Even as the killing of hundreds of innocents in 1919 by General Dyer-led British Raj troops left millions of Indians in shock, only one man decided to avenge the Jalianwalla Bagh massacre.
Born on December 26, 1899, in Punjab’s Sangrur district, Udham Singh was among the thousands of people who had gathered at the Jalianwalla Bagh on April 13, 1919, to commemorate the annual Baisakhi festival. The city of Amritsar had already been on the edge over arrests of several national leaders and the lieutenant governor of Punjab Province, General Michael O'Dyer, had deputed Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer to restore “law and order.”
General Dyer banned public gatherings and ordered indiscriminate arrests of people besides other punitive measures.
On April 13, 1919, as thousands of men, women and children gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh, General Dyer ordered his troops to open fire leaving, according to official figures, 379 people dead and nearly 1,200 more wounded.
Udham Singh, who was brought up by Central Khalsa Orphanage after he lost his parents at an early age, was at the Jalianwalla Bagh along with his friends to serve water to people. Like millions of other Indians, he too was shaken by the massacre, and decided to take revenge by killing General Michael O'Dyer.
Udham Singh, 20 at the time of the Jalianwala Bagh massacre, travelled to East Africa to work as a labourer. He then moved to the United States of America, where he joined the Ghadar Party, a revolutionary group formed by immigrant Punjabi-Sikhs for India’s independence from British rule.
Although he returned to Punjab in 1927 on the orders of his idol Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh was arrested and jailed for four years for possession of illegal arms and running the Ghadar Party’s publication, Ghadar di Gunj.
He was released in 1931 and escaped to Germany before reaching England in 1933 with the aim of assassinating General Michael O’Dyer, who had justified the Jalianwala Bagh massacre as a “correct action.”
On March 13 1940, Udham Singh shot General Michael O'Dyer at a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Central Asian Society at Caxton Hall, London. Udham Singh did not flee from the spot and was arrested for the killing. During his trial, Udham Singh said he had waited 21 years to kill General Michael O'Dyer as the British official “wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I crushed him.”
Udham Singh was hanged on 31 July 1940. His mortal remains were handed over to India in 1974.