Martyrs' Day Special: Introduction to making of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and compatriotsShaheed Bhagat Singh is widely recognized as perhaps the most famous and respected revolutionary of the freedom movement of India. Although he along with his two comrades Sukhdev and Rajguru was hanged by the colonial regime at the extremely young age of 23. Author : Priyanka Vinayak
Shaheed Bhagat Singh is widely recognized as perhaps the most famous and respected revolutionary of the freedom movement of India. Although he along with his two comrades Sukhdev and Rajguru was hanged by the colonial regime at the extremely young age of 23, he had already won so much affection and respect that in vast parts of India his fame rivaled that of Gandhi. This has been acknowledged by the official chronicler of the Congress party. His death (and that of his two colleagues) was mourned by millions across India, from Punjab (his home province) to Tamil Nadu. Many of them wept openly. Political and other differences were set aside as the vast nation was united by tears over the loss of its most beloved sons. indeed, there were appeals against this death sentence even from the base of the imperial power, from Britain. While details of this inspiring saga of Shahid (Martyr) Bhagat Singh have been published widely, nevertheless there remain significant gaps in acknowledging the many-sided achievements and contributions of this remarkable youth, one of the most accomplished among the young leaders of world history. While his predominant role has been that of a freedom fighter, this encompassed many distinguished roles as a scholar, writer, journalist, disaster relief worker, civil liberties activist, and socialist ideologue, all of which he performed with great merit. Among many dedicated comrades, he emerged as almost a natural leader, a reality acknowledged spontaneously by people.
On the lighter side, more by force of circumstances (the need to hide his main identity) he also worked for some time as a school teacher (actually a headmaster) and even a small-time dairy entrepreneur (where he is reputed to have distributed free a substantial share of the milk to employees and friends, remonstrating with his annoyed mother that milk should be distributed among all). Even more significant are the gaps relating to acknowledging the contributions which Bhagat Singh and his colleagues also made to non-violent struggle during the period of their jail sentences, as also their assertion of the importance of non-violent struggles and sustained organizational work among peasants and workers. Their significant work for resisting violence and discrimination based on religious divide has not received due recognition, as also their commitment to the rights of Dalits (castes who faced widespread discrimination as untouchables). Last but not the least, while Bhagat Singh's many-sided accomplishments at a very young age evoke admiration and awe, the family influences which made this possible have not been adequately explored. Bhagat Singh's remarkable consciousness and yearning for justice even at the age of 12 to 14 have been frequently cited. We must know what made this possible and contributed to this. This paper seeks to fill some of these gaps.
CHILDHOOD AND FAMILY INFLUENCES
Bhagat Singh was born on September 28, .1907 at Banga Village (now in Lyallpur district of Pakistan). At age 9 he heard about the efforts of the Gadar Party in which 8000 emigrees returned from America,Canada and South East Asia to liberate lndia, particularly its 19 year old leader Martyr Kartar Singh Sarabha who became a source of great inspiration. Incidently Martyr Kartar Singh Sarabha studied in Cuttack Orisa was one year senior to Neta jee Subhash Bose. He was influenced by Matyr Jatin Bagha . He was moving force to establish Jugantar Ashram the head quarter of Gadar Party in San Francisco USA. He was main help to Lala Hardyal. Bhagat Singh chooses him as his ideal. In 1919 many innocent people were killed by security forces in the most cruel way at Jalianwala Bagh, Amritsar. At the age of 12 years Bhagat Singh insisted on going to Amritsar to pay his homage to those who were killed and brought back a handful of blood soaked soil from the sight of massacre. With his sister Amar Kaur he put flowers on this soil, as if paying homage to those who had died. He concluded that how cruel is the foreign ruler. At the age of 14 we find him observing closely the massacre at Nanakana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak. 150 Sikhs were killed, including children as young as seven, by the Udasi Custodian Mahant Narayan Das and his mercenaries, in retaliation for a confrontation between him and members of the reformist Akali movement who accused him of both corruption and sexual impropriety.
