When the simon commission visited Lahore on 30 October 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led a march in protest against it. The superintendent of police, James A. Scott, ordered the police to lathi charge (use batons against) the protesters and personally assaulted Lala Lajpat Rai, who was injured.
Rai died of a heart attack on 17 November 1928. Doctors thought that his death might have been hastened by the injuries he had received. When the matter was raised in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the British Government denied any role in Rai’s death.
The HSRA vowed to avenge Rai’s death. Bhagat Singh conspired with revolutionaries like Shivaram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar, and Chandrashekhar Azad to kill Scott.
However, in a case of mistaken identity, the plotters shot a 21-year-old British police officer, John P. Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, as he was leaving the District Police Headquarters in Lahore on 17 December 1928.
Saunders was felled by a single shot from Rajguru, a marksman. He was then shot several times by Bhagat Singh, the postmortem report showing eight bullet wounds.
While escaping, Chanan Singh, a Head Constable who was chasing them, was fatally injured by Chandrashekhar Azad’s covering fire.
They then fled on bicycles to pre-arranged safe houses.
On 19 December 1928, Sukhdev called on Durgawati Devi, sometimes known as Durga Bhabhi, wife of another HSRA member, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, for help, which she agreed to provide.
After that, Singh and Rajguru, both carrying loaded revolvers, dressed in western attire (Bhagat Singh cut his hair, shaved his beard and wore a hat over cropped hair), and carrying Devi’s sleeping child, Singh and Devi passed as a young couple, while Rajguru carried their luggage as their servant.
There they boarded a train for Lucknow since the CID at Howrah railway station usually scrutinised passengers on the direct train from Lahore.
At Lucknow, Rajguru left separately for Benares while Bhagat Singh, Devi and the infant went to Howrah, with all except Singh returning to Lahore a few days later.
Escape & Further Activities of Bhagat Singh:
Chandra Sekhar Azad adopted a simple method. He got up a pilgrim party for Muttra, with old ladies and gentlemen, and in the capacity of a Brahmin Pandit in an orthodox style, escorted himself out of Lahore!
After their escape, in confidential circulars to Police Officers, instructions were laid down to arrest Bhagat Singh whenever he could be found. Special Police Officers were deputed to trace out his whereabouts. Police-constables who-knew him were posted at big junctions, and a strict watch was kept by the Railway Police.
In spite of such extreme measures, Bhagat Singh roamed about undaunted. The success of the Saunders murder had brought prestige to the party, and it created much sensation among the students. Henceforth, monetary conditions of the party began to improve.
For some time, Bhagat Singh had been exploiting the power of drama as a means to inspire the revolt against the British, purchasing a magic lantern to show slides that made his talks interesting about revolutionaries such as Ram Prasad Bismil who had died as a result of the Kakori conspiracy.
There was not much difficulty for Bhagat Singh to get entrance into the inner circle of the revolutionary organizations in Bengal.
His conversations with some old revolutionaries opened out to him the need of manufacturing bombs. With this purpose in view he began to look out for a trained expert who could teach their party the complete process in the manufacture of bombs.
In 1929, he proposed a dramatic act to the HSRA intended to gain massive publicity for their aims. Influenced by Auguste Vaillant, a French anarchist who had bombed the Chamber of Deputies in Paris, Singh’s plan was to explode a bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly.