Lahore had been an epicenter of revolutionary and reformist movements of subcontinent long before the partition of India. 

British administration had always seen the city as a fault-line. They knew that the lithosphere of the city could change the whole landscape of the British Sub-continent.

Hence, the sudden death of Lala Lajpat Rai in November 1928, a great revolutionary and reformist, during the peaceful protest rally against the Simon Commission that had come to British-occupied India to suggest constitutional reforms, was a serious blow for the British Raj after about a decade of Jalianwala Massacre.

Lala Lajpat Rai had great influence on the politically motivated youth of India, especially in Punjab.

Bhagat Singh, a charismatic socialist revolutionary, decided to take revenge for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.

Like many other revolutionaries, he was an old student of National College of Lahore which was established by Lala Lajpat Rai for those students who were boycotting the colonial education. Or if one can say forthrightly, he was directly or indirectly making a group of young revolutionaries who were either enrolled at his college or part of his alumni. These included Bhagwati Charan Vohra – a forgotten revolutionary but an enthusiastic member of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), a revolutionary organization that was established in Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi by Chandrasekhar Azad – Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and many others.

HRSA was previously known as Hindustan Republican Association and its manifesto The Revolutionary was produced before the court as evidence in Kakori conspiracy case in 1925. Bharat Naujwan Sabha was more like a public face of HRSA, of whom the Bhagat Singh was president.

To cut the long story short, HSRA's leadership and activists had required explosives, ammunition and weapons. Therefore, HSRA established two bomb factories in Lahore and Saharanpur (India) respectively.

Are you shocked? Bomb factory in Lahore about nine decades ago? Yeah, it is not only true but the bombs being made in Lahore's factory were also used in revolutionary activities for some time. 

The HSRA's activities got momentum in December 1928, when Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Rajguru mistakenly shot dead the Lahore's Superintendent of Police John Saunders. The actual target was James Scott whom they blamed for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.

Only one person, Head Constable Chanan Singh, had seen them but he was shot dead by Azad.

They successfully escaped from the spot and gathered at a house in Mozang Road, to make a strategy to leave the city as they considered it unsafe to remain in Lahore.

As Kuldip Nayar, a celebrated Indian author and journalist, writes in his book The Martyr: Bhagat Singh… Experiments in Revolution:

"Strangely, they had planned the assassination meticulously but had paid little attention to their escape."

Finally, on the advice of Sukhdev Thapar, they decided to leave Lahore but it was not an easy task.

They had needed a foolproof plan to escape the city. Police and security personnel were here, there and everywhere.

The trio, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev decided to take the help of Durga Devi, an active member of HSRA and the wife of Bhagwati Charan Vohra who was Propaganda Secretary of HRSA at that time. So they left the Mozang House and knocked the door of Room No 69.

The room was used as a safe haven by young revolutionaries.

Bhagwati Charan Vohra was out of the city but he had given a huge amount about four or five thousand rupees to his wife to use in case of emergency.

Bhagat Singh and his comrades successfully dodged the police and secret services and reached Calcutta. Meanwhile, Azad had also absconded from the city. 

Since the killing of SP Saunders, British administration and security officials had been trying to find a clue to Bhagat Singh and his associates, but they didn't succeed till the bomb blast on Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi.

But take a breather. This story is going to take an interesting twist.

Durga Devi, after spending some time in Calcutta, returned to her Room No 69 in Lahore.

Durga's husband Bhagwati Charan Vohra had also spent some time in Calcutta and learned bomb making techniques from Jatindra Nath Das, an active socialist revolutionary who died in Lahore prison after 64 days long hunger strike on 23 September 1929, and applied his newly developed skills to further strengthen the goals of HSRA.

Sukhdev and many others joined the team of bomb makers soon – some historical sources claim that Sukhdev was the responsible for establishing the bomb factory in Lahore.

British Raj failed to find and arrest Bhagat Singh and his associates in spite of vigorous efforts.

Then one day Bhagat Singh and his associate Batukeshwar Dutt burst on the scene, as they exploded two improvised bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly.

They dropped the leaflets from the visitors' gallery on the members of the assembly sitting in the lower portion of the building and shouted slogans Inquilab Zindabad.

They also allowed the officials to arrest them.

But about 400 kilometers away from Delhi in Room No 69, the thirst of revolution was still thriving.

The team of young revolutionaries were making bombs. One of the team members was the legendary musician Khwaja Khurshid Anwar! He used to steal chemicals from his college laboratory which was later used for bomb making.

But where was this mysterious Room No 69 located and who was the owner of this place where the first known bomb-making factory of Lahore had started working?

It is important to mention that Room No 69 had a symbolic and practical importance in the resistance movement against the British imperialism.

It hosted a whole lot of young and energetic activists from Bengal to UP and Delhi to Punjab.

The Room No 69 was rented in the name of Durga Devi and she lived there with her husband Bhagwati Charan Vohra and a son Sachindra Vohra.

The room or apartment no 69 was located in the premises of Kashmir Building on McLeod Road Lahore.

After Partition the Kashmir Building was converted into a hotel in 1952. In 1988 the original building was razed down and a shopping plaza and hotel was built on that space, which is near the iconic Laxmi Chowk and at present a popular name of the hospitality industry of the city.

After the bombing on Central Legislative Assembly, the secret bomb factory Lahore was discovered soon.  Sukhdev and his many associates were arrested. 

Famous author Bakhshish Singh Nijjar narrates the whole episode in these words:

"Sukhdev set up a bomb factory in the Kashmir Building at Lahore. Pandit Kishori Lal, one of his associates, was once noticed by the police, carrying some empty shells and the police followed him in his track and thus got a clue to the factory. The shells were of the same type as were used in the central assembly and a number of arrests were therefore affected." 

The proceedings of the trial began on 10th of July 1929 and 32 persons were declared culprits, seven of them turned approvers. Some historical sources claim that Khwaja Khurshid Anwar was one of them. He was jailed for two years on terrorism charges but later acquitted after surrendering.

Fortunately, Azad, Bhagwati Charan Vohra and eight others were not present on the scene. Therefore, they were declared absconders.

Azad later shot himself during a long shootout with police in Allahabad on 27 February 1931.

However, Sukhdev Raj was arrested and later hanged with Bhagat Singh and Rajguru in Lahore District Jail on 23 March 1931. 

In the meantime, the struggle of Bhagwati Charan Vohra had taken a tragic twist.

He had continued making bombs and explosives and he was making a plan to use them for the escape operation for his comrades from the prison.

Bhagwati Charan Vohra, on December 23, 1929, planned and executed the bomb blast under the train of Viceroy Lord Irwin on the Delhi-Agra Railway Line.

Viceroy Lord Irwin and another prominent passenger of the train Mahatma Gandhi escaped unhurt, but this action unearthed a new debate on the ethics of revolutionary activities.

Thus, Bhagwat Charan Vohra penned down the famous article The Philosophy of Bomb.

He died on 28th May 1930 when he was testing a bomb that he devised to rescue Bhagat Singh and his other associates in the thick forest near the bank of River Ravi. Unfortunately, the bomb accidently exploded before time and Bhagwati Charan Vohra severely wounded and died on the spot.

His last words showed his commitments towards his ideals and associates.

"Had this death been late by two days I would have attained more success before dying. Now that desire of mine remained unfulfilled."

Ironically Bhagwati Charan Vohra was initially suspected, in the revolutionary circles, as a CID agent because he belonged to a rich family of Gujarati origin and apparently he had no reason to join the ranks.

Bhagat Singh and his associates fought for the freedom of India against imperialist British Raj from Lahore's Room No 69. Unfortunately the citizens of Lahore intend to disremember this significant part of their history.