One moment the meeting was a relaxed gathering of eminent statesmen, diplomats and others interested in India. The next minute the assembly was in turmoil, with one statesman dying and three others wounded.
London’s Caxton Hall was the venue of the meeting on MARCH 13th, 1940, of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society.
Brigadier-General Sir Percy Sykes had delivered a lecture and the gathering was dispersing when a man who had been standing in a gangway moved forward, drew a revolver and began shooting.
Sir Michael O’Dwyer, a former Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, received two fatal bullets in the back. Others wounded were Lord Zetland, who had chaired the meeting, Lord Lamington and Sir Louis Dane.
The gunman was swiftly overpowered, his revolver falling to the floor. He was found to be Udham Singh, a 39-year-old unemployed Sikh, and his motive turned out to be political.
His remarks to the police showed that he was aware of his actions, and they were intentional. But in his statement made later that day he claimed he had not intended to kill anyone. He said he had wanted only to make a protest.
Awaiting trial, he staged a hunger strike, had to be forcibly fed, and his spectacles were taken from him in case he was suicidal. The prison doctor who examined him, however, found no sign of insanity.
At his trial Udham Singh claimed he had raised his revolver only to make a protest, but someone had pulled his arm down, with the result that Sir Michael was shot in the back.
After 90 minutes’ deliberation the jury found Singh guilty, and before he was sentenced he tried to make a political speech. But his speech cut short and he was sentenced to death. Then his appeal was dismissed, and he was executed.