The birth anniversary of freedom fighter Udham Singh, called “Shaheed Udham Singh Jayanti”, is a public holiday in the Indian state of Haryana.
|2019||26 Dec||Thu||Shaheed Udham Singh Jayanti||HR|
|2020||26 Dec||Sat||Shaheed Udham Singh Jayanti||HR|
From the British perspective, Shaheed Udham Singh was an assassin who killed their lieutenant governor of Punjab province on 13 March 1940. He shot Michael O’Dwyer to death at a meeting in London. He did not try to escape and was immediately arrested. In jail, he went on a hunger strike for over 40 days but was force fed to keep him alive until his execution on 31 July, 1940.
In India, he is sometimes called “Shaheed i Azam”, which means “The Great Martyr”. The reason is that Michael O’Dwyer had supported a massacre of over 1,000 people over 20 years before he was assassinated. In 1919, riots broke out against British rule in Punjab, which were ultimately put down by firing on civilians, including women and children. There had been riots a few days before that had killed four Europeans and burned down some British banks, but the crowd fired upon is considered to have been a group of peaceful protesters.
Mahatma Gandhi condemned the assassination, but many others, especially in his native province of Punjab, approved of it. There is a national memorial in the garden of Jallianwala Bagh in the Punjabi city of Amritsar, where the 1919 massacre took place, which mentions him honourably.