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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Here’s Bhagat Singh’s pistol, out of oblivion

Here’s Bhagat Singh’s pistol, out of oblivion

The Tribune tracks down weapon that changed course of history at BSF centre in Indore

Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Indore, November 22
Lying in oblivion for almost half a century as just another of the 294 relics at the Border Security Force’s Central School of Weapons and Tactics in this Madhya Pradesh town, Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s pistol is finally getting revered status here.

Till recently, Assistant Commandant Vijendra Singh, who imparts briefings on the history of weapons to trainees, would talk about a US-made .32 Colt rimless and smokeless pistol as a small chapter in the growth of weapons from 1531 onwards.

All that changed after a four-part series by The Tribune — based on the findings of an Indian historian in Lahore — and subsequent reportage on the possible whereabouts of the freedom fighter’s pistol.

The weapon was used in the killing of British police officer JP Saunders in Lahore on December 17, 1928, and played a pivotal part in the Lahore conspiracy case that saw Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev being hanged and attaining legendary martyr status.

Assistant Commandant Vijendra now devotes a lot of time talking about the weapon and its rich history while the trainees, including a group of DSPs on a refresher course, vie with each other to get photographed with it.

“I am overcome with emotion as I hold the great martyr’s pistol in hand. I have held so many weapons in my long career but none like this one,” says IG Pankaj, who is the director of the BSF weapons’ school.

“No one here had any idea that the pistol belonged to Shaheed Bhagat Singh,” he admits candidly.

After The Tribune furnished details of the pistol to him to look for in the BSF records, a team found an entry in an old register but an obstacle came up next to locate the exact weapon. For preservation purposes as well as for better display, all weapons in the museum are painted black. The staff had to remove the paint to find the real one. “We removed the paint and to our great joy, the number 168896 came out clearly on the barrel with matching details.”

Commandant HS Bedi and other officers of the BSF confide that the discovery of the pistol in their museum was news for them. “It is amazing. It was always here and no one knew it,” he says.

Such is the craze that the museum is witnessing an unprecedented footfall. The weapon is now kept separately in a glass case on a pedestal. But the description about its importance is yet to be displayed alongside.

“We are preparing a special place for displaying the pistol along with Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s portrait and documents at the new museum building that is under construction. We would prepare a gallery of the documents, including clippings of The Tribune that brought the weapon back from oblivion,” the IG says.

In Chandigarh, publisher Harish Jain, who has penned several books on Shaheed Bhagat Singh, can’t hide his excitement. “No photograph of the pistol is available anywhere. This is the first time it would be in public domain.” Co-author and historian Malwinderjit Singh Waraich says it would be a dream come true for him to see the pistol.

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