Remembering Bhagat Singh At 75 years of Martyrdom
One of the founders of communist movement and party in India Muzafar Ahmad wrote in Bangla about his meeting with Bhagat Singh in 1926. Naujwan Bharat Sabha was formed that year and a year prior, communist party came into existence at Kanpur. Abdul Majid of Peshawar and Muzaffar Ahmed had been imprisoned in Kanpur Bolshevik conspiracy case and Bhagat Singh had came to pay his regards to Muzaffar Ahmed at the house of his co-prisoner and comrade Abdul Majid. Naujawan Bharat Sabha was a mass organization of youth formed by Bhagat Singh to expose the exploitative character of Bristish colonialism through mass meetings. Thus from the very beginning of Bhagat Singh’s active political life, his inclination towards communist movement is quite obvious. And it is not without reason that eminent historian Bipan Chandra wrote in an introduction to Bhagat Singh’s ‘ Why I am an Atheist ‘ in seventies , that ‘ During 1925 to 1928 , Bhagat Singh read voraciously, devouring in particular books on Russian revolution and Soviet Union, even though getting hold of such books was in itself at the time a revolutionary and difficult task . He also tried to inculcate the reading and thinking habit among his fellow revolutionaries and younger comrades .xxx Already by the end of 1928 , he and his comrades had accepted socialism as the final object of their activities and changed the name of their organization from Hindustan Republican Associations to HSRA’.Adding word ‘socialism’ was quite significant and the main motivation to add socialism word originated from Bhagat Singh. And it was not a vague kind of socialism, which Bhagat Singh was carrying in his mind.Bhagat Singh accepted socialism as a concept by going through books on Marxism and experiences of Soviet Union.Books on both the themes were hard to get in those days as rightly observed by Bipan Chandra.
And when Bhagat Singh landed into jail after throwing bomb with B.K Dutt in Delhi Assembly on 8th April 1929, his reading became even more organized and mature, despite the fact that in little less than two years before his execution on 23rd March 1931, Bhagat Singh not only fought against atrocities of Jail authorities by resorting to hunger strikes for weeks together, preparing to present revolutionary viewpoint in the course of trial of two cases against them- Lahore conspiracy case, which resulted in his, Sukhdev & Rajguru’s execution and Delhi Assembly bomb case, in which he and B.K Dutt were convicted and transported for life, prior to the decision of Lahore conspiracy case. And during the course of trial for many weeks, Bhagat Singh and his comrades were subjected to all kinds of police tortures and cruelties , yet the full might of British Colonialism which was arrogated so much to claim for itself that ‘Sun never sets in British empire’, could not crush the spirit of Bhagat Singh and his comrades with all its might. Sri Rajyam Sinha, widow of Bejoy Kumar Sinha in her memories of her husband and comrade of Bhagat Singh – ‘ A Revolutionary’s Quest for Sacrifice’, had given graphic details of police tortures upon revolutionaries , particularly upon Bhagat Singh, inside and outside the court. Revolutionaries had refused to come handcuffed in the court. Court had agreed to it, but did not honor its word and according to Bejoy Kumar Sinha’s notes- (on 22nd Oct 1929) ‘ obviously a scuffle began and hell was let loose. Their prestige pricked , the police was hell bent on teaching the accused the lesson of their life. A special pathan force was requisitioned and merciless beating began. Bhagat Singh was singled out for this. Eight ferocious pathans pounced on him and with their regulation boots kicked him viciously and beat him with lathis ruthlessly . Mr. Roberts, an European officer, pointed out at Sardar Bhagat Singh and said ‘ this is the man, give him more beating.’ They were dragged on the ground and carried like logs of wood and thrown on the benches. All this happened right in the presence of the visitors in the court compound . The Magistrate too was watching all this apparently thinking that he had no jurisdiction as he was not presiding over the court . Sheo (Shiv) Verma (became communist later and joined CPM after split ) and Ajoy Kumar Ghose ( rose to General Secretary of CPI later) became unconscious. Bhagat Singh then raised his voice and told the court,’ I want to congratulate you on this . Sheo Verma is lying unconscious and if he dies, you will be responsible for this.’ ( P. 45) . One is very well reminded of Abu Ghariab and Guantanamo prisons while reading this account.
And on 28th October 1929, three days later, ‘ The police authorities submitted a report with the concurrence of the jail authorities that it was possible to beat them and even kill them but it was not possible to bring them to the court handcuffed .”
