Unsung Heroes: Nand Kishore Nigam

We Indians are free today. There are Prime Ministers, Ministers, Chief Justices, Judges, Chief Ministers, IAS officers and other endless persons holding power today. We all owe a debt to all those who fought the British for the freedom of this country and made   great sacrifices.

These sacrifices were made by them voluntarily out of their love for their mother land. While these true sons and daughters of mother India suffered great agonies at the hands of the enemies of their country, a large number of make-believe political leaders – who took reins of the free India in their hands as Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers etc. – were enjoying their life in cosy jails or in ‘Nazarbandi’ in palaces with full sympathy of the British rulers.

We have a long, really a very long, list of such make-believe official ‘Freedom Fighters’ and the make-belive ‘heroes’ of this freedom struggle; but there is no mention of those who sacrificed their comforts and life for this country. In this regard, the Indian history needs to be corrected and the real and the fake freedom fighters need to be put in the places in Indian history where they actually belong.

We must be sensible to understand one thing: the British people were at that time of the history, as they are today, very pragmatic people. They had the means, the weapons, and they had the strength, the British Army, to foil any non-violent attempt to liberate India and thus deprive them “the Jewel of their Empire”.

They were pragmatic and knew fully well that Indian revolutionaries like Chandra Shekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Surya Sen, Aurobindo Ghosh, Batukeshwar Dutt, Subhash Chandra Bose and countless others of the same elk had mesmerizing effect on the Indian people’s psyche; that if they were not pragmatic enough to hand over soon enough after the WW 2  the rein of India to those who advocated non-violence and worked for the amicable settlement of the question of Indian independence, Indian people would rise in the foot-steps of these belligerent and ferocious revolutionaries. The imperialists were pragmatic and decided in their best interest to disband their empire in India and hand over its reins to the votaries of amicable settlement of the issue of Indian independence.

We all owe a debt to these revolutionaries. At the least that we can do to them is to remember them and cherish their heroic deeds.

We are narrating here the life story of one such revolutionary. His name is Nand Kishore Nigam.

Professor Nand Kishore Nigam was a very famous revolutionary, next only to Chandra Shekhar Azad, Bhagwati Charan Vohra etc. during the revolutionary hey-days in 1928-1929. Of course, he does not find a place, not even a mention, in the free India’s Government list of freedom fighters.

This is the scorn and empathy that such revolutionaries met at the hands of our successive governments after 1947. To give a hint of what important place he occupied in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (during action – Army) under its Commander-in-Chief, Chandra Shekhar Azad, let us give here the summary of a small portion of the voluminous “Proceedings of the Delhi Conspiracy Commission” manned by its President L. S. White and members Kunwar Sain and Amir Ali.

The narrative goes thus: Kailashpati returned to Delhi from Gwalior and went to Bimal Prasad Jain to discuss party affairs with him. At that time, he lived sometimes with Bhagirath Lal and sometimes with Bimal Prasad Jain. Part of the time he also lived with Bhawani Singh, who was living over Chiranji Lal’s house in Sirki Bazaar. This went on till October. Bhagirath was living in the Lachhman Das Dharamshala at Nigambodh Ghat on Jamuna bank and was frequented by Babu Ram Charan Singh, who belonged to his native village Barkali in District Meerut and lived in Sirki Bazar.

When the colleges opened again in October, Kashi Ram returned from Lahore to Delhi and lived in Lachhman Das Dharamshala at Jamuna Ghat. Nand Kishore Nigam had become a professor at the Hindu College by then and was living in the New Hindu Hostel, of which he was the Superintendent. After two days of his return from Gwalior, Kailashpati read in newspapers that Bhagwan Das and Sada Shiv Rao had been arrested in Bhusawalj. After a week of this, he showed a bombshell to Bimal Prasad Jain and suggested to him that it would be a good thing if something like it could be made. Jain said he would try.

After a week a mistri came from Baghpat who was known to him. He showed him the shell and asked him whether a thing of that kind could be made and the mistri said that he had a friend who lived at Phatak Habash Khan and he would try to get some made by him. Jain also made enquiries about this work from a mistri who was working in the same firm in which he (Jain) was working. It was some Electric firm near the Chartered Bank in Chandani Chowk.

But the attempt to make the bombshells was given up by them because the mistri of the Electric Company became inquisitive and suspicious as to what the things were for.  At that time, in October – December 1929, the following members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association were actively engaged in revolutionary activities in Delhi: Chandra Sekhar Azad; Nand Kishore Nigam; Bimal Prasad Jain; Bir Bahadur Tiwari; Kailashpati; Yashpal; Bhawani Sahai; Bhawani Singh; Bhagirath; Ram Charan Singh; Kashi Ram; Bhagwati Charan. This above passage gives an idea how revolutionaries at that dangerous times – the times of the British police and their government – risked their peaceful lives for the sake of this country and how their sacrifices were neglected in free India.

