Ashfaqulla Khan was an Indian independence activist and a prominent freedom fighter born on October 22, 1900, to a Muslim Pathan family in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Khan was in his teens when Mahatma Gandhi had launched the non-cooperation movement against the British rule in India. But after 1.5 years of its launch, the Chauri incident in Gorakhpur took place where many non-cooperation protestors set the police station on fire, killing nearly 22 police officers. Gandhi then decided to withdraw the call for this movement.
Many youths, including Khan, felt disappointed by this decision. At that point, he decided to launch an organisation with like-minded freedom fighters, which led to the formation of the Hindustan Republican Association in 1924. It aimed to organise armed revolutions to achieve freedom for the country.
The Kakori Robbery
For buying arms and ammunition to carry out their activities, the revolutionaries of the Association organised a meeting on August 8, 1925, in Shahjahanpur and decided to loot the government treasury carried in the trains. On August 9, 1925, Khan, along with Ram Prasad Bismil, Rajendra Lahiri, Thakur Roshan Singh, Sachindra Bakshi, Chandrashekar Azad, Keshab Chakravarty, Banwari Lal, Murari Lal Gupta, Mukundi Lal, and Manmathnath Gupta robbed the Kakori Express near Lucknow.
More than two months after the incident, police arrested Ram Prasad Bismil on October 26, 1925 but Khan was on the run. Before he fled to Bihar, he hid in a sugarcane field nearly his home for a short period. Later, Khan shifted to Banaras where he worked for an engineering company for ten months. He went to Delhi to find ways to move abroad to learn engineering to further strengthen the freedom movement. So, he took the help of one of his Pathan friends. However, the latter turned out to be an informer and got Khan arrested in his house on July 17, 1926.
Khan was detained in the Faizabad jail and the trial went on for more than a year. It concluded in April 1927 after Bismil, Khan, Rajendra Lahiri, and Thakur Roshan Singh were awarded death sentences. The others were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Khan was hanged to death on December 19, 1927. With this, the man became a martyr and a legend among his people because of his love for the country, unshakeable spirit, grit, and firmness.
The actions of Khan and his companions were depicted in the 2006 feature film 'Rang De Basanti', which revolves around the lives of five friends who play revolutionary characters Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Shivaram Rajguru, Ram Prasad Bismil, and Ashfaqulla Khan in a documentary film. Khan's character was depicted by Kunal Kapoor and Bismil's by Atul Kulkarni.