Sukhdev Thapar was an Indian freedom fighter who opted for the revolutionary methods to throw out the Britishers from India during his struggle for the independence of India. He was an active member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association along with Bhagat Singh and Rajguru and participated in various anti-colonial activities. He was hanged to death on 23 March 1931 at the Lahore Central Jail by the Britishers for his involvement in the Lahore Conspiracy case in 1929.
Sukhdev Thapar was born on Wednesday, 15 May 1907 (age 23 years; at the time of death) in Ludhiana, Punjab, British India (now in Punjab, India). His zodiac sign was Taurus. Soon after completing his school studies, Sukhdev Thapar went to Lahore’s National College to pursue his graduation. The Better India
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name was Ramlal Thapar, and his mother’s name was Ralli Devi.
Wife & Children
He was not married.
An active member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA)
Sukhdev Thapar went to Lahore’s National College for higher studies soon after finishing his school studies. There he started reading circles that included India’s past and the revolutionary movements that took place across the world. Soon, he met Bhagat Singh and decided to join the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). In HSRA, he took the responsibility to organise different revolutionary cells via movements all around Punjab and the nearby regions of North India. Soon, he was designated as the president of the HSRA unit of Punjab and started handling the revolutionary activities of HSRA.
The assassination of J. P. Saunders
Sukhdev Thapar was named in the assassination of J. P. Saunders in December 1927 along with his companions Bhagat Singh and Rajguru. J. P. Saunders was the Assistant Superintendent of Police, and he killed the senior Indian freedom fighter, Lala Lajpat Rai. The killing of Saunders was revenge for the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai.
Lahore Conspiracy Case
Sukhdev Thapar was involved in the Lahore Conspiracy Case (1929–1930) and was accused of killing several British police officers. An FIR was filed against 25 revolutionaries in the Lahore Conspiracy case by the Senior Superintendent of Police Hamilton Harding. In the FIR, Sukhdev Thapar was named on the first number, while Bhagat Singh was named in the 12th position, and Rajguru was in the 20th position. A case was put in court in April 1929 under the Special Magistrate, R.S. Pandit. During his period in jail, Sukhdev Thapar started a hunger strike that was followed by a number of other revolutionaries.
Central Legislative Assembly Bomb Incident
Once, in a meeting of HSRA, which was held in April 1929, it was decided to drop a bomb in the Central Legislative assembly to create a panic among the Britishers in the assembly. In this meeting of HSRA, Sukhdev was not present. The members of the committee decided that Bhagat Singh would not be allowed to execute the plan as the British police were already behind him in the Saunders murder case. The HSRA did not want their best man to be caught too soon. Shiv Verma, who was serving life imprisonment in the Lahore central jail in the Lahore Conspiracy Case, wrote a memoir during his punishment period, and he stated in his writings that Sukhdev returned after three days, and he was not happy with the decision of HSRA as he wanted the best man of the revolutionary committee to execute the plan. He called Bhagat Singh a coward who was afraid of dying, and Bhagat told Sukhdev that he was insulting him. This led to a misunderstanding between the two. Shiv Verma wrote,
Sukhdev came after three days and opposed the decision tooth and nail. He was sure no one could convey HSRA’s goal as well as Bhagat. He went to Bhagat and called him a coward, one who was afraid to die. The more Bhagat refuted Sukhdev, the harsher Sukhdev became. Finally, Bhagat told Sukhdev that he was insulting him. Sukhdev retorted saying he was only doing his duty towards his friend. Hearing this, Bhagat told Sukhdev not to talk to him, and went away.”
The British authorities arrested Sukhdev and his revolutionary comrades in the Central Assembly bomb case in Delhi on 8 April 1929. Soon, they were awarded capital punishment in the Central Assembly bomb blasts case, and Sukhdev Thapar stated to the British police soon after his arrest that his arrest was a happy chance for him. He said,
It was a good thing that everything came to light. I consider my arrest a good luck for this reason.”
