Madan Lal Dhingra was an epitomic freedom fighter, country lover, and revered for assassinating British Officer William Hutt Curzon Wyllie; whom the company referred to as the Eye of the Empire in Asia. Dhingra joined hands with famous revolutionary and Independence leaders like Shyamji Krishna Varma and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar through India House and Abhinav Bharat Mandal. Madan Lal Dhingra is catalogued under the list of revolutionaries who triggered the spirit of Swarajya from abroad.
Early life of Madan Lal Dhingra:
Madan Lal Dhingra was born on 18th February 1883 in a Hindu Punjabi Khatri family of Amritsar, Punjab, to Civil Surgeon or Chief Medical officer Dr Gitta Mal Dhingra. Dhingra family was moneyed, educated and were also recognized among British loyalists. Madan Lal was the family’s youngest child and was guided to respect and acknowledge the British since childhood. Due to the immense influence of the Dhingra family among the British, the seven lads of the family studied at the prestigious colleges in England.
At first, Madan Lal enrolled in MB intermediate college, Amritsar, and then transferred to Government College University, Lahore, to pursue a Master of Arts. Dhingra got involved in nationalist activities during his college days at Lahore and joined the Swadeshi campaign. Dhingra led student protests propagating the views of Swadeshi and Swaraj.
Madan Lal led the campaign against the British over Swadeshi clothes and refrained from using the cloth made in Britain. Thus, Madan Lal was expelled from the college. Madan’s father, Gitta, directed him to apologize before college management and banish the protest, which Madan denied. Gitta Mal had an inferiority complex towards Swadeshi and Swaraj as he was against all these notions of freedom, protest and Independence from the British.
After the incident, Dhingra refrained from going home and decided to take his life forward by living on his desires. Madan Lal started working as a clerk, factory labour and other low-level jobs on different temporal to carry out his revolutionary activities. The worried family members and elder brother Dr Bihari Lal compelled Madan Lal to move to Britain to pursue mechanical engineering at University College, London, along with his other brothers.
Revolutionary career of Madan Lal Dhingra:
After numerous terrifying and inhumane decisions by the British government to demonstrate the Partition of Bengal in 1905, the death penalty of Khudiram Bose, mishandling of famines, loot of Indian treasury to Britain and manslaughter, the outraged Indians, along with several freedom fighters, carried out protests. Madan Lal Dhingra and VD Savarkar also started student protests against the bigotry of British rule.
In 1906, Madan Lal Dhingra arrived in Britain to pursue medical engineering after being compelled by his family. But, destiny has chosen something different and historic for him. While pursuing his career, Dhingra contacted Shyamji Krishna Varma and VD Savarkar and impressed them with his tenacity and Patriotism. The bunch of revolutionaries started meeting at India House at Highgate to discuss further strategies to make the country independent of British imperialism and fanaticism.
VD Savarkar shaped his life and adhered to Madan Lal more towards the service of Motherland; thus, he started shooting practice at Tottenham Court Road. Later, Madan Lal enrolled in Abhinav Bharat Mandal, created by Ganesh Damodar Savarkar and VD Savarkar (Savarkar brothers).
Madan Lal joined a secret group named Free India Society led by VD Savarkar. However, the companions of the society started suspecting Madan Lal Dhingra due to his father’s friendship with Curzon Wyllie, the immense wealth of the Dhingra family and the education of Dhingra at the University College London. Their doubt further deepened when Dingra joined Indian Association and Aristocratic Club (British Friendly organization), but VD Savarkar defended the loyalty of Dhingra towards his mates and Motherland.
The Viceroy of India ordered Curzon Wyllie to resolve the student disputes; similarly, Gitta Mal also wrote to Curzon about his son Madan Lal Dhingra’s involvement with India House. Compelled Curzon invited Madan Lal to meet him at the India office to resolve disputes and talk peacefully.
Assassination of Curzon Wyllie:
William Hutt Curzon Wyllie was a political advisor of Secretary for the State of India at the India Office and had complete control over the doings of East India Company and the British Government. Thus, Curzon Wyllie was, directly and indirectly, responsible for Britisher’s tyranny, manslaughter, and looting of the Indian treasury over Indians.
On 1st July 1909, Madan Lal Dhingra was invited to a function at Indian National Association at Imperial Institute, South Kensington, where Curzon Wyllie also appeared as a chief guest. After concluding the event, Dhingra went near Curzon and fired five shots at his face; he killed Doctor Cawas Lalcaca, who appeared to rescue Wyllie. Madan Lal used SR Rana’s (prominent freedom fighter) gun to undertake the incident.
Madan Lal Dhingra was failed by the local Police to commit suicide and thus arrested.
