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212. Ashfaqullah Khan

Ashfaqullah Khan was born in October 1900 to a middle class family of Shahjahanpur, a city that has played a very important role in Indias 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 Khan 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.

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The 1925 Kakori train robbery, one of the most daring attacks by Indian revolutionaries against the British Raj, was conceived by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan. The idea was to loot a train for money to carry out their revolutionary activities against the British. Towards freedom

Ashfaqullah Khan Warsi was a devoted Muslim, handsome young man hailing from a rich and religious Muslim family. When he was born on October 22nd, 1900 in ShahJahanPur, Uttar Pradesh, his family celebrated the arrival of this beautiful child and prayed for its long life and well being. When he grew up, he indulged himself in swimming, horseback riding, and hunting. He had a great sense of humor, a very friendly demeanor and was a fun to be with person. At the same time he was deeply inclined towards arts, literature and poetry. Since his younger days, he was very interested in social work and politics of the time. 

In ShahJahanPur, a devout Arya Samaji, Ram Prashad Bismil used to organize marches and group meetings to rally support for the struggle, under the banner of Inqelabi Party. There was no place for Muslims in this initiative, neither were any Muslims trusted . Asfaqullah Khan and Ram Prashad Bismil were schoolmates, and knew each other very well. One day they joined hands, and even though one of was a devout Arya Samaji and the other a devout practicing Muslim, they started working together for the common goal of liberty and freedom for their people and their country. Side by side with great freedom fighters like Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Ramanath Panday, Makandilal Gupt and Yoges Chatarjee, Ashfaqullah Khan, along with his other friends and supporters, plunged into the struggle for freedom.
In the year 1920, Khilafat Movement and Gandhiji’s Civil Disobedience Movements were reaching the four corners of the country. Ashfaqullah and RamPrashad Bismil traveled to far reaching villages on foot, spreading the word, inviting people to join the struggle for freedom. Both were eloquent speakers and people came in droves to listen to them. They had to face all kinds of difficulties in their work, but they kept going and helped take the movement to its peak all across the country.

A meeting of the Inqelabi Party took place on Aug 6, 1925 at the residence of Ramprashad Bismil, where it was decided to extend the activities of the party across the country and to purchase arms from outside the country to support the struggle. To fund the purchase, it was decided on Ramprashad Bismil’s suggestion to loot the train that carries the money for the central treasury.
On Aug 9, 1925, ten workers of Inqelabi Party boarded a passenger train to Lucknow, laden with revolvers, hammers and other arms, in second class coach, Ashfaqullah Khan, Chandranath Bakshi and Rajendarnath Latrey while the rest in the third class compartment. One of the pulled the ‘chain’ and stopped the train, when the guards reached the compartment, he was made to lie down on the ground at gun point, one person captured the engine driver and then the state treasury box was pulled out of the compartment. Ashfaqullah Khan and Makandi Lal Gupt broke opened the box while the rest of the gang were exchanging gunfire with the police. The gang then ran off with the bags of money. (also known as Kakori Train Robbery, the plot in the 2006 Bollywood movie Rang De Basanthi is inspired from this)

Such a daring act was never committed before, it gave the Inqelabi Party great coverage in the newspapers, and the news of their bravery reached four corners of the country. Police started to round up workers of the Inqelabi Party, with the help of clues found near the site and the help of some defectors, the Police arrested Ramprashad Bismil in Shahjahan Pur itself. Ashfaqullah Khan masquerading himself as a Kayest, slipped away and found some employment in Dalton Ganj to mingle with the crowd in order to continue his struggle. He quit his employment and moved to Delhi, where he was captured by the police and brought to Lucknow. A case was registered in the session court and he was tried for looting the treasury and various other ‘crimes’. He was convicted and the judge gave his decision to hang him to death.
From his cell, Ashfaqullah Khan wrote a note to the people of his beloved country: “It is incorrect that we wanted to spread terrorism in the country, we simply wanted to bring a change to achieve freedom for our country. The judges accused us of terrorism, murder and a shame to the society, while General Dyer killed hundreds in Jaliyan Wala Bag and fired mercilessly at innocent women, children and the old. My fellow country men and women, whatever religion you practice, unite and join the fight for the freedom of our country. I am dying as a Muslim, I am proud of that, my last Salam to all of you. May India win freedom, may all of you live in peace and happiness’
At exactly 6:00 AM, the cops took him from his cell to be hanged. Looking neat and clean, holding the holy Quran in his hand, reciting verses from the Quran, smiling, Ashfaq started ascending the stairs. He held the noose in his hand, kissed the rope and said “I have never murdered anyone, my hands are clean, the accusations are all wrong, now I will get justice from Allah SWT”, and then he put the rope in his neck with his own hands. When they asked him if he had any last wishes, he read the following couplet (from Bahadurshah Zafar’s poem)
Kuch aarzo nahi, hai aarzo toh ye hai, Rakhde koi zara si khaak-e-watan kafan may 

Shaheed Ashfaqulla Khan
The President, Shri K.R. Narayanan paying floral tributes to Shaheed Ashfaqulla Khan on the occasion of his birth anniversary in New Delhi on December 18, 1999.
The Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also present on the occasion.

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