Bhagat Singh visited the memorial service on 4th March 1921. He discovered the message of Guru Teg Bahadur the ninth Sikh guru , sent from Delhi before his martyrdom, at the hands of the Mugul rulers. The massage was clear that ,to be liberated empower yourself . To empower one self is by healthy living , studying to understand the cause of problems , organizing and working for removing weakness. Later he articulated .” Our real battle is against our own disabilities which are exploited by the enemy and some of our own people for their selfish motives. “ These weaknesses are communal-ism and cast-ism. ln November the same year we find him writing (in a letter to his grandfather) about the preparations of an impending railway strike. At the age of 14 we also see him getting involved in the non-cooperation movement and participating in activities like burning bonfire of foreign cloth. He left school at the call of Gandhi . At the age of 15-16 we see him establishing contacts with revolutionaries and immersing himself in studying revolutionary literature. At the age of 16 we see him leaving home for some time with a message for his father that his life is now dedicated to the freedom of India. This is quite an extraordinary childhood and to understand the ‘making of Bhagat Singh‘ we need to understand the equally remarkable family in which Bhagat Singh was born and brought up. Bhagat Singh's grandfather Arjun Singh was a man of strong feelings for social reforms like birth right of daughters ,removal of castism, education of women as well as freedom of lndia. In his family he often told stories of his own grandfather Fateh Singh who had helped Muslim tenants to get land rights and later unlike other big landowners, refused an offer to get more land by entering into a deal with the British. This happened at the time of the great struggle for independence in 1857. Refusing the offer Fateh Singh said that better follow the teaching of Guru Gobind Singh is that as a principle we should stand with the struggle for justice. Arjun Singh carried this tradition further and provided conducive conditions for his three sons to join freedom struggle and reform movements. He set high standards for good relationships with farm workers. He provided free medicare to the needy and encouraged his wife Jay Kaur also to do so.
At a time when education of girls was frowned upon, he gave the name 'Vidyawati' to his eldest daughter in law (mother of Bhagat Singh). He encouraged his daughters-in-laws to carry out various constructive activities to help villagers like educating girls and providing a helping hand to the needy. He along with his wife and other family members supported the upbringing of about 22 orphan children, most of whom later contributed to the freedom movement with dedication. At the time of the thread ceremony of his two grandsons Jagat Singh and Bhagat Singh he said, "l dedicate them to the freedom struggle of the nation." The eldest son of Arjun Singh was named Kishan Singh (father of Bhagat Singh). At a young age he worked with great dedication for, earth quake , flood and drought relief work. . Then he joined the freedom struggle with equally strong resolve, helping Gadar Revolutionary Party effort, going to jail several times and enduring much hardship. He was also active in the efforts for improving jail conditions. (Bhagat Singh also later worked with great dedication in flood relief work in Kanpur in 1926) (Again a role that was taken up further by his illustrious son Bhagat Singh). Kishan Singh's wife Vidyawati supported her husband bravely in his various activities, apart from helping in bringing up many orphan children. At a later stage, her courage and firm resolve received nationwide admiration. When her son Bhagat Singh had been hanged and her two other sons Kulbir and Kultar as well as daughter Amar Kaur had been arrested, she challenged the colonial government saying, "You can kill me but you can't bend me." No less inspiring for Bhagat Singh was his uncle Ajit Singh. In cooperation with other leading freedom fighters like Sufi Ambaprasad, Lal Chand Falak ,Lala Hardayal and Lala Lajpat Rai , he quickly took forward many initiatives like farmers’ movement against unjust taxes and publication of inspiring literature. (Both these aspects were later emphasised also by Bhagat Singh). He led a successful public agitation popularly known as Pagri Sambhal Jatta , which forced the colonial rulers to withdraw unjust tax rules imposed on farmers. Ajit Singh impressed freedom movement's leader Lokmanya Tilak so much that Tilak announced at Surat Congress 1907 that when India becomes free; Ajit Singh should be the first President of India and honored him with a special head gear . However due to his brilliance and rapid progress the colonial government was expected to take strong action against Ajit Singh. So at the age of 26 he had to leave India in 1909 and for 37 years he worked for freedom of India in various countries outside India, returning to India and died on 15th August 1947 at the dawn of freedom. Bhagat Singh cherished memories and anecdotes about his uncle. Ajit Singh's wife Harnam Kaur came from a family with strong Sufi influences. She helped villagers with educational and medical services, and spinned a lot of khadi thread (this was an integral part of the various constructive works taken up by freedom movement). Arjun Singh's third son (and Bhagat Singh's younger uncle) was named Swaran Singh. He started his social activities with working for orphans and for drought and earth quake relief. Then he participated very actively in the freedom movement including publication of freedom literature. He was arrested for publication and became seriously ill in jail. On his release he couldn't recover and died at the young age of 23. His wife Hukam kaur continued to help in the family's many struggles. As a child, Bhagat Singh sympathised with both his aunts. Harnam's husband had to leave the country he loved so deeply. Hukam had lost her husband at a very young age. Thoughtful child that he was, Bhagat linked his family tragedies to the oppressive foreign rule. Growing up in such a family Bhagat Singh was constantly exposed to stories of glaring injustices of foreign rule, the extreme distress of people and the valour of people who opposed this injustice. The family had a rich collection of literature on these issues and Bhagat Singh started reading all this at a very young age. From this family which challenged prevailing social and religious norms and supported reforms Bhagat Singh got a strong sense of rationality and reasoning based on reality and facts. This was a family which despite suffering many sided oppression and economic loss continued to care for workers, poorer families and orphans. Bhagat imbibed strong concerns of siding with poor and deprived people. This family had tried to embrace what was best in many rich traditions as well as reform movements and freedom movement, and all this contributed to the very remarkable qualities seen in Bhagat Singh at a very young age.
PREPARING FOR A WIDER AND DURABLE NATIONAL ROLE
Bhagat Singh completed the first four years of his education in his village and after this he came to Lahore for further studies. Here he heard and read a lot about the valiant struggles of the Gadar Party. About 8000 Indians living abroad had come to India with strong hopes and aspirations of securing the freedom of their country. They did not succeed, but their courage and particularly the leadership role of Kartar Singh Sarabha had a lasting impact on many youths of Punjab (and other parts of India) including Bhagat Singh. Bhagat Singh's school education was disrupted by his involvement in freedom movement, and later he had to study hard to rejoin the National College at Lahore. Here he came in contact with revolutionaries and read a lot of revolutionary literature. Then to avoid family pressures for marriage, he left for Kanpur at the age of 16. Bhagat Singh's first stay in Kanpur was for only six months but he came here again after some time. His time spent at Kanpur was of course devoted to his revolutionary activities and but it also had some other aspects. Here he was involved in flood-relief work with great dedication. He also worked for some time as a teacher/headmaster in a National School at Shadipur in Aligarh district.
He established a close friendship with B.K. Dutt and learnt Bangla from him to directly read Kazi Nazural Islam and memoirs of Bengal Revolutionaries. Above all, in the inspiring company of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, he improved his skills as a journalist and political commentator, and wrote many articles for 'Pratap', the famous newspaper edited by Vidyarthi. His writing continued to progress and it was published in several journals. Thus even though several writings of Bhagat Singh have been lost, he has left behind many writings of durable and historical interest which continue to inspire many people specially youth in India even today. Bhagat Singh accompanied his father Kishan Singh to the Belgaon Congress session 0f 1924 where Kishan Singh introduced him to leaders like Nehru and Subhash, to impress that to play effective role in freedom struggle one must be highly learned. Here he also had a long sitting with Bengal Revolutionary Nirlamba Swami. ‘ Back in Punjab Bhagat Singh proved his abilities as an organiser in the mobilisation at his village Banga to help activists participating in the liberation of gurudwaras from the control of procolonial occupiers. Defying the government's orders for not helping any of these activists marchers, Bhagat Singh mobilised rural communities to welcome and provide hospitality to activists marchers passing through their villages. The success of Bhagat Singh's mobilisation also raised possibilities of his arrest, and so Bhagat Singh went to Delhi. Here apart from continuing his journalism work Bhagat Singh also played a very courageous role in the efforts to check communal tensions. His roommate Deenanath Sidharthalankar recalled that Bhagat Singh stepped into very high-risk situations to reason with angry people and calm them down. A similar prioritisation for resisting communalism and asserting the unity of people is evident in the activities of Bharat Naujawan Sabha.
Bhagat Singh teamed up with close comrades Iike Bhagwati Charan Vohra , Sukhdev and Ramchandra to form Naujawan Bharat Sabha, an organisation of youths which motivated them to rise above religous bigotry and castism to participate in the wider mobilisation of people for communal harmony, for attaining freedom on socialist basis and fighting injustice and inequality caused by colonial policies. Back in Punjab he took keen interest in writing for Kirti an Urdu and Punjabi paper established by Gadrites. He wrote on many topics of concern. His writings about Kakori heroes led to his arrest in 1927 by police. He was subjected to much harassment and intensive interrogation, but nothing could break him and the authorities had to release him on a bail of Rs. 60,000. The photograph on cot was taken by police at this time. This police experience instead help him test his strength of commitment. The year 1921 saw two world events in contrast, the Indian non-cooperation movement failing to achieve the desired result but the Irish movement succeeding to get dominion status. In 1924 the memoirs named My Fight For Irish Freedom by Dan Breen was published, Bhagat Singh translated it in Hindi and got it published so that they could understand and learn from Irish success story at that time. During his Kanpur days Bhagat joined the organisation of revolutionaries named Hindustan Republican Association (HRA). However in the Kakori case several leading members of HRA were arrested. Four of them were sentenced to death. This led to a very difficult situation for remaining members including Bhagat Singh and the more senior leader Chandrashekhar Azad. Bhagat Singh went through a period of intense introspection. As he wrote later, "Up to that period I was only a romantic idealist revolutionary. Uptill then we were to follow. Now came the time to shoulder the whole responsibility. Due to the inevitable reaction for some time the very existence of the Party seemed impossible. Enthusiastic comrades - nay leaders - began to jeer at us. For some time I was afraid that someday I also might not be convinced of the futility of our own programme. That was a turning point in my revolutionary career. "Study" was the cry that reverberated in the corridors of my mind. Study to enable yourself to face the arguments in favour of your cult. I began to study. My previous faith and convictions undervent a remarkable modification. The romance amongst our predecessors was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith. Realism became our cult. Use of force justifiable when resorted to as a matter of terrible necessity: nonviolence as policy indispensable for all mass movements. So much about methods. The most important thing was the clear conception of the ideal for which we were to fight. It was as a result of this intense introspection and discussion based on this that when leading members of the HRA from different provinces met for an important review in Delhi (Firozshah Kotla) on September 8-9, 1928, they took a very important decision to add 'socialist' to the name of their organisation. Thus the new name the organisation obtained was ‘Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
Bhagat Singh played the most important role in this decision. This was to make clear the socialist concept of free India because the ban of British rule was great inequality . It was announced in manifesto of Naujwan Bharat Sabha as follows
“The future programme of preparing the country will begin with the motto: “Revolution by the masses and for the masses.” In other words, Swaraj for the 90%; Swaraj not only attained by the masses but also for the masses. This is a very difficult task. Thought our leaders have offered many suggestion, none had the courage to put forward and carry out successfully and concrete scheme of awakening the masses. Without going into details, we can safely assert that to achieve our object, thousands of our most brilliant young men, like Russian youth, will have to pass their precious lives in village and make the people understand what the Indian revolution would really mean. They must be made to realise that the revolution which is to come will mean more than a change of masters. It will, above all, mean the birth of new order of things, a new state. This is not the work of a day or a year. Decades of matchless self-sacrifice will prepare the masses for the accomplishment of that great work and only the revolutionary young men will be able to do that. A revolutionary does not necessarily mean a man of bombs and revolvers. “
Responsibilities of Bhagat Singh also increased as he and Bijay Kumar Sinha were made responsible for the co-ordination of the organisation in various provinces. Bhagat Singh also changed his rustic easily identifiable look by hair cut at Ferozepur on way back from Delhi meeting on 15th Sep,1928. Events moved at a brisk pace after this. There was a lot of anger in the country at the violence unleashed at the people and leaders who had gathered to protest against the Simon Commission at Lahore. This violence was widely believed to be the cause of Lala Lajpat Rai's death soon after. There was a lot of despondency in the country at the inability to do any-thing while a national-level leader died from such an attack. Mrs Basanti Devi wife of great leader C R Dass threw a challange to youth to act to beak this state of despondency. The HSRA reckoned that strong action against the perpetrators of this attack will help to turn this inertia into a new confidence to move forward on the path of independence. In a much discussed action in December 1928 a police official Saunders was shot dead, (while another police official had to be injured to make the escape possible, he died of bleeding because no body cared for him ,instead were busy with the British officer). Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Durga then escaped in well-planned disguise to Culcutta, where leading revolutionary Bhagwati Charan Vohra received them with warmth and congratulated his wife Durga at the well-planned and daring escape. Here they observed the Congress session and then moved to B.K. Dutt's village near Burdwan for further planning. The decision to establish a revolutionary centre at Agra was taken and a library with a good collection of revolutionary books was set up. The need for further action that could focus people's attention on the limitations and weaknesses of the colonial government's reforms and hence prepare people for a more forward looking path towards independence was strongly felt by the HSRA. Hence a plan was drawn out that when the central legislature will debate highly unpopular bills to curtail civil liberties and curb trade union rights, one or two specially prepared bombs will be thrown in the legislature by HSRA members in such a way that they'll cause minimal damage and certainly not any loss of life. This was precisely what Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt did on 8 April, 1929, throwing bombs with such precision and care that apart from a big noise and the resulting mayhem, only a few bruises were caused and few empty benches were destroyed. Bhagat Singh and Dutt then voluntarily handed their revolvers to security personnel, all the time throwing leaflets explaining their stand and also shouting revolutionary slogans. This was in a spirit of Satyagrahi but with a revolutionary zeal , that if you challenge the system then stand with determination to face consequences and propagate your view and convince the world with your arguments. Courageous as these actions were, these did not necessarily succeed in the aim of the HSRA to win much more widespread support, at least not to the extent that the revolutionaries had hoped for. But these did influence the politics of the time. The slogan raised in Assembly “Down with British Imperialism and Long live Revolution.” started echoing every-where. The beauty of this slogan is the dialectical relation of national and international exploitation and liberation from missery . More arrests were made than was anticipated and HSRA members were linked to a big conspiracy to overthrow the British Imperial rule and in the series of actions included the Saunders case. Two Year Battle Fought From Prison - How Handcuffed Prisoners Defeated Biggest Imperial Power Despite all these limitations and adversities, after their imprisonment Bhagat Singh and his comrades by their courage and noble conduct were able to inspire and mobilize millions of people for a greater participation in freedom movement. This period of the imprisonment of Bhagat Singh and his close comrades thus became one of the most glorious chapters in the freedom movement of India and indeed in all liberation struggles. During these two years April 1929 – March 1931 Bhagat Singh and his close comrades can justly be credited with not only defying but even defeating the world's biggest imperial power from behind the bars. The more the colonial government tried to repress and torture them, the more reverence and affection they received in the entire country because of the courage and determination with which they faced the onslaught. This is why the colonial power with its vast reach and strength was defeated by its handcuffed prisoners.
Much more than their own defence, Bhagat Singh along with B.K. Dutt and other comrades concentrated on focusing attention on rights of all political prisoners and issues concerning this. In the course of the various struggles of the freedom movement, a large number of political prisoners (mostly freedom fighters) were all the time being imprisoned and the terrible conditions in jails posed a serious threat to their life and health much beyond the punishment to which they were sentenced by the legal system. Bhagat Singh and his close comrades went on fasts ranging from 60 to 95 days to demand the essential rights of all political prisoners. Secondly, despite the fact that the colonial government was violating all norms of justice to rush up the case against Bhagat Singh and his close comrades, denying various essential rights to the accused, Bhagat Singh and his colleagues worked very hard to present their views and ideology in careful, well-thought-out ways. As a result it became increasingly clear to people that these revolutionaries had actually taken all care to save human lives in the Assembly Bombing Case. A terrorist generally tries to take more human lives, whereas these freedom fighters had taken the maximum precaution to ensure that there was no loss to human life. This was evident in the way the bombs were prepared, and the way in which these were used. They had also given away the revolver on their own to security-men, although they could have used these weapons to make good their escape. lt was becoming increasingly clear to the people from the conduct and statements made by the revolutionary prisoners that far from indulging in any indiscriminate violence, they had planned their activities very carefully keeping in view only the interests of their country and the freedom movement for which they were willing to make any sacrifice and bear any hardship. This became apparent from the courage and nobility with which they faced torture and beatings. They endured fasting for very long periods. Even as they saw their own health and the health of their dearest friends collapsing before their eyes, they did not surrender. Paralysis gradually spread from one part of the body of fasting freedom fighter Jatindranath Das to another part, and yet he did not break his fast. Prison authorities used to mix milk in the water, so that when they drink water the fast of the revolutionaries would automatically break. Instead of drinking this milk-mixed water, the thirsty prisoners simply broke the pitchers containing this water. When the authorities tried to force feed them in a cruel way, the prisoners still resisted so much that they were injured. Ultimately fearing loss of life due to force feeding the jail officials had to discontinue these efforts. As news of such acts of courage and determination spread, the support for these revolutionaries grew rapidly in the country, just