In the court of The Lahore Conspiracy Case Tribunal, Lahore, constituted under Ordinance no III of 1930: The Crown – Complainant versus Sukhdev and others.”
Sukhdev Thapar, Bhagat Singh, and Rajguru were executed by the Britishers on 23 March 1931 at Lahore Central Jail. The bodies of the trio were cremated by the Britishers secretly at the banks of the Sutlej river so that they could avert public anger. The Tribune, a leading newspaper of India, printed the news of execution on the front page of the newspaper soon after the execution.
Highlighted by Janata Newspaper
Soon after the execution of the HSRA members in the Central Assembly Hall bombing and Lahore Conspiracy Case, an article was published by Dr B. R. Amebedkar on capital punishment in his Janata newspaper in which he blamed the British authorities in India for continuing with the executions while knowing the fact that the Indians were standing in support of the revolutionary freedom fighters. Forward Press Ambedkar further stated in his article that these punishments were a forceful act of the Labour Party in India that compelled British authorities to execute such a harsh decision so that they could impress the Conservative Party in England. These executions were not an act of justice, but, for attaining the public opinion in England, otherwise, they could be expelled out of Conservative Party in England. A few weeks before the execution of Sukhdev and his companions, the Gandhi-Irwin pact was signed between India and the British, and these capital punishments crushed the name and position of Britishers in front of the Conservatives. Later, the British government in India was not in the position to punish the accused police personnel, who had executed Sukhdev Thapar and his companions, as it would be considered a weak British empire in India by the Conservatives in England.
- In his school days, Sukhdev Thapar always refused to honour or salute the British authorities who often visited his school. The spirit of patriotism started flourishing in him when he was a very young child. His uncle Lala Achintram raised him as his father died when he was very young.
- The Naujawan Bharat Seva movement was initiated by Bhagat Singh in 1926, and this movement was assisted by Sukhdev Thapar, and soon, they became close friends. While Sukhdev Thapar was a college student at Lahore, he came across the books on various revolutions that happened across the world and took inspiration from the Russian Revolution to participate in India’s freedom struggle.
- Sukhdev Thapar used to deliver lectures on national patriotism at the National College in Lahore to inspire the youth to revolt against the British empire in India. He used to elucidate the history of India and its patriots. Economic Times
- On 17 December 1927, Sukhdev Thapar, Bhagat Singh, and Rajguru assassinated the Assistant Superintendent of Police, John P. Saunders, in Lahore and fled to Lucknow by train. They again came back to Lahore a few days after the incident.
- The news of the execution of Sukhdev Thapar, Bhagat Singh, and Rajguru spread like wildfire and was covered by several renowned media sources all around the world soon after their death. The news was highlighted by the New York Times as the execution took place on the day when the annual convention day of the Indian National Congress was celebrated in Karachi. According to the New York Times,
A reign of terror in the city of Cawnpore in the United Provinces and an attack on Mahatma Gandhi by a youth outside Karachi were among the answers of the Indian extremists today to the hanging of Bhagat Singh and two fellow-assassins.” New York Times
- The cremation site of Sukhdev Thapar, Bhagat Singh and Rajguru was transformed into a National Martyrs Memorial by the government of India at Hussainiwala to honour their life sacrifices during the Indian independence movement.
- In India, every year, 23 March, the execution day of Sukhdev Thapar, Bhagat Singh, and Rajguru, is celebrated as Shaheed Diwas (Martyrs’ Day). It was declared by the government of India to remember and pay homage at their memorial every year to honour their sacrifices for the independence of India. Jagran News
- Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, a college under the University of Delhi, was named after Sukhdev Thapar in August 1987 in his honour. SSCBS
- Amar Shaheed Sukhdev Thapar Inter-State Bus Terminal was named after Sukhdev Thapar. It is the main bus stand of Ludhiana city and was the birthplace of Sukhdev Thapar.
