On 23rd March 1931, India witnessed the execution of three epochal revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar, whose death inspired hundreds to take up the cause of the freedom movement. The three, all then in their early twenties were hanged in the Lahore jail. The three were sentenced to death by the British colonial rulers.
Today, on the 90th anniversary of their martyrdom, observed every year as Shahid Diwas or the Martyrs Day, the death certificate of Shahid Bhagat Singh has surfaced on social media platforms.
The death certificate of Bhagat Singh read as “At Lahore C. Jail on Monday, 23rd day of March 1931 at 7PM that the body remained suspended for a full hour & was not taken down until life was ascertained by a medical officer to be extinct #BhagatSingh #ShaheedDiwas #MartyrsDay pic.twitter.com/orTC0A4oJW— Delhi Archives (@Delhi_Archives) March 23, 2021
The death certificate issued by the Lahore Jail authorities and signed by a medical examiner reads, “I hereby certify that the sentence of death passed on Bhagat Singh has been duly executed and that the said Bhagat Singh was accordingly hanged by the neck till he was dead at Lahore C. Jail on Monday, 23rd day of March 1931 at 7 PM that the body remained suspended for a full hour & was not taken down until life was ascertained by a medical officer to be extinct, and that no accident, error or other misadventure occurred”.
For the uninitiated, Bhagat Singh along with Sukhdev planned to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai and plotted to kill the Superintendent of Police James Scott in Lahore. However, in a case of mistaken identity, John Saunders, the Assistant Superintendent of Police was shot and killed on December 17, 1928.
A year later on April 8, 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs in the Central Assembly Hall in Delhi, and shouted “Inquilab Zindabad!”. He did not resist his arrest at this point in time. During interrogation, Britishers learnt about his involvement in the death of John Saunders a year earlier.
These two acts of violence against the British in India prompted the British colonial rulers to pronounce a death sentence against Bhagat Singh and his accomplice on 7 October 1930. The warrant of execution on the sentence of Bhagat Singh initially proposed the execution to take place on the 27th day of October in 1930. However, they were finally executed five months later in the Central Jail at Lahore at 7.15 pm on March 23, 1931.
Until 2018, India did not have any traces of the death certificate or any other documents like the papers of the trial of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, as it was all lying in Pakistan’s custody.
Actually, when India was partitioned in 1947 to carve out the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there was also a division of assets. Since Shahid Bhagat Singh along with Rajguru, and Sukhdev were tried, hanged, and cremated in Lahore and by the Partition decree, Lahore went to Pakistan, all historic documents related to these revolutionaries remained in Pakistan.
In 2018, for the first time, the Pakistani Punjab provincial government exhibited contents of the case file of the trial of Bhagat Singh and others who were hanged to death on March 23, 1931, in Lahore, among various other historic documents.