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Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna: Remembering the Firebrand Called Ram Prasad Bismil

Here's the untold story of Ram Prasad Bismil, the poet, patriot and exemplary freedom fighter whose powerful words can stir up a storm in one’s heart even today.

Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna: Remembering the Firebrand Called Ram Prasad Bismil

“Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai, dekhna ki zor kitna baazu-e-qatil mein hai.” (The desire for revolution is in our hearts, we shall see how much strength lies in the arms of the enemy.)

These immortal lines became a war cry for India’s freedom struggle against the British. And the man who immortalised them was Ram Prasad Bismil (the lines themselves were written by Bismil Azimabadi of Patna in 1921).

A firebrand freedom fighter, Bismil was also a talented poet who wrote in Urdu and Hindi, under the pen names RamAgyat and Bismil. He was also the founding member of Hindustan Republican Association (that became Hindustan Socialist Republican Association) whose more popular revolutionary members were Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad.

Yet, in the years since Independence, India has gradually forgotten the heroics of this legend who streaked across the anti-colonial nationalist sky like a blazing meteor.

Here’s the untold story of Ram Prasad Bismil, the poet, patriot and the exemplary freedom fighter whose words can stir up a storm in one’s heart even today.

Born on June 11, 1887, in Uttar Pradesh’s Shajahanpur to Murlidhar and Moolmati, Bismil grew up in a nondescript village in the the Chambal valley. As a teenager, he witnessed the brutal atrocities that Britain’s colonial rule kept inflicting on India. Deeply affected, he began leaning towards revolutionary ideals.

As much at ease with the pen as he was adept at wielding the pistol, Bismil joined hands with Bengali revolutionaries, Sachindra Nath Sanyal and Jadugopal Mukherjee, to found Hindustan Republican Association — a revolutionary organisation in north India that had vowed to set India free from the shackles of British rule.

Sachindra Nath Sanyal

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At HRA, Bismil borrowed money from his staunchly patriotic mother, Moolmati, to write and publish books (such as Deshvasiyon ke Naam, Swadeshi Rang, Man ki Lahar and Swadhinta ki Devi) to draw public attention to their cause and bring in much-needed money. This was also when he met and became close friends with other leading figures of the revolutionary freedom struggle such as Ashfaqullah Khan, Roshan Singh and Rajender Lahiri.

Furthermore, the charismatic poet played a key role in bringing dynamic youngsters like Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh into the folds of HRA, which later became Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). In fact, it was Bismil who gave the moniker ‘Quick Silver’ to Azad, in honour of his agility, restlessness and ever-present enthusiasm for new ideas.

You May Like‘Quick Silver’ Azad – The Man Who Made the British Raj Break Into a Cold Sweat

Having said that, Bismil’s story would be incomplete without a mention of his life-long bond with Ashfaqullah Khan. Based on common ideology, ideals and deep-rooted patriotism, the duo lived together, worked together and always had each other’s backs. In his autobiography, Bismil has also dedicated an entire chapter to his close friend Ashfaq.

Ashfaqullah Khan

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Bismil and Ashfaqullah would also both go on to play key roles in the famous Kakori train robbery of 1925. Realising that organising a revolution to overthrow the British required funds to procure weapons and train men, HRA’s core leadership decided to loot the colonial government’s treasury.

On the fateful day of August 9, 1925, as the No 8 Down Train from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow was approaching Kakori, Ashfaqullah pulled the chain in the second-class compartment. The train stopped abruptly and he then got off with his friends Sachindra Bakshi and Rajendra Lahiri, having had completed the first part of his duty in the Kakori plot.

The trio then joined Bismil and other revolutionaries from HRA in subduing the train’s guard and looting the official cash aboard it. Shaken by the incident, the colonial authorities arrested more than two dozen HRA members (including Bismil) within a month of the attack.

During the famous trial that followed, four of the revolutionaries —Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri — were sentenced to be hanged and sent to separate jails while others had long prison terms.

Hindustan Socialist Republican Army established in 1928: (Clockwise from bottom right) Chandrasekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Ram Prasad Bismil, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Bhagat Singh.

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During his time in Barrack number 11 of Lucknow Central Jail, Bismil wrote his autobiography (published by journalist Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi in 1928) that is still considered one of the finest works in Hindi literature. It was also here that he came up with a song which went on to become one of the most iconic songs of the pre-Independence era. The song was “Mera rang de basanti chola.”

On December 19, 1927, Bismil wrote his last letter to his mother before calmly walking to the gallows. Hanged a few minutes later with the words ‘Jai Hind’ on his lips, he was given a fitting funeral and cremated on the banks of the Rapti river, with hundreds of Indians mourning the loss of such an inspiring leader. Thus, ended the life of one of India’s most extraordinary freedom fighters.

Interestingly, few know that realising that he’ll never see independent India during his life, Bismil had penned a poem, wishing to be reborn to serve his motherland again. As author N P Shankara Narayan Rao once said about his beautiful writing,“His poetry is a lamp lighted at the altar of the motherland.”

Here’s the full text of Ram Prasad Bismil’s iconic poem, Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna:

Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai
Dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-qaatil mein hai

Karta nahin kyun doosra kuch baat-cheet
Dekhta hun main jise woh chup teri mehfil mein hai
Aye shaheed-e-mulk-o-millat main tere oopar nisaar
Ab teri himmat ka charcha ghair ki mehfil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

Waqt aanay dey bata denge tujhe aye aasman
Hum abhi se kya batayen kya hamare dil mein hai
Khainch kar layee hai sab ko qatl hone ki ummeed
Aashiqon ka aaj jumghat koocha-e-qaatil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

Hai liye hathiyaar dushman taak mein baitha udhar
Aur hum taiyyaar hain seena liye apna idhar
Khoon se khelenge holi gar vatan muskhil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

Haath jin mein ho junoon katt te nahi talvaar se
Sar jo uth jaate hain voh jhukte nahi lalkaar se
Aur bhadkega jo shola-sa humaare dil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

Hum to ghar se nikle hi the baandhkar sar pe kafan
Jaan hatheli par liye lo barh chale hain ye qadam
Zindagi to apni mehmaan maut ki mehfil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

Yuun khadaa maqtal mein qaatil kah rahaa hai baar baar
Kya tamannaa-e-shahaadat bhi kisee ke dil mein hai
Dil mein tuufaanon ki toli aur nason mein inqilaab
Hosh dushman ke udaa denge humein roko na aaj
Duur reh paaye jo humse dam kahaan manzil mein hai

Wo jism bhi kya jism hai jismein na ho khoon-e-junoon
Kya lade toofaanon se jo kashti-e-saahil mein hai

Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai.
Dekhna hai zor kitna baazuay qaatil mein hai

Also ReadShivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar – The Forgotten Men Who Shook Up The British Raj

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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