Delhi Conspiracy Commission: Babu Ram Charan

Babu Ram Charan Singh was the resident of village Barkali, Tehsil Sardhana, district Meerut in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). He was the only son of Gajraj Singh (alias Umrao), by caste a Jat. His was an agriculturist family having a considerable Zamindari in Barkali.

Around 1928, while studying at Sardhana, he came into contact with his fellow villager Bhagirath Lal, who was a revolutionary activist of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. A Brahmin by caste, Bhagirath Lal was then studying in Delhi and staying along with his younger brother Aman – aged about 12 years – in Lachhman Das Dhramshala at Nigambodh Ghat on the bank of river Yamuna. While still a young boy studying in middle school, Babu Ram Charan got himself involved in the revolutionary activities of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. He was supplied revolutionary literature by his mentor Bhagirath Lal, which included “The Life of Jatindra Nath Das”, “Desh-Ki-Bat” (Let’s talk about the nation), “Nav Yuvakon se do baten” (A few words to youths), “Amar Puri: by Kishan Dutt Paliwal”, “Azadi ke Diwane”, “Mulki Maya”, “Bandi Jiwan” (Slave Life) etc.

Greatly influenced by such literature and the stories of revolutionary heroes like Chandra Shekhar Azad etc. , and inspired by the revolutionary zeal of Bhagirath Lal, Babu Ram Charan left Sardhana for Delhi in 1928 to participate in the revolutionary activities. He was about 17 years old then and was a middle class student.

In Delhi he lived in a house in Sirkiwalan. To pass on in the prying eyes of the area residents as an innocent civilian engaged in legitimate occupation to earn his livelihood, he joined as a Store Keeper at the Brooke Bond Company. In reality, he was carrying out revolutiojnary activities and working at Himalyan Toilets – a manufacturing facility bearing an innocuous name – that manufactured bombs and bomb-making materials like picric acid, sulfuric acid, poisonous gas, and distributing party propaganda pamphlets etc.

Bhagirath Lal was his mentor and he was all along working with him in revolutionary activities like opening bomb-shell factory, attempt to rescue Bhagat Singh etc., buying arms, buying cyclostyle machines to print party pamphlets, organizing provincial committees etc.

These revolutionary activities came to the notice of police on his arrest, which happened in peculiar circumstances.

Chandra Shekhar Azad had always carried with him a well-working Mouser pistol to face the ever-present dangerous exigencies in his revolutionary work. For carrying out revolutionary work, Babu Ram Charan was given by the party a mouser pistol. This pistol had belonged to Azad but was prone to misfire at times. Later on, this pistol became the cause of Babu Ram Charan’s troubles leading to his arrest and trial.

At one occasion during some revolutionary activities he was accidently got injured in the palm of his hand by this pistol and was being treated by Bal Kishon, a co-revolutionary, who was a medical compounder by profession.

After the blowing up of the Vice Roy train, the British Government got the wind of some big conspiracy being hatched by revolutionaries and the police was at its job with full might. Bal Kishan was arrested near the clinic of Dr Sen where he was employed.

On coming to know of the arrest of Bal Kishon, Babu Ram Charan sensed his impending troubles and immediately deserted his house where he was living. An immediate secret arrangement of his stay was made by the party at an upper story of a house in Matia Mahal where four or five other party members were already staying. However, this secret house was also not safe enough and the police was out on its tip toes sniffing at every clue of the revolutionaries.

In the aftermath of Vice Roy Train outrage, the police was at their highest of activity in Delhi sniffing at clues of revolutionaries whereabouts.

At the end of October 1930, Sardar Karam Singh, a C.I.D. man, came to Dr. H. Sen’s shop, where Bal Kishon (son of Ramji Lal Sharma resident of village Khaira Meerut district) was working as a Compounder, and went away after speaking with him.

Next day at about 7 A.M., when Bal Kishon was returning from the house of Babu Ram Charan Singh after applying a dressing to his injury, at a shop in Chawri Bazar close to the lane which leads to the Arya Samaj temple, a police constable stopped him on the way and told that he was wanted by the police for something.

Bal Kishon requested the constable to let him go to the shop of Dr. H. Sen and arrest him there if necessary but the constable made him sit in the bazaar. Then, a sub-Inspector and several constables arrived there and told him to come with them. They asked him where his house was. Bal Kishon replied that he had no house of his own and was staying with Babu Ram Charan Singh in his house.

