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111 years back, a lad took birth in Lyallpur region of the Punjab Province of British India who, together with a fellow revolutionary stepped up to turn the ‘deaf’ Englishmen ‘hear’ the requests of Indian freedom and ‘rouse England from her dreams’.
On March 23, 1931, this great personality, Bhagat Singh, together with two other radicals—Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar—was hanged at just the age of 23 after being sentenced for taking the life of John P Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, in Lahore in the year 1928.
“The significance of Bhagat Singh in the anti-colonial struggle was not because of his choice of violence as a method of resistance, as many including Gandhiji underlined, or his idealistic heroism for which he is rightly and universally admired. His real contribution lay 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,” wrote renowned Marxist historian KN Panikkar in the Frontline.
A research of Bhagat Singh’s prison notebooks, letters penned by him, reports he showcased in the court, his article on non-belief, Why I am an atheist, disclose that there is a lot more to Bhagat Singh than his acts of taking the life of someone.
Bipan Chandra, the renowned historian who lost life recently, noted in his book India’s Struggle for Independence, 1857-1947, “Bhagat Singh and his comrades also made a major advance in broadening the scope and definition of revolution. Revolution was no longer associated with mere militancy or violence…it must go beyond and work for a new socialist order, it must ‘end the exploitation of man by man’.”
Bhagat Singh was one of the foremost socialist philosophers of the nation.
In actual fact, in his last message from prison dated March 3, 1931, he stated, “…the struggle in India would continue so long as a handful of exploiters go on exploiting the labour of the common people for their own ends. It matters little whether these exploiters are purely British capitalists, or British and Indians in the alliance, or even purely Indians.”
Another striking facet of Bhagat Singh which sets him wide apart from other rebels is that in hindsight of his actions of strength, he realized the uselessness of efforts at merely armed clashes.
In a message penned to young political workers of the nation, Bhagat Singh wrote, “Let me announce with all the strength at my command, that I am not a terrorist and I never was, except perhaps in the beginning of my revolutionary career. And I am convinced that we cannot gain anything through those methods.”
On revolt itself, Bhagat Singh stated, “Revolution did not necessarily involve sanguinary strife. It was not a cult of bomb and pistol. They may sometimes be mere means for its achievement. No doubt they play a prominent part in some movements, but they do not –for that very reason –become one and the same thing. A rebellion is not a revolution. It may ultimately lead to that end.”
Bhagat Singh was a great freedom revolautionary and will be always remembered by us!