On the night of 9th August 1925, a group of Indian revolutionaries belonging to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), previously known as the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), looted a train near Kakori, in this train was money being taken to the British Treasury. The revolutionaries required the funds to support their movement. After taking control of the treasure chest, the revolutionaries tried to break it open. When repeated blows failed to open the chest, one of them took over the task, and after a few attempts, he broke open the chest. The name of this person was Ashfaqullah Khan.
Ashfaqullah was born on 22nd October 1990 in Shahjahanpur district to Shafiq Ullah Khan and Mazharunissa. During his school days, Ashfaqullah was so inspired by the sacrifices of the Bengal revolutionaries like Kanailal Dutta and Khudiram Bose, that he was looking for ways to join the movement. The opportunity presented itself when he was in grade seven. The British police raided his school to capture Rajaram Bhartiya, an accused in the Mainpuri Conspiracy Case of 1918. Following this event, Ashfaqullah asked his friend Banarsilal (who later became an approver in the Kakori case) to introduce him to Ramprasad Bismil- who was also from Shahjahanpur and a participant in the Mainpuri Conspiracy case.
Ashfaqullah met Bismil in the year 1920, and their friendship that blossomed ended only with their death in 1927. Over the next seven years, Ashfaqullah and Bismil worked together in the Non-Cooperation Movement, campaigned for the Swaraj party, and carried out missions for the HSRA, which was founded in 1924 by Sachindranath Sanyal, Jogeshchandra Chatterjee, and Bismil himself. As a member of the HSRA, Ashfaqullah took part in many political activities to collect funds for the organization. To raise funds to support their cause, they decided to loot the treasury of the British government. Initially, Ashfaqullah opposed this plan, as he thought their organization was not strong enough to sustain the fallout of the dacoity. Later, he had to agree to it, as the proposal was passed by an overwhelming majority in the organization.
In the aftermath of the Kakori robbery, Ashfaqullah successfully evaded arrest, and with the help of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, escaped from Shahjahanpur and travelled through Nepal to Daltonganj (in present-day Jharkhand), where he worked as a clerk for six months. However, in Daltonganj, Ashfaqullah got bored with the routine bureaucratic work and decided to resume his political activities. He went to Ajmer, where he stayed at the house of a nationalist named Arjun Lal Sethi. In the wake of the Kakori arrests, the HSRA was in total disarray, and the police were on the look-out for the absconders.
Considering the grim situation, Ashfaqullah decided to go to the Soviet Union through Afghanistan. While arrangements were being made for his travel, he was arrested in Delhi on 7th December 1926, when a friend at whose house he was staying betrayed him. Later he was brought to Faizabad and charged in the Kakori Conspiracy Case and sentenced to death along with three other revolutionaries.
In his short but eventful revolutionary career, Ashfaqullah wrote several poems and couplets under the pen name of ‘hasrat’ and ‘warsi’, some of which became the battle cry of future revolutionaries.
When Ashfaqullah was in jail, the British police tried to persuade him to testify against his fellow revolutionaries. They lured him with many promises and even evoked his Muslim identity to persuade him. Ashfaqullah Khan, the true nationalist and patriot that he was, refused to budge from his stance and embraced the gallows happily. Along with his fellow comrades Ramprasad Bismil and Thakur Roshan Singh, Ashfaqullah Khan was hanged on 19th December 1927 in Faizabad. Before he was taken to the gallows, Ashfaq penned this poem:
“Tang aa kar hum unke zulm se bedad se
Chal diye suye-adam zindane Faizabad se”