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Lala Hanwant Sahay

North East Delhi, Delhi

September 30, 2021 to October 31, 2021


Source: National Archives of India

Lala Hanwant Sahay was born in 1883 to Munshi Shiv Sahay, who was a famous literate and possessed the knowledge of Persian language. His ancestors belonged to the Ministerial family working under the Sultan of Jaunpur. In Amroha, your family is known by the name of Baktawar Singh. Hanwant Sahay pursued education till matriculation from the St. Stephens School, Delhi. Since the very beginning, there was truthfulness in his person. He was secular by nature.

Hanwant Sahay was influenced by the writings of Arvind Ghosh, to the extent that he went to meet him in Kolkata and incorporated his ideology. Under the leadership of Master Amirchand Shahid, he established a community library and reading room in Kinari Bazar, Dariba Kalan, Delhi. Meer Manzoor and Sayyid Haider Raza were the prominent members of the community schools established by Hanwant Sahay. Personalities such as Master Amirchand, Master Awadhbihari and Master Ganeshilal used to teach here on an honorary basis. These schools were shutdown after some time since they were viewed by colonialists with an eye of suspicion. Under the editorialship of Sayyid Raza, Aaftab was published to propagate the ideology of the party. This publication was also banned by the Raj.

In the year 1900, drawing inspiration from the verses of Swami Vivekanand he got motivated for the cause of nation. He was associated with the popular patriot Lala Hardayal. Both of them shared an interest in literature. He got motivated towards political literature by reading: i) Congress ke adhyaksh-bhashan, and ii) British Raj mein gareebi. He actively participated in Swadeshi Movement in the year 1906.

In the early phase of the Indian freedom struggle, the political alignment in the region of Delhi and Punjab were opposite. In Delhi, the British failed to insight communal disharmony. Whereas in Punjab, the Muslims did not appreciate the ideology being propagated by extremists. In order to appease this situation, Lala Hanwant Sahay was sent to Punjab. There he successfully worked with the students of Islamiya College and inspired them towards nationalist literature. He also tired to inspire the youth in the remote villages of Punjab, but with little success.

In the year 1912-1913, the British came across papers related to the party during a raid. From 1913, Hanwant Sahay began residing in Solan. Investigation was started from his person. He alerted the party members in Delhi. Unfortunately, despite his efforts, 150-200 party members were arrested by the colonial forces.

When Hanwant Sahay was arranged to leave for America in the year 1914, he was arrested at the last moment. On 4 March 1914, he was arrested on the charge of murder under section 302. For a duration of 15-20 days, he was interrogated concerning the bombing on Lord Hardings by the officers of CID (Deputy Superintendent Bhagwan Das and Superintendent Mr. Berry). The court case was conducted for a period of 8-9 months; after which he was punished for life imprisonment to Kala Pani (Cellular Jail). Upon the appeal filed by him in the Lahore High Court, his sentence was reduced to seven years. He was released from jail in the year 1920.

Later, for participating in the Non-Cooperation Movement he faced imprisonment in 1921 and 1930 for four and seven months, respectively. In 1942, he was again arrested and for not abiding by the conditions of release he had to face another court case. During this trial, he became ill. He was released from jail due to ailing medical conditions. In 1943, he mobilized 400 activists and formed the Congress Organizing Committee and became a President thereof.

Lala Hanwant Sahay was closely associated with Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. Against the decision of Congress, he actively participated in and headed the All India Day celebrations conducted by Netaji.

He was a freedom fighter belonging to the soil of Delhi. The national capital draws inspiration from the great martyr to this day.

Source: Dr. Divya Sethi, Ministry of Culture