Ashfaqullah Khan [1900-1927] : Freedom Fighter
by Charu Bahri
Ashfaqullah Khan was born in October 1900 to a middle class family of Shahjahanpur, a city that has played a very important role in IndiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s independence movement.
Shahjahanpur city was established by Diler Khan and Bahadur Khan, sons of a soldier in the army of the Mughal emperor Jehangir named Dariya Khan, on land granted to them in appreciation of their services by the subsequent Mughal heir Shahjahan.
Ashfaqullah KhanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s parents had high principles. His father Shafiqur Rahman worked for the police. Although Ashfaqullah was the youngest of six siblings, he harboured patriotic feelings from a young age. He is also said to have been a good poet.
He was initiated into the fredom struggle by Ramprasad Bismil, who hailed from the same city. The duo along with Roshan Singh created a society known as the Mitravedi Sangh led by Gendalal Dixit, to further the freedom struggle by fund-raising.
While they initially focused on collections from the public, the acute paucity of funds they faced inspired them to turn to theft. They believed the money they looted would be used for a good cause, the freedom struggle, as it would enable them to buy arms and ammunition.
These young freedom fighters sought the support of other leaders of the time, but after Mahatma Gandhi distanced himself from their efforts, Ramprasad Bismil founded the Hindustan Association under the leadership of Yogesh Chatterjee. Again, they focused on fund-raising and again when contributions fell short, they turned to robbery.
After a detailed meeting on August 8, 1925 in Shahjahanpur, the revolutionaries set out to rob the Government treasury passing by in a train the next day. Ashfaqullah Khan, Ramprasad Bismil and Chandrashekar Azad were the main conspirers and executors of this plot.
This robbery was successfully implemented and became known as the Kakori train robbery as it took place near Kakori railway station. However, Ashfaqullah Khan and 39 of his accomplices, including the other ring leaders from his city Ramprasad Bismil and Roshan Singh were arrested a few months later. Ashfaqullah was detained in the Faizabad jail. His brother Riyasatullah acted as his counsel and fought his case till the very end, when a death sentence was pronounced. In jail, Ashfaqullah was known to recite the Quran.
On 19 December 1927 Ashfaqullah Khan was hanged. Ramprasad Bismil and Roshan Singh were also hanged in the Gorakhpur and Allahabad prisons respectively.
There are two noteworthy mazars (memorials) in Shahjahanpur, established for Shahid Ahmad Ullah Shah, a remarkable freedom fighter of the 1857 struggle, and for Shahid Ashfaqallah Khan, reminding the world of their selfless sacrifices for their country. The road connecting these two mazars is called Shahid Ramprasad Bismil Marg.