as these young freedom fighters had hoped. In a paper ‘Bhagat Singh as Satyagrahi', (Modern Asian Studies 43, 3 -2009) Neeti Nair has summarised the impact on the nation, "Soon after news of the hunger strike spread, 30 June 1929 was observed as Bhagat Singh-Dutt Day in a majority of districts in the Punjab. In Lahore, 10000 people attended a meeting organised by the City Congress Committee... ,The Tribune reported that thousands of Lahorians had expressed their solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoners by fasting that day.... Bhagat Singh and Dutt were hailed as the honour of Punjab and Bengal.... Volunteers from the Congress and the youth leagues marched in procession with red banners carrying photographs of the hunger-striking prisoners bearing the inscription "all for country's honour sixteen young men are starving to death‘. "When the success of these processions unnerved the administration and Section 144 was suddenly imposed, Congress, Ahrar and Akali leaders including Sardar Mangal Singh and Zafar Ali Khan courted arrest by shouting the newly banned slogan 'lnqui|ab Zindabad‘ along with members of the newly banned Naujawan Bharat Sabha“ , "The Satyagraha Committee won its first victory when the District Magistrate was forced to modify his order and release the defiant demonstrators. The Naujawan Bharat Sabha celebrated its victory by announcing that 21 July will be celebrated as All India Bhagat Singh- Dutt Day. The proposed programme included fasting, processions, the collection of funds for the Conspiracy Case Defence Committee and meetings to explain the purpose of the hunger strike and protest the treatment of political prisoners." . When fasting freedom fighter Jatindra Nath Das died on September 13, 1929 after a continuous fast of 63 days, "50000 funeral processionists marched through Lahore. The Central Legislative Assembly passed a motion of adjournment to censure the government for their policy regarding the hunger striking prisoners in the Lahore Conspiracy Case .... .. In the Punjab, Drs. Muhammad Alam and Gopi Chand Bhargava resigned from the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Subhas Bose led the miles-long funeral procession in, Calcutta.... Rabindranath Tagore was inspired to compose a song. "Later, when Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to death, Bhagat Singh Appeal Committees were established in every district of the Punjab. At a Bhagat Singh day on 17 February 1931, colleges emptied out into streets, 15000 people met in Lahore.
Over 138000 signatures seeking the commutation of the death sentence were sent by the All Punjab Bhagat Singh Appeal Committee to the Viceroy. Amritsar, a public meeting organised by the Workers and Peasants Party demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners. The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee insisted that commuting the death sentence was an essential condition for peace." Indeed the protest against the glaring unjust trial and death sentence even reached Britain where an appeal titled ‘Stop the Lahore Executions!‘ was signed by thousands of British workers and people. This appeal stated, "We, the undersigned electors in Great Britain, emphatically protest against your sanction being given to the sentences, including three death penalties, passed by the judge in the Conspiracy Case at Lahore, lndia, after a trial, the character of which arouses the gravest misgivings. "We are aware that the twenty-seven Indian youths accused in this case were not only tried without a jury but by the special personal instructions of the Viceroy. Extraordinary regulations were adopted to conclude the trial without regard to the usual procedure. "We regard the sentences passed under these circumstances as a violation of justice and demand that they should be disallowed by you. If the three death sentences are put into operation, we shall hold you and your Government responsible for sanctioning what amounts to the murder of political opponents under the guise of official judicial sentences. "Without entering into the question whether there was any justification at all for the trial of the accused men at Lahore, whose conviction could only be obtained by such extraordinary means, we desire as strongly as possible to press our views upon you that there should be in all cases, without exception, an open, normal trial by a jury of the countrymen of the accused persons." Invaluable Contributions of Great Relevance to Our Times lt is clear that Bhagat Singh and his colleagues with hardly any resources and working in very adverse situations were able to create a massive impact in terms of creating high levels of commitment and courage for the freedom movement. This they achieved by their personal example of great courage and noble conduct, and also by careful planning of how to make the best possible use of their very adverse circumstances to somehow take their message in a very convincing way to people. ln all of this Bhagat Singh as strategist played a very significant role. The impact of the fasts and other courageous actions of Bhagat Singh and his colleagues could be specifically seen in the Congress moving rapidly towards the goal of full freedom (Complete Independence) from colonial rule. He and his colleagues also made it amply clear to people that they did not believe in indiscriminate violence and greatly valued human life. All misunderstandings on this score were cleared by him in his article “Why I am Athiest” , Bhagat Singh wrote very clearly, "nonviolence as a policy indispensable for all mass movements" while force is justifiable only "when resorted to as a matter of terrible necessity." During the trial, Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt said in a joint statement, "We hold human life sacred beyond words.“ When asked to define 'revolution' they said equally clear that it did not mean the cult of ‘bomb and pistol‘. The similar message was reiterated to Punjab Student Conference Lahore. Basic changes in the existing system rooted in injustice and inequality are needed.
