Every 23 March is S. Bhagat Singh’s Martyrdom Day in the state of Haryana. Singh was a controversial figure in the Indian struggle for independence.
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Singh, along with his assistant, are famous for assassinating a British police officer, John Saunders, in 1928. His assistant was a marksman and downed Saunders with the first shot, but Singh then shot him seven more times to make sure he was dead.
However, it turned out that they had hit the wrong target, for their intended victim was police superintendent James Scott, whom they blamed for the death of Indian independence leader Lala Lajpat Rai.
In 1929, suddenly Singh appeared on the national scene again, this time helping to bomb the Legislative Assembly in Delhi. He did not try to escape, however. He threw leaflets on the crowd, shouted out pro-independence slogans, and waited to be arrested.
In prison, he went on a hunger strike to gain publicity. His fellow bomber, Jatin Das, did the same and died of starvation. But Bhagat Singh lived long enough to hang for murder on 23 March, 1931.
Among the commoners of Haryana and Punjab, Singh became a legend, much praised in literature and art. But it wasn’t until 2012 and beyond that he was recognised officially as a martyr and his death-day became a public observance in Haryana and Punjab.