Ashfaqulla Khan Dilzak
Khan in 1919
Born(1900-10-22)22 October 1900
Died19 December 1927(1927-12-19) (aged 27)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
OrganizationHindustan Republican Association
Known forBeing a mastermind behind the Kakori train robbery
MovementIndian independence
WebsiteOfficial website

Ashfaqulla Khan (22 October 1900 – 19 December 1927) was freedom fighter in the Indian independence movement against British rule and co-founder of the Hindustan Republican Association, later to become the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.[1][2]

Early life

Khan was born in the Shahjahanpur district of the United Provinces to Shafiq Ullah Khan and Mazharunissa, of Dilzak Pathans[3][4] of the tribe from Khyber who belonged to the landlord caste.[5][6][7] He was the youngest among his five siblings.[8]

In 1918, while Khan was in the seventh standard, police raided his school and arrested the student Rajaram Bhartiya in relation to the Mainpuri Conspiracy, in which activists organised looting in Mainpuri to fund the publication of anti-colonial literature.[5] The arrest spurred Khan's engagement in revolutionary activities in the United Provinces.

Khan met Ram Prasad Bismil, a revolutionary who was closely involved in the Mainpuri Conspiracy, through a friend. He soon became closely tied to Bismil and joined him in activities related to non-cooperation, the Swaraj Party, and the Hindustan Republican Association.[5] Bismil and Khan were also both poets, with Khan writing Urdu poetry under the pseudonym Hasrat.[9][10]

Like others in the Hindustan Republican Association, Khan was strongly inspired by Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. He expressed beliefs in the liberation of the poor and the rejection of capitalist interests. He also spoke against religious communalism, identifying it as a British tool to control the Indian population and prevent Indian independence.[5]

Involvement in the Kakori train robbery

Main article: Kakori conspiracy

The revolutionaries of the Hindustan Republican Association organised a meeting in Shahjahanpur on 8 August 1925 to determine how to raise funds for arms and ammunition. They decided to rob a train carrying government cash through Kakori. The HRA had previously executed similar train robberies, inspired by the Russian Bolshevik technique of using robbery to fund revolutionary operations.[11] He was originally against the Kakori train robbery, but eventually agreed to participate when others in the HRA expressed approval of the plan.[12]

On 9 August 1925, Khan and other revolutionaries, namely Ram Prasad Bismil, Rajendra Lahiri, Sachindra Bakshi, Chandrashekhar Azad, Keshab Chakravarty, Banwari Lal, Murari Lal Gupta, Mukundi Lal, and Manmathnath Gupta, attacked and robbed a government train in Kakori near Lucknow.[8][13][14] After the robbery, the British government launched an extensive investigative campaign to catch the perpetrators.[8] On the morning of 26 October 1925, Bismil was caught by the police. Khan fled to Nepal to evade capture. From Nepal, he travelled to Kanpur and then Daltonganj, where he worked as a clerk at an engineering firm under a pseudonym.[8][5]

Capture and trial

Eventually, Khan decided to travel to Delhi to continue his revolutionary activities. While in Delhi, he met with a Pathan friend he had known in Shahjahanpur, who secretly reported his whereabouts to the police. On the morning of 7 December 1926, Khan was captured and arrested by the Delhi Police. He was detained in the District Jail at Faizabad and a case was filed against him.[8]

The trial of the Kakori train robbers was held for over a year in Lucknow and received significant interest from the public.[15] The HRA had released an official statement in 1925 claiming that they did not consider themselves terrorists and instead saw their revolutionary activities as a way to fight back against the violence of the colonial government. While in prison, Khan wrote a letter that expressed a similar sentiment, confirming that he did not aim to spread violence through the HRA but only hoped to ensure India's independence.[16]

Death and aftermath

The case for the Kakori dacoity was concluded by imposing the death sentence on Bismil, Khan, Lahiri, and Roshan. The others were given life sentences.[8][17][18] Khan was sentenced to death by hanging and executed on 19 December 1927 at the Faizabad Jail.[19] He is considered a martyr for the cause of India's independence.[8][20]

After the hangings of Khan, Bismil, Lahiri, and Roshan, the HRA changed their name to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army and began officially espousing socialist and Marxist ideologies.[11]

In popular culture

The actions of Khan and his compatriots have been depicted in the Hindi film Rang De Basanti (2006), where his character is depicted by Kunal Kapoor. Chetanya Adib portrayed Khan in the Star Bharat television series Chandrashekhar. Mujahid-E-Azadi – Ashfaqullah Khan, an Indian television series that aired on DD Urdu in 2014, starred Gaurav Nanda in the title role.[21]

See also


  1. ^ S. Waris 2003, p. 8-14.
  2. ^ RAO, N. P. SHANKARANARAYANA (January 2014). Ashfaqulla Khan. Litent.
  3. ^ "Ashfaqullah Khan – निर्भय क्रांतिकारी अशफ़ाक उल्ला खान". Jagran blog. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  4. ^ "Ashfaq Ullah Khan". Aaj Tak. 22 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Remembering Ashfaqullah Khan – Kakori Martyr, Poet, Dreamer and Revolutionary Intellectual". The Wire. Retrieved 7 August 2022.
  6. ^ Joseph, Raveena (3 September 2015). "The martyr monologue". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  7. ^ Waris, Prof. Farukh S. (31 March 2015). UNSUNG HEROES Volume-II. Indus Sourcebooks. p. 8. ISBN 978-81-88569-33-5.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Shankaranarayana Rao, N.P. "Ashfaqulla Khan: The Immortal Revolutionary". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. Archived from the original on 5 November 2002. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  9. ^ Habib, Irfan (May–June 2016). "Book Reviews: Do Sarfarosh Shaa'ir, Ram Prasad 'Bismil' aur Ashfaqullah Khan 'Hasrat' (Urdu)". Social Scientist. 44 (5/6).
  10. ^ "Kakori Martyrs Were Symbols of Communal Harmony in India's Freedom Struggle". The Wire. Retrieved 7 August 2022.
  11. ^ a b Gupta, Amit Kumar (September–October 1997). "Defying Death: Nationalist Revolutionism in India, 1897–1938". Social Scientist. 25 (9/10): 3–27. doi:10.2307/3517678. JSTOR 3517678 – via JSTOR.
  12. ^ Falk, Bertil (2016). Feroze: The Forgotten Gandhi. Roli Books.
  13. ^ "Explained: Who was Ashfaqullah Khan, and why did the British hang him?". 10 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Kakori Conspiracy: Why were Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan and Roshan Singh hanged?". India Today. 19 December 2017.
  15. ^ Gupta, Amit Kumar (September–October 1997). "Defying Death: Nationalist Revolutionism in India, 1897–1938". Social Scientist. 25 (9/10): 3–27. doi:10.2307/3517678. JSTOR 3517678 – via JSTOR.
  16. ^ Kumar, Sunny (March–April 2016). "'Terrorism' or the Illegitimacy of Politics in Colonial India". Social Scientist. 44 (3/4): 41–55. JSTOR 24890243 – via JSTOR.
  17. ^ S. Ravi (22 March 2018). "Wielding the pen and pistol". The Hindu. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  18. ^ "Kakori Martyrs Were Symbols of Communal Harmony in India's Freedom Struggle". The Wire.
  19. ^ Singh, Aparna (2 August 2004). "Daredevilry of sons of the soil". The Times of India (newspaper). Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Tributes paid to martyr Ashfaqulla Khan". The Tribune (India newspaper), 22 October 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  21. ^ "DD Urdu Program Schedule" (PDF). 27 July 2019.

General bibliography