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Monday, October 18, 2021

Will the real descendant of Udham Singh step forward?

Udham Singh died age 40, hanged on July 31, 1940 at the Pentonville prison in Barnsbury, north London.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Sunam (sangrur) |
Updated: August 5, 2015 8:31:02 am
Udham Singh, Jallianwala Bagh Amritsar, Jallianwala Bagh kiling, Indian freedom fighter, Indian freedom fighter Udham Singh, Udham Singh, Udham Singh death anniversary, Udham Singh, freedom fighter Udham Singh, Udham Singh Pentonville prison, Michael O’Dwyer assassinating, Jallianwala Bagh, Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Indian express At Udham Singh’s ancestral house in Sunam.(Express Photo by: Gurmeet Singh)

On July 31, when the town of Sunam observed the 75th death anniversary of Udham Singh, its most famous born, it again grappled with a problem it hasn’t been able to settle — who exactly is the real descendant of the revolutionary who can be helped by the Punjab government.

With several claimants stepping forward, seeking jobs and financial help from the government, the Sangrur Deputy Commissioner has set out to answer the big question himself.

Arshdeep Singh Thind has pulled out Udham Singh’s family tree and has been studying it “for a better understanding”.

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“I have sought a factual report from the SDM (sub-divisional magistrate) Sunam and will see what best can be done,” the Deputy Commissioner said.

Udham Singh died age 40, hanged on July 31, 1940 at the Pentonville prison in Barnsbury, north London. He was executed for assassinating Michael O’Dwyer at Caxton Hall in London on March 13, 1940. O’Dwyer was Lieutenant Governor of Punjab at the time Brigadier General Reginald Dyer ordered the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar on April 13, 1919.

To Indians, Udham Singh was a hero, the one who had avenged the massacre. He left behind no direct descendant.

The government recognises eight members of his extended family who have been given special identity cards and are honoured on his death anniversary.

But now, these members of the extended family are quarrelling among themselves, each claiming that his or her need for a job and financial assistance is more pressing.

Earlier, Udham Singh’s cousin Aas Kaur used to receive a government pension. Her grandson Jeet Singh, who lives in Sunam, has been seeking donations from India and abroad in the memory of his grand uncle. He has built a house and says governments in the state and Centre have been ignoring him. His son Jagga was promised a government job in 2006 but never got it.

“My life is in tatters. This is how the government respects the family of a martyr. I am landless, the government has not kept its promise of a job for my son. He works as a salesman at a cloth merchant’s shop. My other son is a daily wager. I too work as a daily wager,” Jeet Singh said.

Asked about the donations, he said: “I do get some funds from various organisations after they see my condition. But so do my other relatives, and they even grab my share.”

But his widowed sister Ranjeet Kaur alias Rani Kaur says she is the one in real need, not her brother. “Jeet has been collecting money in the name of the martyr and is still not satisfied.” She said the government promised her Rs 2 lakh as assistance but the money never came.

There’s also Hardial Singh, a great grandson of Aas Kaur. “Our parents were illiterate, so they couldn’t get jobs. This benefit should now be passed to the new generation which is educated,” he said.

The Shaheed Udham Singh Yaadgari Committee, which organises functions in the name of the revolutionary and liaises with the government for the upkeep of the memorial house, is weary of the family quarrels.

“The government must end this controversy once and for all because this gives a bad name to a man who gave his life for the country,” committee president Kesar Singh Dhott said.

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