Gandhi’s Reactions Before and After Hanging of Bhagat Singh

Reactions to the judgment

Gandhi Wanted Hanging of Bhagat Singh:

After the rejection of the appeal to the Privy Council, Congress party president Madan Mohan Malviya filed a mercy appeal before Irwin on 14 February 1931. An appeal was sent to Mahatma Gandhi by prisoners to intervene. In his notes dated 19 March 1931, the Viceroy recorded:

“While returning Gandhiji asked me if he could talk about the case of Bhagat Singh, because newspapers had come out with the news of his slated hanging on March 24th. It would be a very unfortunate day because on that day the new president of the Congress had to reach Karachi and there would be a lot of hot discussion. I explained to him that I had given a very careful thought to it but I did not find any basis to convince myself to commute the sentence. It appeared he found my reasoning weighty.”

Reactions to the executions

The execution of Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were reported widely by the press, especially as they were on the eve of the annual convention of the Congress party at Karachi. Gandhi faced black flag demonstrations by angry youths who shouted “Down with Gandhi”. The New York Times reported:

“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”

In the issue of Young India of 29 March 1931, Gandhi wrote:

“In our land of millions of destitute and crippled people, if we take to the practice of seeking justice through murder, there will be a terrifying situation. Our poor people will become victims of our atrocities. By making a dharma of violence, we shall be reaping the fruit of our own actions.
Hence, though we praise the courage of these brave men, we should never countenance their activities. Our dharma is to swallow our anger, abide by the discipline of non-violence and carry out our duty.”

After Hanging:

On Singh’s execution, Gandhi said, “The government certainly had the right to hang these men. However, there are some rights which do credit to those who possess them only if they are enjoyed in name only.”

Below are the official quotes from Gandhi’s own writing:

In that connection, Gandhi himself wrote in his Young India, “I might have made the commutation a term of the settlement. It could not be so made. The Working Committee had agreed with me in not making the commutation a condition precedent to truce. I could, therefore, only mention it. “It shows that if the Mahatma Gandhi had wished, he could have insisted and got their commutation agreed to. But a leader who could go to the extent of stating to the Viceroy, that “ if the boys should be hanged, they had better be hanged before the Congress (Karachi) Session, than after it”, could hardly be expected to secure the commutation of the death sentences of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. It will not be out of place to mention here that Mahatma Gandhi even refused to co-operate with the prominent leaders in the matter of raising a memorial to the three after their execution. On being approached by the All India Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev Memorial Committee, Lahore to assist in raising a memorial to those three national heros, he replied to the General Secretary of the Committee,: