Ashfaqulla Khan was born on 22nd of October 1900 to Shafiqulla Khan in Shahjanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Ashfaq was in school when Mahatma Gandhi Called the Non co-operation movement. a Movement wherein he called the Indians not to pay taxes to the British and not to cooperate with the British government in any way. This call of Gandhiji had kindled the fire of freedom in the hearts of many, but the Chauri Chaura incident of 1922 where approx 22 policemen were burnt alive in a police station deeply saddened Gandhiji that the called off the Non-cooperation movement.
A lot of youth of the country felt dejected on the withdrawal of the movement Ashfaq was one of them. He felt that India should become free as soon as possible and so he decided to join the revolutionaries and also win the friendship of Pundit Ram Prasad Bismil a famous revolutionary of Shahjanpur.
Ram Prasad Bismil was a member of the Arya Samaj and was eager to explain the greatness of the Hindu religion to those belonging to other religion this was a difficulty for Ashfaq who was a devout Muslim.
But the common intention of both Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaq i.e. Freedom to India helped him to win over the friendship of Ram Prasad.
The revolutionaries felt that soft words of non violence could not win India its Independence and therefore they wanted to make use of bombs revolvers and other weapons to instill fear in the hearts of the British’s empire. The British Empire was large and strong. The withdrawal of the no cooperation movement united revolutionaries scattered in the country. This revolutionary movement required money to support its need. One day while traveling on a train from Shahjanpur to Lucknow Ram Prasad noticed stationmaster bringing money bags into this guards van. This was a beginning of a Dacoity Called Kakori Dacoity
On August 9th 1925 the plan was brought into action. Ashfaqulla along with his other revolutionary friends namely Ram Prasad Bismil, Rajendra Lahiri, Thakur Roshan Singh, Sachindra Bakshi, Chandra- sekhara Azad, Keshab Chakra- varthy, Banwari Lal, Mukundi Lal, Man- mathnath Gupta looted the train in kakori village a wrote a memorable chapter in the History of India's freedom struggle
On the morning of 26th september 1925 Ram Prasad Bismil was caught by the police and Ashfaq was the only one untraced by the police. Ashfaq went into hiding and moved to Banaras from Banaras to Bihar where he worked in an engineering company for 10 months. Ashfaq wanted to move abroad to learn engineering to further help the freedom struggle and so he went to Delhi to find out ways to move out of the country. he took the help of one of his Pathan friend who in turn betrayed him by informing the police about his whereabouts. Tasadruk Khan then superintendent of police tried to play the caste politics with Ashfaq and tried to win him over by provoking him against Hinduism but Ashfaq was a strong willed Indian who surprised Tasadruk Khan by saying "Khan Sahib, I am quite sure that Hindu India will be much better than British India."
The case for the Kakori dacoity was concluded by awarding death sentence to Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, Rajendra Lahiri and Roshan the others were given life sentences. The Whole country protested against the sentence but British Imperialism was Thirsting for the blood of the revolutionaries
Ashfaq was a lion among men he stood six feet tall He walked upright and once at the post he drew the rope towards him Kissed it and said "My hands are not soiled with the murder of man. The charge against me is false. God will give me justice." then he prayed "La ilahi il Allah, Mohammed Ur Rasool Allah."
Ashfaqulla was hanged on 19th December 1927 It has been said by some historians that Ashfaqulla Khan was the first Muslim to be hanged in a conspiracy case. In fact Ashfaqulla Khan in his last message to the nation wrote, "I take pride in the fact that I will be the first and foremost Muslim to embrace death on the gallows for the freedom of my country"
The Train Is Stopped
The No. 8 down train from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow was approaching Kakori on August 9, 1925. The sun was going down in the west.
The train stopped abruptly. Some one had pulled the chain.
Ashfaqulla got off a second class compartment with his friends Sachindra Bakshi and Rajendra Lahiri. He had done the first part of the duty in the Kakori plot that day.
The guard had got off his van by now. He was trying to find out in which compartment the chain had been pulled and why. Two revolutionaries fell on him. They made him lie down on his face. They warned that he would be shot dead if he tried to raise his head. Two others pushed the driver from the engine to the ground and stood guard over him. One revolutionary stood at each end of the train and both fired shots with their pistols. In the meantime theyshouted, "'Travelers! Do not be afraid. We are revolutionaries fighting for freedom. Your lives, money and honor are safe. But take care not to peep out of the train."
Four young men entered the Guard's Van. They managed to push the box to the ground. It had a strong lock. Neither the driver nor the guard had the key. There was an opening on the top; through this opening they could drop - money bags into it. But nothing could be taken out of it.