The police told him to take them to the house of Ram Charan Singh and thereupon he took them to that house. On arriving there, the police searched the house but Ram Charan Singh, was not found there. Bal Kishon was taken to the Kotwali and arrested.

Thus came Babu Ram Charan Singh to the notice of the police for the first time and his troubles began from then on.

Soon thereafter the house in Matia Mahal where injured Ram Charan Singh was staying was also raided by the police in mid-night hours.

The house was surrounded by the police; all exit points of the house were guarded by the police and one of its detachments started climbing the stair-case of the house.

The revolutionaries staying in the upper story of the house were fully alert in their usual manner, as if they were waiting for this moment to happen. They immediately knew that the police was at their door-step and took no time to decide their next action i.e., fleeing away from the house.

But it was a three storied building and the only exit from the house was by climbing down the stair-case, which was now being used by the police to climb up. It was a dangerous moment for the revolutionaries and there was no time left now to think to devise some way out of the danger.

They all immediately took a desperate decision – to jump from the house down to the ground. Fortunately for them, on the second story of the house there was a projection (called Chhajja) to save them from directly falling to the ground from a height.

They all, one by one, jumped down from the third story of the house to that projection on the second story and, then from that place, jumped to the ground in the street. After landing on the ground, they all started running away in different directions.

Finding that their prey were about to escape before their own eyes, the police stationed on the ground guarding the house immediately raised an alarm and ran in hot pursuit of the fleeing revolutionaries.

Babu Ram Charan Singh was being chased by several constables; while running after him, these police-men raised alarm saying, “Daku, Pakado, Daku” (catch hold of them, they are dacoits).

On alarm being raised by the policemen, several ordinary people living in the neighborhood also joined in the chase and overtook the policemen in speed coming very close to Ram Charn Singh.

Realizing that he was about to be caught by these fellow compatriots, Babu Ram Charan said in a commanding voice, ‘Don’t touch us, we are revolutionaries!’

The pursuers at once gave way to allow him to escape, slowed down themselves in speed, looked back to police-men, as if to discourage them who were left far behind them, and stopped the chase. Babu Ram Charan Singh made good his escape from the police.

After escaping from the police encirclement, while still injured in his left hand palm, he reached his native village to take shelter in the safety of his native place. However, the police already had several revolutionaries in their dragnet and from them had extracted information under torture about his native place. Armed with this information, the police reached Babu Ram Charan Singh’s village. He was found there, arrested and taken away.

Initially, he was not produced before a judicial magistrate and was kept in police custody for several days to get information about his revolutionary activities and particulars of his fellow revolutionaries. He pretended innocence and denied any wrong doing.

On being questioned of the cause of the injuries in his hand, he offered a simpleton native explanation. He said he was an ordinary village boy landing a helping hand to his family occupation of agriculture and, while tethering his domestic oxen, the oxen pierced its horn into his left hand palm.

The police was not convinced of this explanation.

When he did not succumb to the police pressure, he was produced before a judicial magistrate at Meerut. The magistrate directed that he be medically examined of his hand injuries. The district civil surgeon, an Englishman, examined him and prepared a medical report of his injuries. This medical report stated that the accused had one injury on the palm of his left hand; that the injury was caused by some piercing object like bullet.

Though the accused was arrested from a place in Meerut, was produced before a judicial magistrate there and medically examined by the civil surgeon of that place, he was an accused of the sedition -case in Delhi. So he was directed by the Meerut judicial magistrate to be taken by the Delhi police to stand his trial there.

The police in Delhi was obsessed with the revolutionary activities and bomb explosions in Delhi,  and wanted to frame Babu Ram Charan Singh in these bomb explosion incidents.

On reaching Delhi, Babu Ram Charan Singh was produced before a judicial magistrate, who directed to get him medically examined. He was examined by the civil surgeon in Delhi and again a medical report of his injury was prepared. This time the report stated that the injury was caused by some explosion like a bomb.

After his medical examination, he was given by the court in remand to police custody for questioning. Once in their custody, the police in Delhi questioned him about his activities.

He again pretended innocence of any revolutionary activity. On being questioned the cause of the injury in his hand, he once again repeated the same native explanation that he was an ordinary villager, who while tethering his domestic oxen, was pierced by oxen with its horn in his hand palm. The police again was not convinced of this simple explanation.

