Rashmi Rekha Das

Be it an Independence Day or Republic Day, the nation remembers some prominent names such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh and a few others. But there are many who laid down their lives for the sake of their motherland but never came to limelight.  One such saga of heroism is the stormy freedom movement waged by Ashfaqulla Khan. The patriotism, sacrifice, honesty, tenacity and the dedication exhibited by him cannot be forgotten. 

Ashfaqulla Khan was a freedom fighter in the Indian independence movement who had sacrificed his life to free India from the clutches of British rulers. He is remembered as a very strong and dynamic freedom fighter who had actively contributed to the Indian freedom movement. On the occasion of his birth anniversary, OTV paid tribute to the braveheart.

Early life of Ashfaqulla Khan

Born on 22nd October 1900 in Uttar Pradesh’s historical city Shahjahanpur, he was highly inspired by Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil. Though not an ardent advocate of violence he wanted to instill fear in the minds of British rulers.

His elder brother Riyasat Ullah Khan was the classmate of great revoluntionary Ram Prasad Bismil. When Bismil was declared absconder after the Manipuri conspiracy, Riyasat used to tell Ashfaqulla about Bismil’s bravery and his skill of writing Urdu poetry. This motivated Ashfaqulla to meet Bismil. In the year 1920, when Ram Prasad Bismil came to Shahjahanpur, Ashfaqulla tried to meet him but failed.

His contribution in freedom movement

When Mahatma Gandhi withdrew the non-cooperation movement following the Chauri Chaura incident in 1922, many young bloods were left dejected. And Ashfaq was one of them. 

He felt that India should become free as soon as possible and so he decided to join the revolutionaries. He then realised the fact that it would be difficult to make India free from British Raj through non-violence. Therefore, he joined noted revolutionary Bismil and started making bombs, revolvers and other weapons to instill fear in the hearts of the British people living in India. 

Asfaqullah khan and Ramprasad Bismil together formed Hindustan Republican Association. Ashfaqullah was a great Urdu poet who used to write under the pen name of ‘Hasrat’ and ‘Warsi’.

The Kakori Robbery

Later when the British rulers paid no heed to their pleas of independence, the revolutionaries decided to make them hear through their actions. Subsequently, they organised a meeting August 8, 1925 in Shahjahanpur and chalked out a master plan. They decided to loot the government treasury carried in the 8 Down Saharanpur-Lucknow passenger train.

In this premeditated robbery carried out to raise fund for different activities of the HSRA, Bismil, Khan and over 10 other revolutionaries stopped the train and decamped with the cash they found in it. 

In September 1926, Bismil was arrested but Ashfaq was the only one who was able to evade the police for over a year. It was said that he hid in a sugarcane field half a mile from his home for sometime before he was finally arrested in Delhi.  

The trial for the case went on for about one and a half years. It ended in April 1927- Bismil, Khan, Rajendra Lahiri and Roshan Singh sentenced to death while the others given life sentences. On December 19, 1927, Ashfaqulla was hanged for his part in a conspiracy against the British Raj. 

However, before being hanged, he kissed the hanging rope and recited the ‘Shahada’ in Urdu. Both Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan were hanged on the same day but in different jails. With it, he became a martyr and a legend among his people due to his love for the motherland, his clear thinking, unshakeable courage, firmness and loyalty.

Life Portrait 

The character of Ashfaqulla Khan and his associates were depicted in Aamir Khan Starrer Bollywood movie ‘Rang De Basanti’ where the character of Ashfaqulla Khan was played by Kunal Kapoor. The feature film Rang De Basanti, revolves around the lives of five friends who play revolutionary characters Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru, Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan in a documentary film. Bismil’s character was essayed by Atul Kulkarni.

Late recognition

After a long wait, Gorakhpur finally got its own Zoological Garden named after freedom fighter Ashfaqullah Khan in 2021.

Meanwhile, noted personalities including Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP National Vice President Baijayant Panda took to twitter to pay homage to the freedom fighter who sacrificed his life for country’s freedom.

"The patriotic poems of the great revolutionary Ashfaq Ullah Khan ji instilled the spirit of revolution among the youth... Salute to such a great patriot on his birth anniversary," tweeted the Home Minister.

The BJP VP wrote, “His unshakable courage, grit, firmness and love for Maa Bharti are incredibly inspiring. My humble tribute to great revolutionary Shaheed Ashfaqulla Khan on his jayanti.”

Taking to tweeter UP CM Yogi Adityanath wrote, "Humble tribute to the great hero of 'Kakori Train Action', the revolutionary of freedom, the immortal son of Mother Bharati, Ashfaq Ulla Khan on his birth anniversary. Your dedication for the freedom of the country is a great inspiration for all of us."

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