Great friends and fellow martyrs

Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan are immortal symbols of communal harmony

Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan

Like life around us, history is full of inspiring example of very close friends from different faiths and religions who worked together for some noble causes. Among these friendships, the friendship of Ashfaqullah Khan and Ram Prasad Bismil in particular, is very inspiring. They attained martyrdom at a very young age, in their 20s, fighting for the freedom of India. They were both hanged to death (in different jails of the then United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh) on December 20, 1927.

This week the nation is observing their death anniversary, as also the death anniversary of two of their fellow martyrs, Roshan Singh and Rajendranath Lahiri. The four of them together are known as the famous Kakori martyrs.

Another aspect these two friends shared was that they were very talented poets and writers. In fact, one way of paying homage would be to publish some of their poetry to make it accessible to readers today.

Ashfaqullah, the younger among the two, had been impressed by the writings and social concerns of Ram Prasad and took the lead in contacting him. Initially Ram did not show much enthusiasm but when Ashfaq persisted, Ram also tried to know him better and soon they became fast friends. After this they really could not do anything except by sharing with each other. Once Ashfaq got very high fever and in high fever started muttering ‘Ram, Ram’ time and again. The family thought he has been converted to another religion.  Then a common friend came.  He understood and immediately called Ram Prasad Bismil. Then Ashfaq stopped muttering to himself as he now had the dear friend whom he was trying to call close to him!

They discussed and shared the compelling need to devote themselves to the freedom movement. They knew they were taking great risks by joining the revolutionary stream of the freedom movement but they felt strongly that this was the biggest need of their times.

Their friendship grew and became stronger as they took great risks together. Ram Prasad had emerged as the leader of this particular group of revolutionaries and he knew that whenever any task of great trust and courage needed to be done, this could be safely entrusted to Ashfaqullah.

Unfortunately, they were arrested at a very early stage of their activities and sent to different jails. The entire trial was highly unfair. Both the friends with two other comrades received the death sentence.

In jail they kept thinking of each other and as destiny would have it, there were some trial related issues due to which they had to be brought to one place. So, they could meet one last time before the death sentence was executed. However, both of them were in their special death sentence cells. One can imagine what kind of a meeting this was between the two great friends and how high the emotions were. This episode also inspired me to write a short-story in Hindi based on this real-life incident.

Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan and their great friendship will always be an inspiration for the communal harmony movement.

*The writer is a freelance journalist and author. He is co-author of two recent books on freedom movement—When the Two Streams Met and Azadi ke Deewanon Ki Dastaan (Vitasta-Vats, Delhi).  


Other articles by Bharat Dogra:

Hindi literature and journalism will always remember the rich contributions of Manglesh Dabral

Why inter-faith harmony is today more important than ever before

Scrapping of Five-Year Plans was a bad idea



Related Articles