The system of capitalism and imperialism has to be confronted on a wider scale to remove the basic causes of exploitation and injustice. Only then conducive conditions will emerge for ending war and establishing real and stable peace based on justice. World level fraternity based on equality in the true sense was emphasised by Bhagat Singh. On another aspect of peace, Bhagat Singh gave very high priority to ending all sectarian conflicts based on narrow and aggressive interpretations of religious beliefs. He was very active on this front in Punjab, Delhi and Kanpur, establishing close collaboration with others like Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi who were very devoted to this work. Naujawan Bharat Sabha formed by Bhagat Singh and his colleagues was very active on this front in adverse situations and helped to check the spread of communalism. Bhagat Singh also gave very high priority to the strong mobilisation of dalits for ending discrimination and exploitation within lndian society. He assigned great importance to social revolution based on the mobilisation of dalits and this also was a part of the freedom struggle. He called upon the dalits to get united and challenge the entire society against the injustices suffered by them for so long. At the same time he warned them against the manipulations of bureaucracy of the capitalist system to misguide and use them for its own ends. Bhagat Singh called upon the youth to mobilise workers and peasants as they are the real strength of the movement. Bhagat Singh equally emphasised workers and peasants, city slums and village huts. The establishment of a socialist system was emphasised by Bhagat Singh, as is evident from the fact that largely on his insistence the name of their organisation was changed from Hindustan Republican Association To Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. He was of the opinion that the only solution to inequality social , economic and political lie in the establishment of socialism with Indian parameters. He would declare that for social change what is needed is ,” a scientifically oriented social dynamic force .” So young are to be prepared to be free of mysticism and be realist. All this remains highly relevant for India today and a lot of this is also relevant in the international context. It is amazing that Bhagat Singh as the leading ideologue of his organisation was able to formulate such mature agenda at an age of 20 to 23 years. All the time he was extremely tied up in various activities of his party or he was jailed, yet he was able to study and write extensively. Finally, all these ideas could be used in such a way as to inspire millions of people only because of the immense sufferings that Bhagat Singh and his comrades were able to face with great courage and nobility of conduct. lt is the combination of all these achievements which makes Bhagat Singh one of the greatest freedom fighters of India and also one of the most inspiring figures of all liberation struggles who continues to inspire millions of people even today.‘
The programme of achieving complete Independence was strategized in the document dated 2nd Feb 1931 which is being published here . The united left movement was iplementing that led by Neta Je Subhash Bose who in a gathering of laks of peasent declared at Ramgarh on 19th March 1940 , “No Compromise with Imperialism.” and was arrested immediately.
Let us remember that in 1924 when after collapse of Non-cooperation movement called by Gandhi the communal forces were on rise and RSS was the product of that , where as Bhagat Singh and compatriots established Nujawan Bharat Sabha , to prepare youth for fight against , Imperialism and these allied forces of communalism and castism . He called for revolutionary passion in following words.
“The sense in which the word Revolution is used in that phrase( Inqulab Zindabad), is the spirit, the longing for a change for the better. The people generally get accustomed to the established order of things and begin to tremble at the very idea of a change. It is this lethargical spirit that needs be replaced by the revolutionary spirit. Otherwise degeneration gains the upper hand and the whole humanity is led stray by the reactionary forces. Such a state of affairs leads to stagnation and paralysis in human progress. The spirit of Revolution should always permeate the soul of humanity, so that the reactionary forces may not accumulate (strength) to check its eternal onward march. Old order should change, always and ever, yielding place to new, so that one "good" order may not corrupt the world. It is in this sense that we raise the shout "Long Live Revolution"
2024 is going to be the centenary year of the Bhagat Singh Youth movement. Let us work for reviving the spirit in a befitting way.
Prof Jagmohan (Nephew of Bhagat Singh)
All India Forum for Right To Education
Shahid Bhagat Singh Creativity Center