"I want to die in such a place and manner that no one may know of it and shed tears." - Prophetic words by Bhagwati Charan Vohra, one of India’s prominent revolutionaries who fought for the country's freedom.
Considered the 'brains' in revolutionary circles of the time, Bhagwati Charan Vohra was born on 15 November 1903 to a Gujarati family that had made Punjab their home. His father, Shiv Charan Vohra, a railway officer, was conferred with the title ‘Rai Bahadur’, by the British Government for his loyal service to the Crown. In 1918, Bhagwati Charan was married to eleven-year-old Durga Devi. The 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre had a profound impact on young Bhagwati Charan Vohra. The brutal killing of innocent citizens on the day of the festival of Baisakhi propelled Bhagwati Charan into the nationalist movement.
Bhagwati Charan was a progressive man. He ensured that Durga Devi continued her education, arranged a private tutor for her and encouraged her to go to University as well. However, in 1921, Bhagwati Charan himself quit his studies to join the Non-Cooperation Movement. After the abrupt withdrawal of the movement by Gandhiji due to the Chauri Chaura incident, Bhagwati Charan resumed his studies. He joined the National College, which was started for Indian students by Lala Lajpat Rai in Lahore. Here, he came in contact with Professor Jaichandra Vidyalankar, who was a member of the underground revolutionary party Hindustan Republican Army (HRA). It was through him that Bhagwati Charan was introduced to the revolutionary movement. At National College, he also connected with like-minded people such as Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Yashpal, and others, who later became his comrades in the fight for freedom.
In 1926, Bhagwati Charan Vohra and Bhagat Singh founded the youth organization ‘Naujawan Bharat Sabha’, which worked as a mass organization of the HRA. Bhagwati Charan was elected as the Propaganda Secretary of the organization, and he also co-authored its manifesto. Later, he helped draft the manifesto of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) with Bhagat Singh. In reply to Gandhiji’s essay, ‘The Cult of Bomb’, he and Chandrashekar Azad wrote a polemical tract titled, ‘The Philosophy of Bomb.’ In 1927, Bhagwati Charan played a prominent role in the formation of the Lahore Students’ Union.
Bhagwati Charan Vohra was an excellent orator, ideologue, organizer, and propagandist. He used his strong communication skills to write several small tracts, booklets, and pamphlets aimed at the youth of Punjab. One of these tracts titled 'Message of India' was hugely popular. Unfortunately, none of his writings except the mentioned few have survived today.
After the arrests of Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt (Assembly Bomb Case) and Sukhdev, Rajguru, Shiv Verma, and others (Lahore Conspiracy Case), Bhagwati Charan planned to forcefully get the authorities to release them by assassinating the then Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin. Under his leadership, a few revolutionaries conspired to blow up the train carrying the Viceroy on 23 December 1929 in Delhi. The bomb went off as planned, but the Viceroy was left unhurt. Despite the apparent failure of their plan, the revolutionaries regrouped, and this time a jailbreak was proposed to free Bhagat Singh and others. On 28 May 1930, Bhagwati Charan, Yashpal and Sukhdev Raj decided to test a bomb on the banks of the River Ravi. Unfortunately, the bomb malfunctioned, and it exploded in the hands of Bhagwati Charan, killing him instantly.
This tragedy prompted his associate Bejoy Kumar Sinha to recollect Bhagwati Charan’s words, "I want to die in such a place and manner that no one may know of it and shed tears.” Prophetic words because, with this cruel tragedy, history had heeded his wish. The motto of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha service, suffering, sacrifice, exemplifies the selfless life of Bhagwati Charan Vohra.