Bhagat Singh, just at the age of 22 years at that time, by his towering personality terrorized the British Colonial power. British colonial power was not terrorized when Bhagat Singh was part of ‘ terrorist group’ for a brief period , Britishers were confident of dealing with terrorism . British colonialism became really terrorized when HRA turned into HSRA, Bhagat Singh became its chief ideologue and by his statements and mature political conduct in jail and court, got the masses of the country rallied behind them. By resorting to frequent hunger strikes for human and political rights for political prisoners , in which Jatin Dass, one of their dearest comrades sacrificed his life on 13th September 1929 inside Lahore Jail and lakhs and crores of Indian people gathered at all railway stations, when his mortal remains were being taken in train from Lahore to Calcutta for final journey. (The admission of popularity of Bhagat Singh and his comrades at the level of Mahatma Gandhi among Indian masses was made by none else than B.Pattabhirammaya, who wrote the history of Congress party. It is also well known that black roses were shown to Mahatma Gandhi after the execution of Bhagat Singh and his comrades in Lahore jail, by Congress workers at Kanpur session, held immediately after the hangings.)
Bhagat Singh read much more voraciously inside the jail , despite being certain that he is going to be hanged for his political actions. Even minutes before being taken to gallows, he was reading a book by Lenin, got through his advocate. Punjabi revolutionary poet Paash, who himself was martyred by Khalistani terrorists on 23rd March , his hero’s martyrdom day, paid apt tribute to Bhagat Singh in one of his prose pieces by saying ‘ Indian youth have to read the next page of Lenin’s book, left unread by Bhagat Singh at his death”.
In fact letters written from Jail by Bhagat Singh invariably refers to the list of books he wanted from his visitors to be brought from Dwarka Dass Library Lahore. These books were primarily on Marxim, Economy, History & creative literature. Thus in one his letters to Jaidev Gupta, his friend on 24th July 1930, Bhagat Singh asked for following books to be sent for him through his younger brother Kulbir — (i) Militarism ( Karl Libeknect) (ii) Why men fight? (Bertrand Russel) (iii) Soviets at work (iv) Collapse of Second International (v) Leftwing Communism ( Lenin?) (vi) Mutual Aid ( Prince Kroptokin ) (vii) Field, Factories and Workshops (viii) Civil war in France (Marx) (ix) Land Revolution in Russia (x) Punjab Peasants in prosperity and Debt ( Darling) (xi) Historical Materialism ( Bukharin ) (xii) Spy (Upton Sinclair – Novel)
Bhagat Singh had command over four languages , without much formal training or education – He wrote in Punjabi , Hindi , Urdu and English . His jail Note book an ordinary copy of a school student is just the jotting down of notes taken from the books- mentioning one hundred and eight authors and 43 books including—Karl Marx-‘On Religion’, Engles – ‘ Socialism : Utopian and Scientific’ and ‘ Origin of Family, Private Property and the State’, Thomas Paine-‘Rights of Man’, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s ‘ Emile ‘ & ‘Social Contract’, Rene Descartes’ ‘ Discourse on Matter’, Machiavelli’s , The Prince’, Spinoza’s’ Tractates : Politics, Micheal O’Dwyer’s ‘ India As I Know it’. Authors referred without the title of books, but with quotations from unnamed books include – Lord Byron, Umar Khyyam, Mark Twain , John Stuart Mill, Henric Ibsen, Thomas Jefferson , Wordsworth, Tennyson , Chares Fourier, Rabinder Nath Tagore, Karl Kautsky , Trotsky, Thomas Carlye, Dostoevsky, Edmund Burke, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicures, Seneca, Francis Bacon, John Locke, John Milton, Mahatma Gandhi, Madan Mohan Malviya , Bipan Chander Pal, Valentine Chirol , apart from references to two reports – Montford report & Simon report. Does it not sound like Encyclopedic range ? Do even the most well read students of University like JNU, have such range of reading ( and contemplation )at the age of 23 years , even when the internet has opened all range of human knowledge at the click of a mouse ?(The only original comments along with notes on books in the jail notebook are on the subject-The Science of State-.Bhagat Singh was probably planning a book on the history of political development of society-From Primitive Communism to modern Socialism.)
How was it possible , it was because of Bhagat Singh’s sincerity and commitment, his total devotion to the Country and its people . Can you find any such examples else where in India or abroad? The only name comes closer is that of Che Guevera , who was as committed and as much devoted and who faced death with as much courage as Bhagat Singh faced . Leaving away the comforts of being a Minister in newly liberated Cuba, Che Guevera took to jungles of Bolivia to fight U.S imperialism to liberate the whole of Latin America , a true internationalist revolutionary , crossing the boundaries of nationalism in most healthy and positive manner. Che Guevra was much more advanced in thought than Bhagat Singh as the conditions of two were different . Revolution had won at many places by then and revolutionary ideology and literature also reached far beyond the boundaries of nations by that time , yet the quality of spirit , quality of commitment for revolution, quality of sincerity , brings both these young revolutionaries close to each other, as close as Marx and Engles were to each other. Che and Bhagat Singh, in spite of gap of years, in spite of gap of geographical boundaries are the most unified symbol of revolutionary struggle against imperialism and capitalist exploitation of mankind. Both fought against it ferociously and both sacrificed their life with the fullest awareness of it that they are dyeing for a cause much dearer to them than their own life.
