Why didn't Gandhiji save Bhagat Singh from his death sentence?

Why didn't Gandhiji save Bhagat Singh from his death sentence?

Did Gandhi Ji want Bhagat Singh dead?

Bhagat Singh was one of the most influential and charismatic revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. He was hanged by the British on March 23, 1931, along with his comrades Sukhdev and Rajguru, for the assassination of a British police officer. But did Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the non-violent resistance against colonial rule, want Bhagat Singh dead? Could he have saved him from the gallows if he wanted to?

This is a question that has been debated by historians, politicians and the public for decades. Some believe that Gandhi was indifferent or even hostile to Bhagat Singh and his violent methods, and that he did not make any sincere efforts to intervene on his behalf. Others argue that Gandhi tried his best to persuade the British authorities to spare Bhagat Singh's life, but failed due to the lack of political leverage and the stubbornness of the Viceroy.

The case against Gandhi

Some of the arguments that are used to accuse Gandhi of being responsible for Bhagat Singh's death are:

- Gandhi did not approve of Bhagat Singh's violent tactics, which he considered to be counterproductive and immoral. He believed that violence would only provoke more repression and alienate the masses from the freedom struggle. He also feared that Bhagat Singh's popularity would overshadow his own leadership and challenge his ideology of non-violence.

- Gandhi did not make any serious attempts to save Bhagat Singh until it was too late. He only raised the issue of commutation of death sentences during the Gandhi-Irwin Pact negotiations in March 1931, when Bhagat Singh's execution was imminent. He did not launch any mass movement or civil disobedience campaign to pressure the British government to spare Bhagat Singh's life.

- Gandhi betrayed Bhagat Singh by signing the Gandhi-Irwin Pact on March 5, 1931, without securing any assurance from the Viceroy that Bhagat Singh and his associates would not be executed. He also agreed to suspend the civil disobedience movement and participate in the Round Table Conference in London, which was seen as a compromise with the British imperialism.

- Gandhi did not use his moral authority and influence to appeal to the British public and the King to intervene in Bhagat Singh's case. He also did not mobilize the Indian National Congress, which he dominated, to demand clemency for Bhagat Singh. He remained silent and passive while Bhagat Singh and his comrades were hanged.

The case for Gandhi

Some of the arguments that are used to defend Gandhi from the charge of being responsible for Bhagat Singh's death are:

- Gandhi respected Bhagat Singh as a patriot and a martyr, even though he disagreed with his methods. He acknowledged Bhagat Singh's sacrifice and courage, and praised him as a "true son of India" and a "brave and clean fighter"³. He also expressed his sorrow and sympathy for Bhagat Singh's family and followers after his execution.

- Gandhi made sincere and consistent efforts to save Bhagat Singh from the death penalty, starting from May 1930, when he wrote a letter to the Viceroy, criticizing the unfair trial of Bhagat Singh and his co-accused. He also raised the issue of commutation of death sentences several times during his talks with Irwin, both before and after signing the pact. He even offered to fast unto death if Bhagat Singh was hanged.

- Gandhi was not in a position to force the British government to spare Bhagat Singh's life, as he had no legal or political authority over them. He could only appeal to their sense of justice and humanity, which they did not heed. The Viceroy was adamant that Bhagat Singh and his associates must be executed to deter other revolutionaries and maintain law and order. He also faced pressure from the conservative sections of the British Parliament and public opinion, who wanted to see Bhagat Singh hanged.

- Gandhi did not betray Bhagat Singh by signing the pact or attending the conference, as he did not give up any of his demands or principles. He signed the pact as a temporary truce to create a conducive atmosphere for negotiations and dialogue with the British. He attended the conference as a representative of the Indian people, hoping to secure greater autonomy and rights for India. He did not compromise on the goal of complete independence, which he declared in 1929.


The question of whether Gandhi wanted Bhagat Singh dead or not is not a simple one to answer, as it involves multiple factors and perspectives. It is also influenced by the biases and emotions of the people who ask or answer it. However, based on the available evidence and arguments, it seems that Gandhi did not want Bhagat Singh dead, but he could not save him either. He was caught in a dilemma between his personal convictions and his political responsibilities, between his respect for Bhagat Singh and his disagreement with his methods, between his hope for a peaceful settlement and his reality of a violent conflict. He tried to balance these conflicting forces, but ultimately failed to prevent the tragedy of Bhagat Singh's execution.


(1) Did They Really Happen? 12 Interesting Indian Conspiracy


(2) Gandhi Actually Responsible For The Death Of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev. https://www.youngisthan.in/history/mahatama-gandhi/43648.

(3) Bhagat Singh | Biography, Death, & Facts | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Bhagat-Singh.

(4) What Mahatma Gandhi did to save Bhagat Singh. https://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/bhagat_singh.htm.

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