The revolutionary Nand Kishore Nigam died on 22 July 1980, after a prolonged illness. He was born in December 1906 in Delhi – House No. 1258, Pahari Imli, near Jama Masjid, Delhi – 6. His father Shiv Sahey Nigam was the Station Master at Bhartana Railway Station, who expired in 1908. His eldest uncle Shri Brij Lal Nigam and as well as his sister Chandrani Nigam had brought him up. N. K. Nigam completed his school education from Amba Prasad A.S.V.J. Sanskrit School, Daryaganj, Delhi and completed his B.A. (Hons,) in History from Hindu College (Delhi University), then at Kashmiri Gate, in Delhi, in first Position.

Getting the 1st position, he was employed by the college as Professor and Hostel In charge of the College.  He participated in the agitation against the Simon Commission. Years later in 1929, as Incharge of the Hindu College Hostel, he met Chandra Shekhar Azad, popularly known as Panditji.

Soon his room became a meeting place for revolutionary freedom fighters like Azad, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Bhawani Singh, Kashi Ram, Bimal Prasad Jain, Vaishampayan, Kailashpati, Bhagirath Lal, Babu Ram Charan Singh and Dhanwantri.

Since his school days, he was very much inclined towards freedom struggle but the good counsel and advice of his school teachers Amba Prasad and Ajmal Khan stopped him in his steps to participate in the freedom movement for the moment, that is, till he completed his studies. But as soon as he completed his studies, he joined Pt. Chandra Shekhar Azad’s group, who later handed over the command of bomb making work.

These bombs were to be used against the British police that tried to stop the revolutionary war or to take revenge against British police, like Saunders, for improper killings of Indians, like Lala Lajpat Rai etc.

When the college authorities came to know about the meetings of revolutionaries in the Nigam’s room, they asked Nigam either to leave the college or leave the company of revolutionaries. The college authorities feared that if the British Government came to know about these meetings in the college campus, the government recognition and aid to college could be stopped and Hindu College could be black listed.

He left the college but not his childhood dream of freeing India. He started to live with his married sister at Esplanade Road, now known as Amir Chand Dehlvi Marg alias Cycle Market, Chandni Chowk, Delhi. Why can’t it be named after Professor Nand Kishore Nigam today to recognize his sacrifices and to repay the debt to a true son of Mother India?

Once Azad demanded of him Rs. 500 for the revolutionary work and to meet that demand he had sold his share in the ancestral property at Pahari Imli to the other co-parcener Chandi Prasad.

In September 1930, he was formally inducted into the movement by Azad and was allotted Delhi as his area of activities. Later on, Kailashpati was arrested by police and he disclosed the names of his revolutionary associates, which forced Nigam to go underground.

He left Delhi and joined Azad in Kanpur. He was arrested from Gaya Prasad Library in Kanpur and was kept in solitary confinement in jail. He was tortured. In winter season, he was laid down totally naked on the ice-bricks and was beaten with iron chains.

Still, he never uttered any names of his revolutionary associates and during such tortures , a wound on his head went with his death. That wound never healed up.

He was arrested a second time in February 1933 in connection with the Delhi Conspiracy Case and on 16 February 1933, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under the Arms Act. In Gonda Jail, he was kept in dark room for one year. When his condition became serious, the British government released him in 1934.

In due course, he was cured and was employed with Tatas. In 1941, he left the job and started his own business in Delhi. He was arrested, for the third time, on 9 August 1942, along with Farid Saheb. He was kept under detention for two years. He again fell ill and was released after his illness persisted for months.

After independence, he served as India’s First Commercial Secretary in Karachi for three years (1957–1960) and later as Trade Commissioner and Consul-General of India in Kuwait.

He has written two books “Azad Baleedan” in Hindi and the other “Delhi in 1857” in English, the second one was presented to the first Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru.

He remained a bachelor all his life. After independence his family elders pressurized him to marry but he turned down every request or pressure saying: “jailon mein lohe ki chenon se pit pit kar sari haddiyan toot rahin hain aur itni bimariyan lag gaeen hein pata nahi kab maut aa jaye.” (My all bones have been broken in jails by beating me with chains. I have contracted so many diseases that my death may come at any time). Such were the sons of this country who fought for their motherland.

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