Our country has been the land where some of the greatest persons were born. We have produced the greatest kings, queens, saints, poets, artists, scientists, thinkers and last but not the least, revolutionaries and freedom fighters. Today, on 23rd March, let us pay our respects to one of India’s daring and inspirational revolutionary—Sardar Bhagat Singh on his 87th death anniversary.
Born on September 28, 1907, Bhagat Singh was sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case, along with other freedom fighters Rajguru and Sukhdev. At the age of 19, Bhagat Singh in a letter to his family when he ran away from his home in Lyallpur (now in Pakistan) had written- “My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore, there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now.”
Such was the desire of this young Indian that he along with fellow freedom fighters- Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad assassinated John Saunders, the British police officer responsible for the lathi charge on Lala Lajpat Rai. In his statement before Lahore High Court Bench, Bhagat Singh had said, “We are neither lawyers nor masters of English language, nor holders of degrees. Therefore, please do not expect any oratorical speech from us. We, therefore, pray that instead of going into the language mistakes of our statement Your Lordships will try to understand the real sense of it.”
During the last years of his life in jail, this young patriot, in the company of his comrades fought one of the most celebrated court battles in the annals of India’s national liberation struggle. Bhagat Singh not only used the court as a platform to promote his revolutionary message, but also threw the focus on the inhuman conditions political prisoners faced in colonial jails.
The writings of Bhagat Singh
Bhagat Singh was a voracious reader, is a known fact. However, very few of us know that he had penned four books in jail. They were to our misfortune smuggled out, destroyed and are lost forever. Having said that, what has survived the test of time is a 404-page jail diary. The diary is said to be a compilation of poems, notes and his notations from whatever he was reading. The book titled ‘The Jail Notebook And Other Writings’, reveal the patriot’s scholarly leanings and love for poetry. They are a sharp contrast to him being projected as a gun-toting revolutionary.
Bhagat Singh read a large number of selected works of prominent authors of his choice. His taste included both political and non-political subjects. Records go on to mention that his favourite authors were Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Charles Dickens, Rousseau, Marx, Rabindranath Tagore, Lala Lajpat Rai, William Wordsworth, Omar Khayyam, Mirza Ghalib, and Ramananda Chatterjee. Those who got a chance to peep into the young patriot’s diary agree of how well read and well informed the young Bhagat Singh was. This is a clear contrast to the trigger-happyy terrorist’ image the British Raj portrayed him to be.
The lines such as “I also wish my friends to speak little or not at all, because idols are created when men are praised and it’s not good for the human race. Acts alone, no matter by whom committed, ought to be studied, praised or blamed.” are words that reflect his repugnance for self-serving politics and personality cults.
Bhagat Singh on what is a revolution?
When he was asked in the lower court his meaning of the word ‘revolution’, Singh in his answer demolished all the stereotypes about revolution. He daringly clarified that ‘revolution’ is not the cult of the bomb and the pistol. He rather regarded revolution as an inalienable right of mankind. Bhagat Singh was a staunch advocate of reorganising the society on a socialist basis. He stated, “The peasant who grows corn for all, starves with his family, the weaver who supplies the world market with textile fabrics, has not enough to cover his own and his children’s bodies, masons, smiths and carpenters who raise magnificent palaces, live like pariahs in the slums.”
Bhagat Singh and his group as many of us mistakenly believe were not just young men with bombs who had no connection with ground reality. In fact, they were men of deep understanding of all political phenomena and had a strong desire for change. Bhagat Singh was not politically naïve. He understood political compromises and also their usability. At a young age of 22, he analysed the Minto-Morley reforms and showed how they wouldn’t do any good to the nation.
Bhagat Singh: Why I Am An Atheist
Bhagat Singh is at times accused of vanity for denying the existence of god. He, in his writings, had logical arguments for his disbelief. He felt that whenever someone goes against popular feelings he would be considered vainglorious. But according to him, “merciless criticism and independent thinking are the two necessary traits of revolutionary thinking.” He wanted society to fight against the belief in god as it fought against idol worship and other narrow conceptions of religion.
When informed of his atheism, one of his jail friends said, “When your last days come, you will begin to believe.” He replied, “No, dear sir, Never shall it happen. I consider it to be an act of degradation and demoralisation. For such petty selfish motives, I shall never pray.”
‘The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting-stone of ideas,’ Bhagat Singh once said. At a time when social inequality rules the roost, a detailed study of Bhagat Singh’s egalitarian ideologies, anti-communal stand and his indomitable fight to remove inequality might hold the key for better times.