“You don’t get angry for me, my death is not worth regret, but it will be worth happiness”, words written in a letter by the fiery revolutionary Thakur Roshan Singh to his friend just before his execution. Roshan Singh belonged to the fearless Thakur community who proudly wore their identity on their sleeves.
Born on 22 January 1892, in the Thakur household of Navada village to Kaushalya Devi and Jangi Singh, Thakur Roshan Singh was a diehard nationalist who wanted to free India from the grip of the British colonisers. Known to be a good wrestler and sharpshooter, his parents are said to have empowered him to do all he could to fight for the country’s freedom, and hence with their blessings, he fought hard against the colonial administration.
During the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920-21, the authorities banned the Indian National Congress Volunteer Corps from carrying out nationalist activities. Indians across the country protested against the government's decision. One such group of angry volunteers led by Thakur Roshan Singh was sent from Shahjahanpur district to the Bareilly region. To stop the parade, the police opened fire and Roshan Singh and other demonstrators were arrested. A complaint was filed against him, and he was sentenced to two years in the Bareilly Central Jail. He was subjected to very harsh treatment by his jailer in Bareilly. The abusive treatment incensed him so much that he vowed to avenge the brutality meted out to him. After his release from jail, he met Pandit Ramprasad Bismil, who immediately enlisted him and gave him the responsibility of teaching shooting to the newcomers. Thakur Roshan Singh joined the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) in 1924, whose members included Ramprasad Bismil of Shahjahanpur, Ashfaqulla Khan, Rajendra Nath Lahiri, and many others.
In the Bamrauli Dacoity incident, Thakur Roshan Singh, when confronted with a village wrestler, single-handedly shot him dead. His fearlessness and raw courage caught the eye of the British administration. Hence, even though he was not involved in the Kakori railway heist at the time, the authorities seized the opportunity to apprehend him, after which he was prosecuted and sentenced. It is said that when the judgement was delivered, he was sentenced to five years in jail. Another version states that as Roshan Singh resembled another revolutionary, Keshav Chakraborty, who was involved in the Kakori incident, it was a case of mistaken identity when he was arrested for the Kakori train robbery. Though Roshan Sigh tried to convince the judge and set the record straight, the judge rejected all his arguments and sentenced him to death, along with Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, and Rajendra Nath Lahiri. The whole country protested against the death sentence, but it was all in vain.
The British authorities were wary of these fearless revolutionaries, and to ensure none of them escaped they decided that Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, Thakur Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri would be hanged on 19 December 1927, in the Gorakhpur, Allahabad, and Gonda jails separately. The authorities fearing a backlash went a step further and on 17 December 1927, hanged Lahiri in the Gonda district jail, two days before the scheduled date. Thakur Roshan Singh was finally hanged on 19 December 1927 in the Allahabad district's Malaka/Naini Jail.
His words in a letter to his friend on the eve of his execution still resonates in the hearts of Indians. It is important to remember Thakur Roshan Singh, an unsung hero who died a valiant death to free the country from the Imperialists.