Not to be confused with the Martyrs Day observed on January 30, the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. Every year, March 23 is observed as Martyrs Day, also known as Shaheed Diwas or Sarvodaya Day, as a tribute to martyrs Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru. The Government of India declared March 23 as the Martyrs Day in India. The trio fought for the freedom of India from the colonial rulers and sacrificed their lives on March 23, 1931, when they were hanged to death by the British, for the assassination of British Police Officer John Saunders. The trio mistook John for Superintendent James Scott, who was the brain behind the lathi charge against Lala Lajpat Rai and his followers, who were protesting against the Simon Commission.

Today, March 23, 2018, on the occasion of 88th Martyr’s Day, we bring to 10 facts about the day Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged to death by the British.

  • Indian Freedom Fighter Lala Lajpat Rai, also known as Punjab Kesari, played an important role in the Indian Independence Movement. He was injured during a protest against Simon Commission. He never recovered fully from the injuries and breathed his last on November 17, 1928, of a heart attack.
  • Although Bhagat Singh didn’t witness Rai’s death, he vowed to take revenge and with the help of other revolutionaries including Shivram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar and Chandrashekhar Azad came up with a plan to kill Superintendent of Police James A Scott, who had ordered lathi charge on Lala Lajpat Rai.
  • In a mistaken identity, John P Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police was killed by Rajguru and Bhagat Singh. Saunders was shot when he was leaving the District Police Headquarters in Lahore on December 17, 1928.
  • Chandrashekhar Azad shot dead an Indian constable Chanan Singh who tried to pursue Singh and Rajguru as they fled. Singh and his associates were on the run for several months.
  • In April 1929, Bhagat Singh and his associate Batukeshwar Dutt exploded two bombs inside the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi to protest against the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Dispute Act. The bomb didn’t kill anyone but injured few. Singh could have escaped the attack but he and Dutt stayed there shouting ‘Inquilab Zindabad’. This led to Singh’s arrest.
  • Singh’s arrest also brought to light his association with the John Saunders case.
  • Awaiting trial, Singh joined his inmate Jatin Das in a hunger strike demanding better prison conditions for prisoners. The strike resulted in the death of Das from starvation in September 1929.
  • Sukhdev was arrested after police located the bomb factory in Lahore and Saharanpur.
  • Although Sukhdev and Singh were arrested in different cases, the police connected the dots and charged Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru for killing Saunders and sentenced them to death. The case was later known as the Lahore Conspiracy Case.
  • Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were scheduled to be hanged on March 24 but were hanged a day before on March 23 at 7:30 pm.