On 84th Martyrdom’s day Remembering sacrifice of Shaheed Bhagat Singh – icon of yesteryears

While the political parties are fighting with each other and dominating with attacks and counter-attacks of strong words in the newspapers, disrupting the proceedings of the Parliament on the exposure of various scams, I decided to pay a tribute to Legendary Bhagat Singh on his martyr anniversary.
Bhagat Singh, a Sikh was one of the legendary martyrs of the independence movement in India. He was executed by the British for the murder of a British police officer who was believed to have brutally beaten one of the stalwarts of the freedom movement, Lala Lajpat Rai. Bhagat Singh (September 27, 1907-March 23,1931) is remembered as Shaheed-e-Azam. His slogan of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ made a great impact on the youth during the freedom movement. Bhagat Singh studied in D.A.V. College, Lahore where Lala Lajpat Rai was a teacher. Lala Lajpat Rai died a few weeks after the assault and Bhagat Singh, as one of three young men, alongwith Rajgur and Sukhdev, who avenged his death, captured the imagination of the Indian people.
Jawahar Lal Nehru wrote: “Bhagat Singh did not become popular because of his act of terrorism, but because he seemed to vindicate, for the moment, the honour of Lala Lajpat Rai, and through him of the nation. He became a symbol… and within a few months each town and villages of the Punjab, and to a lesser extent in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name. Innumerable songs grew up about him, and the popularity that the main achieved was something amazing”.
The nation is in grip of one controversy after another and seething with anger over the incompetence of our leadership. In such times my thoughts go to a visionary, a great thinker and revolutionary whose words still alive for the generations to come.
Our whole family, especially my uncle, who had been in jail with him in the freedom revolutionary movement inLahore, was a great admirer of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his philosophy. Bhagat Singh, a political thinker, who fought not just for freedom from foreign rule, but also to bring radical changes, in the society in favor of a common man. Bhagat Singh was just 23 years old when the British Government hanged him along with his two other comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev.
When Bhagat Singh was in class nine, he joined the Non-Cooperation Movement. To avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, he killed Saunders on 17th December, 1928 Bhagat Singh was an active member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army. In 1925, he initiated the militant youth organization called the Naujawan Bhrat Sabha. Bhagat Singh exploded bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly, Delhi ni 1929. He was hanged with two comrades on 23rd March, 1931.
Bhagat singh was 16 when he joined the Naujawan Hind Sabha (Hindustan Republican Association), a mass organization of the youth that worked against the exploits of British colonialism. Later, in 1928 he changed the name to The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. His revolutionary view point was very evident from all his writings. He believed in “no exploitation of man by man and nation by nation” and wanted qualitative changes in the society. He thought that the Gandhian philosophy would only result in the replacement of one set of exploiters by another and somehow I feel that it is proving true in the society we are living in.
He said,“There is no use of that independence wherein the power will switch over from whites to our own people. The real freedom is that which has justice and governance in the hands of a common man.”
Bhagat Singh was one of the most prominent faces of Indian freedom struggle. He was a revolutionary ahead of his times. By revolution he meant that the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice, must change. Bhagat Singh studied the European revolutionary movement and was greatly attracted towards socialism. He realized that the overthrow of British rule should be accompanied by the socialist reconstruction of Indian society and for this political power must be seized by the workers.
Though portrayed as a terrorist by the British, Sardar Bhagat Singh was critical of the individual terrorism which was prevalent among the revolutionary youth of his time and called for mass mobilization. Bhagat Singh gave a new direction to the revolutionary movement in India. He differed from his predecessors on two counts. Firstly, he accepted the logic of atheism and publicly proclaimed it. Secondly, until then revolutionaries had no conception of post-independence society.
Their immediate goal was destruction of the British Empire and they had no inclination to work out a political alternative. Bhagat Singh, because of his interest in studying and his keen sense of history gave revolutionary movement a goal beyond the elimination of the British. A clarity of vision and determination of purpose distinguished Bhagat Singh from other leaders of the National Movement. He emerged as the only alternative to Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, especially for the youth.
He was a veracious reader and inculcated this habit of reading and thinking among his associates.
Bhagat Singh was intellectually engaged to Marxism and we all know how he had asked the warden who had come to take him to the gallows to wait until he finished what he was reading.
In his short life span he moved from a romantic idealist to a true revolutionary, who continues to inspire, even now.
“Why I am an Atheist” is one of the pamphlets, he wrote during his stay in jail before execution. Among his many writings this one remains my favorite and a must read for all those who admire him.
The British authorities treated him in the cruelest manner but still they could not crush his spirit. He knew that the struggle for liberation could not be completed without an armed revolution against the imperialist power and by the age of 22 the British were terrorized of him. Punjab was a politically charged state in those days and this provided much inspiration for him.
He was the iconic figure of the revolutionary nationalist phase of the freedom struggle.
Indian freedom struggle was universally acknowledged as a non-violent movement and because of that these heroes of the revolutionary nationalism and their great contribution against the British Raj remained unsung but it left a great impact on the youth and for us they are the real freedom fighters.
The elite, who rule the nation today, may be feeling uncomfortable about his questioning philosophy about the imperialism and economic exploitation. His choice of violence as a method of resistance or his idealistic heroism for which he is rightly was not as significant as his contribution in trying to formulate a revolutionary philosophy and a course of action, taking into account the travails of colonial subjection, on the one hand and the character of internal exploitation, on the other. The youth was disillusioned by the non violent methods of the Indian National Congress and they groped for an alternative path – the revolutionary path.
A question often and unfairly comes to one’s mind, “Why does Shaheed Bhagat Singh have such national and international appeal when many of his contemporaries and fellow revolutionaries, who also sacrificed their lives, do not get the same public adulation?” What I personally feel and believe that the question is overly simplistic and very disingenuous. But it does make one reflect over the phenomenon of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Nowhere else in the world has someone achieved such fame, following and veneration in such a short life?
The best way to keep their sacrifices alive is to commemorate the memory of such icons of yesteryears. The sad part is that as compared to martyr day, Bhagat Singh’s birth anniversary has not been given national importance or accorded official patronage reserved for national heroes and this day goes without any celebrations every year.
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