Remembering Madan Lal Dhingra: The Indian Revolutionary Who Defied His Family And Fought For Independence
Today heralds the 140th anniversary of the birth of Indian revolutionary and pre-eminent patriot, Madan Lal Dhingra, who met his fate at the gallows on 17 August 1909, at the tender age of 24.
He faced the noose meted out by British authorities for the slaying of British official Curzon Wyllie.
Madan Lal Dhingra, born on 18 September 1883, hailed from a prosperous and esteemed family in Amritsar.
His father, Dr Ditta Mal Dhingra, occupied the position of chief medical officer in Amritsar and ardently supported the British rule.
Dhingra's fervor for his homeland burgeoned during his sojourn in Lahore, stirred by the nationalist movement. Upon completing his early education in Amritsar, he was dispatched to Lahore in 1904 to pursue his Master's degree.
Dhingra's concern for justice surpassed the bounds of his privileged upbringing as he bore witness to the poverty stricken lives in India, instilling in him a profound empathy.
His patriotism took form grounded in socio-economic woes, recognising the imperative for radical change.
This conviction led to his expulsion from a Lahore college when he protested against the obligatory use of British-imported cloth for blazers, steadfastly refusing to tender an apology to the administration.
After his expulsion, Dhingra chose not to return home, opting instead for odd jobs in various locales such as Shimla and Mumbai.
In 1906, under family persuasion, he pursued further studies in London, enrolling at the University College of London to study mechanical engineering.
In London, Dhingra immersed himself in nationalist activities, forging connections with Vinayak Damodar "Veer" Savarkar and Shyamji Krishna Varma, both deeply entrenched in revolutionary circles within the city.
A year prior, Varma had established India House, a student dwelling and a hub for Indian nationalism in north London. Dhingra frequented India House and actively engaged in its meetings and discussions.
Eventually, Dhingra joined the covert Abhinav Bharat Mandal, founded by Veer Savarkar and his brother Ganesh Savarkar.
It was within this organisation that Dhingra meticulously devised his plan to assassinate Curzon Wyllie, honing the requisite marksmanship skills to enact his mission.
At this juncture, Madan Lal's father became cognisant of his son's activities and publicly disowned him. Despite this familial estrangement due to his anti-British beliefs, Dhingra remained an unwavering patriot. Even in death, his kin refused to claim his remains.
William Hutt Curzon Wyllie was an officer of British-Indian descent, later assuming roles as a political official and intelligence officer within the British-Indian government.
At the time of his demise, he was investigating Dhingra and his fellow revolutionaries.
On 1 July, 1909, Dhingra attended the annual 'At Home' gathering organised by the Indian National Association at the Imperial Institute in London. Curzon Wyllie, selected as the political aide-de-camp to the Secretary of State for India, was also in attendance alongside his wife.
As Dhingra departed the event, he discharged five rounds at Curzon Wyllie, striking him four times. Two additional shots hit Carwash Lalcaca, a Parsi doctor who attempted to rescue the British official.
Both Wyllie and Lalcaca met instantaneous demise, and Dhingra was promptly apprehended and subjected to a swift trial.
During the trial, Dhingra assumed his own defense, presenting a compelling rationale for his actions.
In his final statement prior to the verdict, he declared, "If it is patriotic for an Englishman to fight against the Germans if they were to occupy this country, it is much more justifiable and patriotic in my case to fight against the English."
However, Dhingra clarified that he harboured no intention of harming Lalcaca.
Dhingra was deemed guilty and faced execution on 17 August 1909, at London's Pentonville prison. His remains were only repatriated to India in 1976 when he was cremated in Amritsar's Mal Mandi area.
Decades subsequent to his sacrifice, a monument was erected at the site of his cremation, marking the inaugural memorial in Amritsar's Golbagh area, his hometown.
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