Last (and Best) Read of 2016: Complete Tribunal Proceedings (With Sukhdev’s Remarks)

On 7th September, 1930, the tribunal in the Lahore Conspiracy Case (King-Emperor vs Sukhdev and Others) pronounced varying sentences to the young men who were accused of ‘waging war against the King-Emperor’. Of the fifteen men at the end of the trial, the majority got transportation for life, three were acquitted while two got RI for five to seven years. Three: Rajguru, Sukhdev, and Bhagat Singh, however, got the death penalty. The copy of the proceedings was provided to the Revolutionaries. Sitting in his Cell No. 13, waiting for the day of martyrdom, Sukhdev made a close study of the proceedings. A man with a remarkable memory and dubbed ‘the brain of the conspiracy’, he wrote down the correct version of the events in the margin. These marginal notes, made in green ink, expose the hollowness of the exalted British sense of justice. There are tutored witnesses, coercion, false statements by the approvers, all that the British Raj flaunted in the way of ‘fair-dealing’.

That copy, in possession of Sukhdev’s younger brother, Mathra Das Thapar, was handed-over to the National Archives of India and had been on my TBR for a very-very long time. Unistar Publishers, who are doing a yeoman service to the study of the Revolutionary movement in India, have brought out this in the form of a book, and on the last day of this year I have finally completed the mammoth book, though I wouldn’t have minded it going on and on. Sukhdev’s comments: satiric, tragic, wondering, add another dimension to the court-proceedings. At one point of time, as he reads, a compatriot spilling out the party’s secrets, he writes: “I believed him too much. Many a times, I revealed to him what I should have not. It was unnecessary on my part to take him to Jora Mori house. I committed the same mistake when I took him to Kashmir House Building.”

At another place, this astute observation:” So many come everyday in every hotel. How is it that every witness identifies only approvers.”

Best Read of 2016. And the one book I can’t wait to get back to.

Finishing this book is bitter-sweet. I am very happy that I completed it in these last 10 days of December but there is a sense of loss too. As long as I anticipated reading this book or flicked through it, I had something to look forward to. While reading it, it felt as though I was in that intensely exciting period of the late twenties and that I was listening to Sukhdev but now that it is over, it feels as though he really has departed. Do you feel that way too after reading a book that you had waited for long?


With these rather melancholic thoughts, I wish you all a very happy 2017.

“Aane wala ‘kal’, ‘aaj’ hua”
Jo ‘aaj’ hua,’kal’ kehlaya….
Weh saal gaya, yeh saal chala…”



FIR filed by Hamilton Harding, Senior Superintendent of Police, in the Court of R.S. Pandit Sri krishan, Special Magistrate, against the following accused:

1. Sukhdev alias Dayal alias Swami alias Villager, son of Ram Lal, caste Thapar Khatri of Mohalla Arya Samaj, Lyallpur.

Ed. Malwinderjit Singh Waraich, Mrs. Rajwanti Mann, Harish Jain
Pub. Details: Chandigarh: Unistar, 2010.
Pages: 688.

4 thoughts on “Last (and Best) Read of 2016: Complete Tribunal Proceedings (With Sukhdev’s Remarks)

  1. Neeru – Books like the one you review are important in keeping people today in touch with the struggles of yesterday. And I know well the feeling of reading a long book that you hate to see end. I am in the middle of one such book right now. Happy New Year!


  2. Thanks for your very kind comment. Indeed, the struggles of yesterday should not be forgotten. I look forward to your post on the book that you'd hate to finish:). Hope the new year is progressing nicely.


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