A secret hideout of Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries
As the AAP government follows Bhagat Singh’s ideology and all government offices also display his and Dr. BR Ambedkar’s pictures, a silver lining has emerged among locals who have demanded that Bhagat Singh’s secret hideout and other freedom fighters should be turned into a museum. RAAKHI JAGGA explains the history associated with this place.
Where is the secret hiding place?
It is a two-storey building located at Turi Bazar of Ferozepur in an area of 1,150 square feet. It is part of the old city of Ferozepur. Although many former residents or families of freedom fighters knew about this hiding place. However, the general public became aware of it on August 20, 2014 after the publication of a book by historian Rakesh Kumar. Kumar is a retired railway employee and author of 16 books of which 12 are related to the history of freedom struggle in India. This place was once a hiding place for freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Chandershekhar Azad, Sukhdev, Vijay Kumar Sinha, Dr. Gaya Prasad, Mahabir Singh and Jai Gopal, Kumar said.
What happened after the public learned of the existence of this hiding place?
The Punjab government requested documents from Kumar based on his ‘secret hiding’ book. The Department of Archeology then issued a notification to declare it a protected monument and finally on December 17, 2015, the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs of Punjab declared it a protected monument. However, nothing happened afterwards. No action has been taken to take over the building and no funds have been allocated for this.
What activities once took place there?
This place remained a hiding place for the revolutionaries from August 10, 1928 to February 9, 1929, because the British police then discovered it. The revolutionaries used to strategize there to drive the British out of the country. They also used to practice shooting as evidence was found there, Kumar said. Revolutionaries used to change identities and appearances when traveling to secret hideouts. Bhagat Singh’s hair and beard were also cut there to hide his identity from the British, Kumar reveals.
What are we currently doing there?
At present the building is under the control of Krishna Bhagti Satsung Trust and this control has lasted for many decades and the tenants live in the building. The ground floor has two stores where one store is run as a kirana store and other by an accountant. This last store remains closed most of the time. On the first floor lives a tailor with his family. The building was constructed in the same way and no changes have been made so far, Kumar said. Earlier, on the ground floor freedom fighters and doctors ran their clinics and on the first floor a hiding place was located. Nand Kishore Sharma, one of the trustees even claimed in the past that his grandfather Lahori Ram Shastri met Bhagat Singh at that time.
The people The Ferozepur district administration has asked the owners and tenants of the building not to modify the structure. They were even asked not to sell the building. We learned that Nand Kishore Sharma himself had offered a donation of Rs 50,000 if the government took over this building to make it a museum in memory of the revolutionaries including Bhagat Singh.
What efforts are currently underway?
In March 2018, a mega protest was organized by locals from Turi bazar area demanding the Punjab government to convert the building into a museum and even preserve the building. In August 2017, then Minister of Cultural Affairs and Tourism Navjot Singh Sidhu even promised a grant for the memorial. Shortly after the AAP government came to power, Rakesh Kumar wrote to Punjab CM Bhagwant Singh Mann to look into the matter urgently. He wrote this letter on March 17. “After the CM of Punjab was sworn in Khatkar Kalan, a glimmer of hope grew in me and the followers of Bhagat Singh’s ideology that he will definitely do something about this hiding place. Therefore, we ask him to convert this place into a museum and to preserve the building. It will be a real tribute from the AAP government to revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Azad and others,” Kumar said.