Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga and Vimla Dang:Pride of Punjab

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Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga, lone surviving Ghadrite revolutionary of India breathed his last on 22nd May 2009 at England in his son’s house. He had just completed 102 years of age last month. He was as alert as ever when I met him last on Ist November 2008 at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall, of which he was President. He had unfurled the Ghadar party flag on that day as usual to mark the Ghadar party memorial day, formed in USA, way back in 1913.

Baba Bilga was born on 2nd April 1907, six months prior to martyr Bhagat Singh in village Bilga of Jalandhar district. He became involved with Ghadar party activities in his youth and went to Argentina in Latin America. British colonial Government of India in its Ghadar directory published in 1934 recorded him as ‘most dangerous revolutionary’. In Argentina, he hosted exiled freedom fighter and uncle of martyr Bhagat singh, the legendary Ajit Singh. Baba Bilga was one among those Ghadarite revolutionaries, who were sent to Communist University for the Eastern countries in Moscow for ideological training in Marxism. After return from Moscow, Baba Bilga became active in Congress Socialist party and was elected member of All India Congress Committee. He and other leftist members from Punjab like Mubark Saagar sided with Subhash Bose in 1938 Congress meet. He remained part of Communist party or communist revolutionary groups throughout his life. He never compromised on his ideology. Even at the age of 100 years, he used to make a fiery speech against communalism and economic liberalism. He wrote four books in Punjabi, last at the age of almost hundred years. His major book is ‘Unfolded sheathes of Ghadar Movement’. This book, published in 1989 is history of Ghadar party and Kirti Party from 1908 to 1952, when Kirti party finally merged with Communist party of India. His other books include—‘My Country’and ‘My Thinking My Understanding’. His last but another major book was published in 2004, when he crossed 97 years of age. This is biography of legendary Ghadarite revolutionary Baba Gurmukh Singh Lalton, who edited ‘Desh Bhagat Yaadan’ in Punjabi and ‘People’s Path’ in English on behalf of Desh Bhagat Yaadgar committee, of which he was President also for many years during seventies.

Baba Bilga was President of Desh Bhagat Yaadgar committee Jalandhar for last more than one decade. Prior to that he was elected General Secretary of Desh Bhagat Yaadgar trust in 1977-78 and worked with Baba Gurmukh Singh, who was President of the trust. In his able leadership, the committee started holding Ghadari Babas memorial mela every year on Ist November every year to propagate the ideas of Ghadarite and other revolutionaries. Punjab and India will surely miss the resounding voice of Baba Bilga.But his life is a source of inspiration and guide for action. Hope Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall will continue to further promote Baba Bilga’s mission to make people aware of the need for liberation of Indian masses from poverty and exploitation.

Whatever the tradition of Ghadarite revolutionaries and Bhagat Singh like martyrs was, Comrade Vimla Dang was following the same with most sincere zeal. She was a committed trade unionist and worked among Chhehrata workers. Both she and her husband Satya Pal Dang, despite remaining MLA and Minster, lived in a most simple manner in Chherta party office and never yearned for any comfort. Vimla Dang, born on December 26, 1926 in a Kashmiri family of Lahore and became student federation activist in Lahore. Though a brilliant student of Economics, she left academics to work for liberation of Indian masses by becoming part of Communist movement. She married Satya Pal Dang and both continued to work whole time for the party in most dedicated manner. She and Satya Pal Dang took part in relief work in Bengal during 1943 famine. Both of them fought against Khalistani terrorists as well. Vimla Dang remained President of Chhehrata Municipal committee during 1968-78. She was elected MLA from here in 1992. She was awarded Padam Shree in 1998 in recognition of her service to the nation. Vimla Dang remained active in women movement also and held positions in National federation of Indian women, CPI frontal organization of women. She wrote her autobiography edited by her elder brother and retired Professor of Russian from JNU, New Delhi, Prof. Ravi M Bakaya as ‘Fragments of an Autobiography’, which was published in 2007. She preceded Baba Bilga in saying goodbye to this world on 10th May 2009.

The democratic movement of Punjab has greatly suffered by the loss of these two eminent personalities of Punjab.