To break his spirit and to spill the beans of his revolutionary activities, police applied all tricks of the trade on him. He was threatened that he would be implicated in the seditious revolutionary activities, which may even involve his whole family; and he may be sent to gallows for these crimes; as an alternative to save himself and his family, he was offered to be let off accepting his explanation, provided he truthfully revealed his revolutionary activities and activities of his fellow revolutionaries. But the trick did not work with him and he remained steadfast in his version of the story of the injury.

The police finding him non-cooperative and not forthcoming in revealing the revolutionary activities carried out by him and his fellow activists, resorted to the last weapon in their arsenal, i.e. torture.

While questioning him in custody, he was routinely forced by the police to lie down naked on ice-slabs for hours together. He was badly beaten and denied food for days together; and, then was given unwholesome food to eat.

To force him to reveal the secret activities of revolutionaries, the police applied for and got several remand extensions from the court, and every time he was tortured in police custody. This treatment broke his health and he developed dysentery.

This ailment though was successfully treated later on when he was sent to jail as under trial prisoner by a kind English jail doctor, ultimately resurfaced again in his old age and became the cause of his untimely death in 1976.

Broken in his health but not in spirit, he was sent in judicial custody to jail as under trial prisoner to stand trial on the charge of sedition. He remained in jail as under trial prisoner for more than one year.

During the trial, the prosecution’s case was that he had been participating in the seditious (read: revolutionary) activities (with other accused persons who were being tried independently in separate trials in different courts); these activities were aimed at overthrowing the government by the use of force; to achieving this objective of overthrowing the government by force, he was making bombs and exploding them.

In support of this version, the government/prosecution relied, in addition to some police witnesses, chiefly on the medical report of the civil surgeon in Delhi.

It was averred by the prosecution that the injury to the accused was caused by the explosion of a bomb.   To prove its case, the prosecution relied on the medical report of the Delhi civil surgeon  which had stated that the injury was caused by an explosion like a bomb. The concerned civil surgeon was called as a witness in the court and examined by the prosecution.

In his examination-in-chief (main examination) the civil surgeon stood by the correctness of his report. Then, he was cross-examined (confronted with his statements by asking questions) by the defense counsel.

These questions and answers were the masterpiece of legal oratory. The questions by the defense and answers by the doctor went like this:

Q – You say that the injury of the accused was caused by a bomb explosion.

A – Yes.

Q – Could it be caused by a bullet?

A – No.

Q – Are you absolutely certain that it was caused by a bomb explosion and not by bullet?

A – Yes, absolutely certain.

Q – How can you be so certain?

A – A bullet fired from a weapon would pierce through and through across the palm. But a bomb explosion would not so pierce through and through, as is the case with the injury of the accused.

Q – How can you say that the wound of the accused was not through and through across the palm?

A – I put a wire into the wound and tried to pass it through, which it did not.

This pointed question by the defense and the pointed answer by the civil surgeon ended his cross-examination.

To rebut the prosecution case of a bomb explosion, the defense submitted the medical report of the civil surgeon of Meerut and summoned him as a witness in the court to prove his report.

In his examination-in-chief, he stood by his report that the injury of the accused was caused by a bullet. He was cross-examined by the prosecution about his report. It went like this:

Q – Could the injury of the accused be caused by a bomb explosion?

A – No.

Q – You say that the accused injury was caused by a bullet.

A – Yes.

Q – How can you say so?

A – To make sure of the nature of the injury, I put a wire into the accused wound and it passed through it.

This answer by a government civil surgeon completely demolished the prosecution case of the seditious activities of the accused by exploding bomb and saved Babu Ram Charan Singh.

He was acquitted of the charge. Although he had already suffered a tremendous amount of torture and had remained in jail.

To the great disquieting and discomfiture of the government, this unwanted outcome of his trial was caused by two factors: firstly, the over-enthusiasm of the prosecution to somehow prove that the accused was indulging in bomb-making activities of the revolutionaries to overthrow the government by force; and secondly, the credit to civil surgeon of Meerut for sticking to the truth of bullet injury.

In fact, the wound was caused by a bullet.

Babu Ram Charan Singh, though acquitted of the charge by the trial court, suffered great brutalities at the hands of British government and remained in jail as under trial prisoner.

He had a premonition of his approaching death and one day at the beginning of July, 1976 he told his relatives that he was taking their leave forever.

He told his family his death had come and no treatment was possible. Even at his death bed, while still in possession of his consciousness and aware of his coming end, he bid all his dear family members to leave him absolutely alone so that he may prepare himself for his last journey in all joy.

And, thus a revolutionary departed from this world with grace.

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