The revolutionaries started dealing blows with hammers to break it open. But even ten hard blows with iron hammers could not break the box. Ashfaq who was keeping guard saw this. He was the strongest of the group. He handed the pistol in his hand to his comrade, Manmathnath and ran towards the box. He dealt blow after blow on the opening of the box to widen it. The metallic sound of his heavy blows echoed through the silent and lonely place.
The British Court of Justice
In this way the police tried to win him over to their side and failed. They charge- sheeted him in the court. By this time the Kakori Case had progressed much; the case against Ashfaq was combined with it. A committee had been formed to defend the accused in the main case. Pandit Motilal Nehru, father of Jawaharlal, was the chairman. There were eminent men like Jawaharlal, Sriprakasha, Acharya Narendra Deva, and Govind Ballabh Pant and Chandra Bhanu Gupta on the committee.
After some progress had been made in the case against Ashfaqulla, Sachindra Bakshi was arrested at Bhagalpur. He was tried in a lower court separately and then the cases against both Ashfaq and Bakshi were combined and tried in the Sessions Court as one.
Both of them tried to behave as if they did not know each other. But they were very good friends and had worked together in the party. Now that they were charge- sheeted together and met in the court they could not pretend to be strangers. They embraced each other in the court with great emotion. The officers of the jail remarked, 'We too had been waiting for the reunion of Rama and Bharata."
Life in prison had made Ashfaq very pious. He grew a beard. He said his prayers
regularly. During Ramzan he fasted very strictly. Now and then the friendsdiscussed
religion. Sachindra Bakshi had no faith in God. But Ashfaq used to say, "I consider the unseen power as supreme. It is above us and is greater than the world. That is my faith. But you do not agree. Faith is an entirely personal matter." He believed that religious faith is the greatest concept uniting God and man in a single principle. His considered opinion was that it was not a matter for discussion in the streets.
The main case and the complementary case relating to the Kakori train robbery came to an end. The Court of Justice under the British rule gave its judgment. Ramaprasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan,
Rajendra Lahiri and Roshan Singh were to be put to death; the others were given life
The whole country protested against the death sentences. Members of the Central
Legislature represented to the Viceroy that the death sentences should be reduced to
life sentences. Appeals were sent to the Privy Council, the highest court in those days.
But British imperialism was thirsting for the blood of the Indian revolutionaries.
'Death comes but once;
Why fear it?'
So Ashfaq has sung in one of his poems. This is the faith of all revolutionaries. The four revolutionaries sentenced to death died with a smile-on their lips. They had only one prayer: they wanted to be born again in India so that they could fight for the freedom of the country. And so they became martyrs.
The Kakori Rail Dacoity..........
In the Dark Shadow of Death
Ramaprasad Bismil wrote his auto- biography (the story of his own life) in the prison a few days before his death. Had the authorities known about it, it would not have seen the light of day. But Rama- prasad had it secretly sent out of prison. He has given a moving account of his friendship with Ashfaq. He says, 'I remember clearly my first meeting with you in Shahjahanpur School; we met after the British Government declared its policy towards India. You were sincerely trying to meet me. You wanted to talk to me about the Mainpuri plot. I suspected your intentions because you were a Muslim and I talked to you in an insulting way. You were then greatly pained. You tried to convince me through friends that you were honest and earnest and that there was no pretence in you. You were determined to work hard for the good of the country. At last you won the day. By your efforts you won a place for yourself in my heart.'
Ramaprasad describes with great warmth how his friendship with Ashfaq grew after he had pulled down the walls of suspicion. He says, 'You became my brother in a few days' friendship. But you were not content to remain in the position of a brother. You wanted equality; you wanted to be one of my friends. You succeeded in your efforts. You became my honored and loved friend. Every one was surprised. I was a devout member of Arya Samaj; you were a devout Muslim. They wondered how we could be friendly.I used to invite Muslims to become Hindus. I lived in the hostels belonging to Arya Samaj. You never troubled yourself about it. Though my friends suspected you, you always walked the straight path firmly. You also used to visit the Arya Samaj Hostel. When there was a clash between the Hindus and the Muslims some of your people scolded you and called you a 'Kaafir' (non-believer). But you never joined them. You always supported Hindu-Muslim unity. You were a true Muslim and a great patriot. If you worried about any thing it was about Hindu Muslim unity. You wanted them to work for the betterment of the country. When I wrote an article or a book in Hindi, you used to ask me why I did not write in Urdu; you wanted that the Muslims also should read it. You learnt Hindi and became a scholar in it. You also used Hindi words while speaking at home. This surprised all.'