Martyrdom of Madan Lal Dhingra:
During the trial, he represented himself and stated that Curzon Wyllie’s assassination was an act of Patriotism and was not intended to kill Doctor Cawas Lalcaca. When asked about the reasoning behind the murder of Curzon Wyllie, Madan said everything you want to know is written in a letter placed inside my trousers. British demolished the letter to suppress the truth of British Cruelties, but one day before the pronouncement of the death penalty, the imitated copy of the letter got viral through the Daily News newspaper. The letter was leaked by VD Savarkar along with his British friend, working in Daily News. A part of the letter reads as:-
"I hold the English people responsible for the murder of 80 millions of Indian people in the last fifty years, and they are also responsible for taking away ₤100, 000, 000 every year from India to this country." (read full letter at bottom)
He even demanded the death penalty for him, graciously thanked the Judge after the verdict and said:-
"I am proud to have the honour of laying down my life for my country. But remember one thing; we shall have our time in the coming days."
On 17th August 1909, Madan Lal Dhingra embraced death by kissing the noose at Pentonville Prison, London.
Madan’s last words were:
"I believe that a nation held down by foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to a disarmed race, I attacked by surprise. Since guns were denied to me I drew forth my pistol and fired. Poor in wealth and intellect, a son like myself has nothing else to offer to the mother but his own blood. And so I have sacrificed the same on her altar. The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die, and the only way to teach it is by dying ourselves. My only prayer to God is that I may be re-born of the same mother and I may re-die in the same sacred cause till the cause is successful. Vande Matram."
Reactions of Personalities:
MK. Gandhi condemned the actions of Madan Lal Dhingra and termed him as a murderer.
"It is being said in defence of Sir Curzon Wyllie's assassination that...just as the British would kill every German if Germany invaded Britain, so too it is the right of any Indian to kill any Englishman.... The analogy...is fallacious. If the Germans were to invade Britain, the British would kill only the invaders. They would not kill every German whom they met... They would not kill an unsuspecting German or Germans who are guests. Even should the British leave in consequence of such murderous acts, who will rule in their place? Is the Englishman bad because he is an Englishman? Is it that everyone with Indian skin is good? If that is so, there should be [no] angry protest against oppression by Indian princes. India can gain nothing from the rule of murderers—no matter whether they are black or white. Under such a rule, India will be utterly ruined and laid waste."
David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and The Times London applauded the Dhingra’s sacrifice.
At Caxton Hall, London, a conference of Indians called to condemn the actions of Dhingra where Dhingra’s brother compares him to a stain on family, but VD Savarkar disagreed with all of them and refrained from the passing of the resolution. Eventually, Savarkar got attacked by an unknown person but was defended by MPD Acharya sitting next to him.
Madam Bhikaji Cama wrote Madan Talvar after the martyrdom of Madan Lal to honour his sacrifice for the Motherland.
Madan Lal Dhingra’s actions inspired many Irish people to achieve Independence from the British bigotry.
It is significant to figure out that our people are busy vilifying the sacrifice of Dhingra, but people outside India applaud and term it a prime sacrifice made for the country. Some even represented him as the epitome of establishing the feeling of Independence. The life story of Madan Lal Dhingra answers several doubts inflaming in my mind that what condition leads us to be enslaved, and then reaches one conclusion that we Indians always have a Jayachandra (traitor) inside our camp.
Therefore, the invincible legacy of Madan Lal Dhingra taught us to stay connected to Dharma (duty); even the whole family stood up against you as no one is above the country and the principles of Sanatana Dharma. The spirit and adherence of this son of the soil oblige us to bow towards his pious memories. It is an eternal truth that people adopt what they gather from their surroundings, but Dhingra’s life told us to stay in favour of truth even though we face many objections in the path of candor.
"And I maintain that if it is patriotic in an Englishman to fight against the Germans if they were to occupy this country, it is much more justifiable and patriotic in my case to fight against the English. I hold the English people responsible for the murder of 80 millions of Indian people in the last fifty years, and they are also responsible for taking away ₤100, 000, 000 every year from India to this country. I also hold them responsible for the hanging and deportation of my patriotic countrymen, who did just the same as the English people here are advising their countrymen to do. And the Englishman who goes out to India and gets, say, ₤100 a month, that simply means that he passes a sentence of death on a thousand of my poor countrymen, because these thousand people could easily live on this ₤100, which the Englishman spends mostly on his frivolities and pleasures. Just as the Germans have no right to occupy this country, so the English people have no right to occupy India, and it is perfectly justifiable on our part to kill the Englishman who is polluting our sacred land. I am surprised at the terrible hypocrisy, the farce, and the mockery of the English people. They pose as the champions of oppressed humanity—the peoples of the Congo and the people of Russia—when there is terrible oppression and horrible atrocities committed in India; for example, the killing of two millions of people every year and the outraging of our women. In case this country is occupied by Germans, and the Englishman, not bearing to see the Germans walking with the insolence of conquerors in the streets of London, goes and kills one or two Germans, and that Englishman is held as a patriot by the people of this country, then certainly I am prepared to work for the emancipation of my Motherland. Whatever else I have to say is in the paper before the Court I make this statement, not because I wish to plead for mercy or anything of that kind. I wish that English people should sentence me to death, for in that case the vengeance of my countrymen will be all the more keen. I put forward this statement to show the justice of my cause to the outside world, and especially to our sympathizers in America and Germany."