto, the political undertrials were treated as if they were no better than ordinary criminals. By the persistent efforts of 'the undertrials, which were often attended with great hardships, they were able to exact an honorable treatment from the authorities. Comfortable chairs, newspapers, tables, lunching tents were gradually provided for, and de facto recognition was given to the fact that they were nothing less than patriots.
Another fight was raged for the admission of visitors. The trial took place ( inside the Lahore Central Jail and such restrictions and impediments were put in the way of admission of visitors that very few could get admission. This was about to frustrate the very aim of Bhagat Singh and others, that is, to influence the public by the proceedings. So after a struggle of a month or so, in which the undertrials resorted to all sorts of tactics most of these hindrances were removed, and numerous visitors, mostly youngmen. and ladies began to attend the Court regularly. The influence of the proceedings—which commenced everyday with the slogans "Long Live Revolution," "Long Live Proletariat", "Down, Down with Imperialism/'' and a national song in chorus—on the visitors can be readily realized from the fact that there were not less than half-a-dozen political conspiracy cases in the Punjab in which it has been definitely proved that the youngmen complicated in those cases were actuated and inspired by what theyheard in the court of the Lahore Conspiracy Case.
During the proceedings, the cross-examination of the important witnesses, specially the approvers, was undertaken by the undertrials themselves. The object of these cross-examinations was never to attempt to bring out the discrepancies and lies in the statements of the approvers ; they were undertaken solely with the purpose of bringing on the record, and thereby before the public, the aims and objects of the party, the inner motive of particular action, the heroic side of their struggle, and the details of the methods they had adopted. Thus they wanted that the proceedings in their case should serve the purpose of training ;and inspiring the youths.
Whenever any opportunity arose for demonstration, the undertrials never let it slip., Thus, there were demonstrations in the open court on the "Kakori Day", "Lenin Day", "First May", "Lajpat Rai Day", and on particular occasions such as the death of Shyamaji Krishna Varma, the death of a political prisoner due to hunger strike in Hungary, and such others. On such occasions they always managed to give out a message. The Prosecution allowed to get these messages on record, because they thought. that these would implicate the undertrials themselves and would furnish good 'proofs' against them. The undertrials, who cared little about the proofs or evidence, gladly availed themselves of these opportunities.
One memorable event in the course of the trial in the Magistrate's court was the attempt to handcuff the prisoners in the court. This was the occasion: Jai Gopal, an approver in the case entered the dock with overbearing attitude. He twisted his moustache and threw out some taunting remarks towards the accused. While the others cried 'Shame' 'Shame', Prem Dutt, the youngest of the accused, flung out his slipper on the approver. Atones the proceedings were adjourned, and a standing order was passed that the accused should remain handcuffed while in the court. Bhagat, Singh and others at once determined that, come what may, they would never attend the court unless the order was rescinded.
The next day, inspite of the full physical force that the police could employ, they failed to bring to the court one single accused. Out of the 16 persons, only five could be brought in the lorry upto the jail gate, but then nothing could bring them out of the lorry. The next day they consented to come to the court with handcuffs on the understanding that these would be removed. But when this was not done they resorted to a stratagem. When lunch time came they applied that the handcuffs might be removed to enable them to participate in the lunch. After the lunch was over, the Police Officers came to put on the handcuffs again. They flatly refused to be done so. Then began a scuffle, and the court was converted into a pandemonium. Special Pathan force was requisitioned, and a merciless beating began.
In this beating Bhagat Singh was specially singled out. Eight ferocious Pathans fell upon him and booted kicks and sticks were abundantly showered on him. This, done before the very eyes of the visitors which included a fair number of ladies, had a tremendous effect, and the same evening a big meeting was held at Lahore in which the action of the police was vehemently criticized. The same was the opinion of almost all the nationalist newspapers.
Not content with the beating in the court, the police again commenced their game in the afternoon when the court rose. They fell on Sardar Bhagat Singh in the jail yard, and a most cruel thrashing commenced. However, these terrible sufferings had the desired effect. The police authorities submitted a report, to which the jail authorities concurred, that it is possible to beat them and even kill them, but it was not possible to bring them to court. As a result, the Magistrate had to rescind his order.
The Lahore Conspiracy Case gained unprecedented publicity throughout India, and even beyond India. Subscription? began to flow in from distant parts of the world. A lady from Poland sent a remittance with a request that detailed proceedings might be sent to her regularly. Donations came from Japan, Canada, and even distant South America. Bhagat Singh—Dutt days were celebrated in different parts of the country, and their portraits were widely used in calendars.
In the Magistrate's court, many distinguished public leaders paid visits to the undertrials, notable among them being Sj, Subhas Chandra Bose, Baba Gurudutt Singh, Mr. K. F. Nariman, the Raja of Kalakankar, Mr. R. A. Kidwai, Mr. Mohan Lal Saxena, and lastly, our great revered leader, the late Pandit Moti Lal Nehru. Moti Lalji went to see them twice ; the second time he entered the dock of the accused and remained closeted with them for about an hour.
The writer would have very much liked to publish the important conversation that ensued between Moti Lalji and Sardar Bhagat Singh, but expediency demands silence on this matter. He hopes that time may come when it would be possible to do it.
As the Government began to perceive the tremendous effect the Lahore Conspiracy Case trial was having on the youth of the country, they felt nervous and began to think a way out of it. Ultimately they hit upon the Lahore Conspiracy Case Ordinance. At first the Government of India did not accept the proposal for its enactment made by the Punjab Government, for fear of public agitation. But when the fight between the Congress and the Government began and the latter began to resort to one arbitrary ordinance after another, the question of popular resentment did not count, and this extra-ordinary ordinance was promulgated as Ordinance IV of 1930.
Bhagat Singh and others atonce perceived that they had gained a good point by exposing the hollowness of British justice. They had already succeeded in doing a sufficient amount of propaganda on behalf of the revolutionary party. By promulgating this extraordinary piece of legislature at this belated hour, the Government only played into their hands. So in a meeting of the under-trials, Bhagat Singh proposed that from now they should adopt true revolutionary attitude by refusing to take cognisance of the court. A hot discussion ensued, and two divergent notes were heard in the meeting. One group adhered to Bhagat Singh's views, another group urged that they should participate in the proceedings so that when the time came they might make bold statements like what Bhagat Singh made in the Assembly Case. Bhagat Singh urged that in the face of such terrible sentences as hanging and transportation for life, if they showed utter unconcern and refused to be a party to what be termed a force, then the moral effect of such attitude would be very great on the younger generation. The others argued that as the revolutionary party had no platform of their own, they should utilize the Court Proceedings. to serve this purpose.
But the question was settled in a strange way. As in the lower court, so in the tribunal also, they entered the court shouting their revolutionary slogans, and the proceedings could not commence until they had sung a national song. This was very much resented by the three judges of the tribunal, and after three or four days, they asserted their authority by ordering the police to handcuff the accused as soon as they had finished their song. The scene encated in the lower court was repeated and the court proceedings had to be terminated that day.
This humiliating treatment enraged the other group also and they unanimously decided to refuse to go to court. The police and jail authorities, with their previous experience, declared that it would not be possible to bring the accused to court and the proceedings had to be conducted ex-parte. Thus Bhagat Singh's wishes were completely realised. The Government, in order to keep up a show of justice, tried to induce the accused to attend court; they even went so far as to change the President "whom the accused declared to be responsible for the beating and insult in the court; but nothing suceeded.
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