Udham Singh's cool courage and firm determination are a legend, but of his life as a whole very little is known. Some of his letters were received by the Guru Nanak University through the courtesy of Mr. M.S. Gill of the Indian Administrative Service as a token of his concern for this new institution. I appreciate his gesture of good will. Professor J. S. Grewal, Head of the Department of History, has prepared these letters for publication with the help of Mr. H. K. Puri of the Department of Political Science. I am thankful to both of them for having done this work for the University, and done it so well.
I have no doubt that the general reader will find it useful for understanding something of the legendary Udham Singh.
In Udham Singh's utterances in the face of trial and death, there are echoes of Kartar Singh Sarabha who had died for the country twenty four years earlier. However, Udham Singh was consciously emulating another young martyr: Bhagat Singh. In one of his letters he refers to Bhagat Singh as his 'best friend' who had left him behind by ten years, adding 'he is waiting for me'. The portrait of Udham Singh, more even than the legend that has grown around his person, clearly reflects the cool courage and firm determination which are associated with him.
Udham Singh has not been ignored by the writers of independent India, not in the recent past at any rate. His name is included in Giani gurmukh Singh Musafir's book on the martyrs of the twentieth century, in the Eminent Freedom Fighters of the Punjab by Professor Fauja Singh, and in the Sardar by S. Kulbir Singh. The story of 'the heroism of Shaheed Udham Singh' has been publicized; he has been portrayed as 'the patriot whot avenged the Jallianwala Bagh massacre'; and he has become the subject of a historical novel : Shaheed Udham Singh by Kesar Singh.
Some new organizations came into existence before the end of the 19th century which were pan-Indian in their theoretical scope, like the Acts of the British Indian Government. In 1876, for instance, the Indian Association was formed, and in 1885 was founded the much better known Indian National Congress destined to play a vital political role in the present century. Its programme in the beginning, however, was little more than 'political mendicancy: it asked for minor concessions without agitation. Nevertheless, in retrospect, the struggle for independence, ultimately, may be said to have begun with the founding of the Indian National Congress.
In the early years of the twentieth century some important members of the Indian National Congress gradually gave up the attitude of 'mendicancy' and advocated agitational approach.
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