Shivram Hari Rajguru was born in 1906 at Khed, Poona district; which has been renamed to Rajgurunagar after him. As a boy, his proficiency in English was poor, though he had an excellent memory. At the age of 14 Rajguru ran away from home after being insulted by his elder brother. He had failed in English and as punishment his brother made Rajguru read out his English lesson in front of his new wife. That day Rajguru left his house with only the 11 paise given to him to buy groceries, never to return. He travelled to Nasik, Kashi and then onto Amravati, where he studied gymnastics.
After obtaining his gymnastics degree, Rajguru returned to Kashi. It was around this time that he met Chandra Shekhar Azad, who sent him to meet Bhagat Singh. Rajguru was eventually inducted into Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) and soon became their most enthusiastic soldier. Vanquishing the British became his supreme purpose and he was, not only willing, but desperately to sacrifice his life for this cause. His eagerness for martyrdom was so great that he wished no one, not even Bhagat Singh should obtain martyrdom before him. This eagerness soon earned him the nickname of “Shahadat ke betab badshah” among his comrades in the HSRA.
In due course of time, he was handed his first assignment. His mission, along with Shiv Verma, was to slay a treacherous member of HRA in Delhi. Rajguru, being an expert shooter; was very keen to do well in this task. Shiv Verma and Rajguru monitored their target’s activities regularly. One day, in the absence of Shiv Verma, Rajguru shot at who he thought was his target. He escaped the police by hiding for 2-3 hours in a field full of quagmire and thorny plants. When the police stopped searching, he boarded a train to Mathura and then onto Kanpur, where he met Shiv Verma and learnt that he had shot an innocent man; who looked like his target. Rajguru was inconsolable when he realised his error. He was always ready to kill somebody or die, for the nation; but he never believed in violence without a just cause.
Rajguru soon got a chance to prove himself again when he was chosen to shoot Superintendent Scott and avenge the death of Lala Rajpat Rai. On the chosen day, filled with a sense of purpose, he waited with Bhagat Singh for Jaygopal’s to signal to shoot. Jaygopal was supposed to signal when he saw Scott since he was the only one who knew what Scott looked like. However, Jaygopal made a mistake, his signal pointed to Saunders instead of Scott. Bhagat Singh realised the error and tried to signal to Rajguru not to shoot. But Rajguru was impatient; he shot him in the chest. Seeing this, Bhagat Singh shot a few rounds into Saunders as well, to make sure he was dead. Inspector Fern was at their tail when both of them were fleeing. When Fern caught up with them, they realised that neither of their pistols were working. Fern was about to get hold of Bhagat when Rajguru, showing immense presence of mind, held Fern by his waist and hurled him to the ground. All of them escaped Lahore wearing disguises.
Rajguru was asked to lie low for a while, but he had wanted to participate in the assembly bombing, the non-violent protest against Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill. He argued with Azad to let him be the one to go on this mission instead of Bhagat Singh. When told that the person throwing the bomb would have to give a statement in the court in English, he demanded, “You write the statement that Bhagat Singh is going to give in court and hand it over to me. I will learn every word of it by heart and reproduce it in the court. While studying in Benares I learnt several passages of Sanskrit by heart. Won’t I manage to cram one declaration in English?” His request could not be granted.
Annoyed, Rajguru moved to Pune and stayed low for a while. But when he heard that Bhagat Singh and his comrades were being tried for the Saunders murder case, he gave himself up and confessed to the crime. He was jailed along with Bhagat Singh and the others and joined them with gusto in their indefinite fast to protest against the conditions that the Indian prisoners were kept under. He suffered extreme torture at the hands of the British prison guards, but did not break. As a result of this torture Rajguru contracted severe pneumonia. Bhagat Singh and the others pleaded with him to break his fast. Yatindernath Das just died under similar circumstances and they did not want the fast to lead to another death. Bhagat Singh himself gave him a glass of milk. While giving Rajguru the milk he asked, “Rajguru! Tell me you why were striving to go into the other world before me?” Rajguru replied, “I have always been your servant in my revolutionary career isn’t it? That is why I thought it was a servant’s duty to go to the other world earlier, book an impressive flat there and keep it cleaned for his master.” Hearing this all his companions burst into laughter.
Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to death by hanging for the crime of killing a British officer. On the 23rd of March, 1931 Rajguru was granted his lifelong wish; he, along with Sukhdev, and Bhagat Singh, were hanged unto death for the murder of J.P. Saunders. Rajguru’s was all of 22 years then.
-Arjun Kumanduri and Shruti Reddy Nomula