The restoration of the ancestral house of Shaheed Udham Singh is nearing completion here, as martyr's 75th death anniversary approaches on July 31.
The property is in the care of the archaeology department since 2001. "Minor works are required from time to time to preserve the originality of the place. The house has weathered many a storm and needs proper protection and preservation," official caretaker Shinghara Singh Gill said on Monday.
The advanced technology of covering the premises with unbreakable glass on all sides could prolong the life of the old and fragile structure, he said. On display in the house are some photographs and 30-odd letters that Udham Singh wrote when he was in the Brixton prison in the UK, where he had even gone on a 42-day hunger strike. His papers are well preserved. One only wishes that the precious historical documents were digitised as well. The visitors' book shows six-to seven entries a day.
For the past fortnight or so, the renovation work has required Udham Singh's belongings and other exhibits to be moved to a temporary place nearby. The building is made of Nanakshahi bricks. One of the restorers, Harmail Singh, said a special kind of "choona" (limestone plaster) was filled between these. "A mix of clay, sheera and jaggery, this cementing material is typical of ancient buildings and secret of their weather resistance," said mason Harinder Singh.
Udham Singh's nephew, Khushi Nand Singh, has a special desire. "If in 1974, the-then chief minister of Punjab, Giani Zail Singh, could bring back Udham Singh's ashes from the UK, why can't the current Akali-BJP government retrieve his belongings? In 1924, Udham Singh was kept in Lahore prison for about four-years-and-a-half. The 'chakki' (mill stone) on which he grinded wheat as punishment in jail should be brought home," says the man who is 100 plus.
Khushi Nand Singh rued that he had to remind the government constantly to remove the rampant encroachment around the house. However, the family is satisfied the way the archaeology department has looked after the property.
Facts about martyr
Born as Sher Singh in Mohalla Peelbad, Sunam, near Sangrur on December 26, 1899 Was a matriculate.
Changed his name to Udhay Singh in 1919
Changed his name again, to Udham Singh, when he joined the Ghadar Party in 1924
In 1940, after killing Michael O'Dywer, who as governor of Punjab supported the Jallianwala massacre of 1919, he assumed the identity of Ram Mohammad
His father, Chuhar Ram, had changed his name to Tehal Singh after becoming a baptised Sikh Udham Singh lost his mother, Naraini, when he was just two
He lost his father at four, and his elder brother, Sadhu Singh, at eight He only had his sister, Aas Kaur, in the family when he died His ashes were brought back to India in 1974