In last meeting with his comrade and co-prisoner in Lahore conspiracy case, Jaidev, before his execution , Bhagat Singh told’,’If by sacrificing my life. I am able to spread the slogan ‘ Inqulab Zindabad’ all over the country , I shall consider myself to be fully rewarded – Today I can very well hear crores of my countrymen shouting the slogan even while I am confined behind the thick walls of my death call …. I trust this slogan would continue to inspire our liberation struggle against imperialism ( ‘ Sansmirityan’ ( Hindi) by Shiv Verma)
Bhagat Singh clarified his concept of ‘ Revolution ‘ in a statement to court in Delhi Assembly Bomb Case—‘ By ‘ Revolution’ we mean the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice must change.” They wanted to build a system “ in which the sovereignty of the proletariat should be recognized and world federation should redeem humanity from the bondage of Capitalism and misery of Imperial wars”. ‘ ( From statement of 6th June 1929)
In a letter to Punjab Governor on 20th March 1931, three days before his execution , Bhagat Singh wrote- ‘ Let us declare that the
State of war does exist and shall exist till so long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites. They may be purely British Capitalist or mixed British and Indian or even purely Indian. They may be carrying on their insidious exploitation through mixed or even a purely Indian bureaucratic apparatus . All these things make no difference. No matter, if your Government tries and succeeds in winning over the leaders of the Indian society through petty concessions and compromises and thereby cause a temporary demoralization in the main body of forces. No matter, if once again of Indian movement, the Revolutionary party, finds itself deserted in the thick of the war.’
Bhagat Singh further asserted –‘The war shall continue. xx.. It shall be waged ever with new vigor, greater audacity and unflinching determination till the Socialist Republic is established and the present social order is completely replaced by a new social order, based on social prosperity and thus every sort of exploitation is put an end to and the humanity is ushered into the era of genuine and permanent peace’. Xxx……
Bhagat Singh declared-‘The days of capitalist and imperialist exploitation are numbered. The war neither began with us nor is going to end with our lives. It is the inevitable consequence of historical events and the existing environments. Our humble sacrifices shall only be a link in the chain that has very accurately been beautified by the unparalleled sacrifice of Mr. Das and most tragic but noblest sacrifice of Comrade Bhagwati Charn and the glorious death of our warrior Azad.
Netaji Subhash Bose in big public meeting in Delhi on same day ( 20th March) said ‘ Bhagat Singh is today not a person , but a symbol. He symbolizes the spirit of revolt, which has taken possession of country.’
And ‘ Free Press Journal ‘ in its issue of 24th March 1931 wrote-
‘ S. Bhagat Singh , Rajguru and Sukhdev live no longer. In their death lies their victory let there be no mistaking it. The bureaucracy has annihilated the mortal frame. The nation has assimilated the immortal spirit . Thus shall Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev live eternally to the dismay of the bureaucracy ….. To the nation, S. Bhagat Singh and Colleagues will even remain the symbols of martyrdom in the cause of freedom.
Reading Bhagat Singh’s jail note book and court statements, it seems as if we are going through today’s reality . Replace the word ‘ British’ with ‘ American’ and the stark reality is much darker than in 1931 . Bhagat Singh was too clear about Indian leadership as such and today’s Indian rulers fit into the category of those ‘ Pure Indians’, who are being won through ‘ Petty concessions’ by American imperialism , but in the words of Bhagat Singh – ‘ The war shall continue’, which neither began with them and which has not ended with their lives.
The lives of Bhagat Singh , Che- Guevera have been sacrificed in the fight against imperialism , but these are not the lives lost. These are the lives which haunt imperialism- even decades after their death. Che Guevera, Allende could haunt America in today’s Boliva and Chile and the same way Bhagat Singh will keep on haunting Bushs & Blairs and the other new avtars of British colonialism of 1930’s.
Bipan Chandra has rightly concluded that Bhagat Singh had ‘ clearly emerged as revolutionary fully committed to Marxism and capable of applying it with the full complexity of its method’, adding the words that even in embracing death, he applied these methods correctly. Bipan Chandra also concludes that ‘ it is one of the greatest tragedies of our people that this giant of a brain was brought to a stop so early by the colonial authorities ‘. Yet it is tragedy of our people but, it is the nature of colonialism and imperialism to cause such tragedies , be in India or Vietnam, in Iraq, Palestine or Latin America. But the people do avenge these by more ferocious struggles against imperialism , If not today , then tomorrow .
Prof. Chaman Lal
Centre of Indian Languages(SLLCS)
(Complete documents of Bhagat Singh in Hindi)