Amar Shaheed Hemu Kalani !!
Hemu Kalani belongs to that rare band of revolutionaries and martyrs of the Indian freedom movement whose indomitable spirits broke new resistance and for whom tortures of imprisonment had no meaning and death sentence held no terror. At the tender age of nineteen years he was happy to make the supreme sacrifice for the liberation of his motherland. He was aptly described as ‘Abhimanyu’ of the Quit India Movement and one of the greatest martyrs of India. Hemu Kalani is a fine example of indomitable courage and an unflinching devotion of being one of the youngest martyrs of India.
Son of Jethi Bai and Pesumal Kalani, Hemu was born at Sukkur in Sindh (now in Pakistan) on 23rd March, 1923. He belonged to a middle class Kalani family of Sindh. Hemu’s father Pesumal was a businessman and Jethi Bai was a very religious and kind hearted housewife. Hemu was brave and patriotic right from his childhood.
Hemu completed his primary education at Sukkur and higher education at the famous Tilak High School-Sukkur. In 1942 he passed his matriculation examination.
Spirit of Freedom Movement:
As a young boy, Hemu was influenced by the activities of his uncle, late Dr. Mangharam Kalani, who was a prominent Congress leader of Sukkur and a veteran freedom fighter. Inspired by his uncle’s example, he joined the Swaraaj Sena (A Student Organization) and became its leader. He often used to lead the boys of his locality with the tri-colors in his hands. Along with his friends, he used to plead for boycotting all foreign goods and to take an active part in persuading people to use swadeshi goods. He was soon drawn to revolutionary activities and started participating in political meetings, processions, ‘prabhat pheries’, picketings, shouting full-throated slogans of ‘Inquilan Zindabad’ and “Bharat Mata Ji Jai”.
Quit India Movement:
In 1942, when Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi gave the clarion call of “Quit India” and the slogan “Do or die”, the atmosphere in the country became highly surcharged. Gandhiji’s call to the people was aimed at stirring the people that either we win our freedom or die working for it. The struggle between the people and the British Administration had intensified. Almost all the Congress leaders were arrested and imprisoned. In the absence of their leaders, students, workers, farmers, men and women, boys and girls, took the movement into their own hands and began attacking post offices, railway and police stations. The police tried to repress them through bullets and arrests. A strong, well built athlete, an expert cyclist and a prize winning swimmer, Hemu was deeply moved by the stirring events of those days, and he decided to play his role in the struggle. He had read the inspiring story of Sardar Bhagat Singh and of his martyrdom. Hemu Kalani also joined the mass movement. There was such active participation from the people of Sindh Province in this movement that the British rulers were compelled to send special troops consisting only of European.
In October 1942, Hemu Kalani came to know that British troops and ammunition would be arriving in Sindh by a train passing through his town. He decided to derail the train by removing the fishplates from the railway tracks. He and his friends were severely handicapped in not having any tools for loosening the nuts and bolts and for removing the fishplates. However, before they could complete the job, they were spotted by the British troops and Hemu, in his effort to save his friends, was caught.
Walking in the Footsteps of Martyrs:
At that time martial law was enforced in Sindh due to Pir Pagaro’s ‘Hur Movement’. His case was referred to a Martial Law Court at Hyderabad, which after a prolonged trial, found him guilty of treason against the government and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He was tortured brutally by police to give out the names of his friends but he refused to do so he took the entire blame on himself. He told the police and the court that if it was right for the foreign rulers to crush the freedom struggle by resorting to arms and ammunition, he, on his par, was fully justified in attempting to destroy those very arms and ammunition.
The Martial Court of Sukkur forwarded its judgment of life imprisonment for the approval of Col. Richardson, the Chief Officer at the Head office at Hyderabad (Sindh). He was strongly against the revolutionaries and could not digest a young boy was challenging the British authority. With strong feeling of revenge, he converted the life imprisonment of Hemu Kalani into death sentence.
The People of Sindh shocked at the verdict, petitioned for the mercy to the viceroy but the death sentence was to prevail unless Hemu turn an approver and gave information regarding his fellow revolutionaries. There was no question of Hemu accepting these conditions and he welcomed the impending death cheerfully. This young freedom fighter and revolutionary was hung on 21st January 1943.
Protest over Death Sentence:
The entire nation was shocked at such a harsh punishment for the one who was so young. While Hemu’s parents and his admirers moved heaven and earth to have his death Sentence altered, Hemu himself was a picture of calm and composure, unruffled at the dreadful prospect of losing his life. He died with a smile on his face and the slogans “Inquilab Zindabad” and “ Bharat Mata Ji Jai” on his lips.
The whole nation was sad about this severe sentence on a young man in his teens but the then rulers rejoiced. An appeal for mercy was preferred to the Martial Law Administrator Colonel Richardson by some of the most influential of Sindh like Jamshedji Mehta, Sadhu T. L. Vaswani, Peerzada Abdul Sattar, Swami Harnamdas and Veerumal Begraj. Unfortunately, this appeal was mercilessly turned down with this sentence changed to “Death by Hanging” at Sukkur Jail.
Tribute by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru:
On 26th January 1943, while addressing the thirteenth Independence Day Celebration Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru pad a rich tribute to Hemu Kalani in the following words:
“My mind traveled to Sindh where a few days ago a young boy, named Hemu aged 20 was sent to the scaffold by a martial law court for the offence of tampering, or attempting, to tamper, with railway lines. He was a college student, recently matriculated. Whether his offence was properly proved or little proof is needed by a military tribunal functioning under martial law –I do not know. But this execution struck me as something which will have far-reaching consequences all over India, especially among the young. He bold of Hemu and others will long stand witness…”
During his visit to Sindh in 1945 Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru paid homage to the martyr by calling on his mother at his residence. The senior officers of ‘Azad Hind Fauj’ of Netaji Subhash Bose also honored martyr Hemu by awarding gold medal to the members of his family. The Sindhis out of love and affection call Hemu Kalani as Bhagat Singh of Sindh. Sadhu Vaswani paid tribute in the following poetic words:
Sadhu Vaswani on martyr Hemu Kalani:
“Beloved Hemu! A true Hero were you, A Martyr amongst Martyrs! Astonished I stand looking into your eyes, gentle with overflowing love for your country men! May your memory remain enshrined in every heart for ever and ever! As we bow down to your heroic memory, in deep reverence, blowing bugles of victory, O Beloved of mine heart Broken and bleeding still is our Bharat, for our poor are still in shackles. Bharat is not yet prosperous. May you ever release again and again, the nation-building power that emerges from the bold of the martyrs, and through this, May Bharat, the land of your youthful sacrifice Ever grow fresh and strong and pure and free!
Commemorative Stamp in the honor of Hemu Kalani:
The Government of India issued a postal stamp to commemorate Hemu’s martyrdom. It was released by the Prime Minister, Smt. Indira Gandhi, on the 18th October 1983. at the Vishwa Sindhi Sammelan held at Delhi. A cassette record dedicated to the mother of the martyr Smt. Jethi Bai was also presented on this occasion.