- According to the memoirs written by Shiv Verma, one of the accused in the Lahore Conspiracy case who was serving life imprisonment at Lahore Central Jail, mentioned the character of Sukhdev Thapar in his memoir titled ‘Sansmrityiaan.’ These memoirs are kept safely at the National Archives at Delhi. He stated that Sukhdev organised the Punjab Party brick by brick. Tribune India He wrote,
In reality, Bhagat was the political mentor of the Punjab party; Sukhdev was the organiser – one who built its edifice brick by brick…”
- Sukhdev Thapar was inspired by Ram Prasad Bismil and Chandra Shekhar Azad to participate in Indian revolutionary movements.
- Sukhdev Thapar penned a letter to Mahatma Gandhi a few days before his hanging. In the letter, Sukhdev stated that India would not be benefitted from the changing of their (Sukhdev, Bhagat, Rajguru) sentences, rather it would gain by their hanging. He wrote,
The three prisoners of the Lahore conspiracy case who have been awarded capital punishment and who have incidentally gained greatest popularity in the country are not everything in the revolutionary party. In fact, the country will not gain as much by the change of their sentences as it would by their being hanged.”
- According to Shiv Verma, one of the main accused in the Lahore Conspiracy case who was serving life imprisonment at Lahore Central Jail, the personality of Sukhdev Thapar was very stubborn. Shiv Verma remarked in his memoir that a tattoo of OM on Sukhdev’s arm was removed by him with nitric acid so that he could check his endurance to bear the British torture, and Sukhdev then removed the remaining marks on his arm with a burning candle. Sukhdev was well versed in organisational and fellowship traits. Shiv Vema stated in his writing that Sukhdev was feeling guilty for forcefully pushing Bhagat Singh to death as Sukhdev pressurised the HSRA members to send Bhagat Singh to execute the Central Legislative Assembly bomb plan. Shiv Verma mentioned that once, Durga Bhabhi revealed to the companions of Sukhdev that in Lahore Sukhdev’s eyes were seen swollen one morning when the police were behind them after the execution of the Assembly bomb plan. It was presumed that he wept all night over his decision to send Bhagat for the plan. Verma wanted to explain the nature of Sukhdev as soft from inside and hard from outside who used to hide his feelings from everyone. Tribune India
- In 2005, Waraich and Gurdev Sidhu, the two Indian authors, published a book titled ‘The Hanging of Bhagat Singh’ in which they mentioned the full judgement of Sukhdev Thapar, Bhagat Singh, and Rajguru. According to them, Sukhdev Thapar assisted Bhagat Singh like his right arm as the mastermind behind all the conspiracies. Sukhdev used to choose the staff for the HSRA and was responsible for organising them according to their capacities. Tribune India
- Sukhdev wrote mentioned the aim of the revolutionaries in a letter to Mahatma Gandhi a few days before Sukhdev’s hanging. He wrote that the focus of the revolutionaries in India was to establish a social republic against the British empire and that aim was non-changeable. He pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi thought the behaviour of revolutionaries was inclined towards irrational killings and murders. However, Sukhdev Thapar clarified that the revolutionaries think totally opposite, and they knew their responsibilities and would continue the freedom struggle with revolt. Tribune India
- A few lines of the verses that Sukhdev Thapar and his revolutionary companions died singing:
Watan ki aabru ka pas dekhen kaun karta hai,
Suna hai aaj matkal mein hamara imtihaan hoga;
Shaheedon ki chitaon par judenge har baras mele,
Watan par mitne waalon ka yehi baaki nishan hoga;
Kabhi yeh bhi din ayega jab apna raaj dekhenge,
Jab apni hi zameen hogi aur apna aasmaan hoga.”
- The Shaheed Sukhdev Yaadgar Committee of Punjab released a book titled Shaheed Sukhdev: Naugharan ton Faansi Tak on Sukhdev Thapa’s freedom struggles to honour him. Another book titled ‘Mera Bhai Sukhdev’ was written by Sukhdev’s brother, Mathura Das Thapar, in his memory. Tribune India