By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
On 23rd March 1931 the British government hanged three Indian revolutionaries namely Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. All of them embraced death in an entirely heroic way and therefore became legend for the common Indian masses. None of the youth leaders of India’s independence movement inspired a whole lot of generation as Bhagat Singh. Unfortunately, the ruling elite of the country reduced Bhagat Singh into a ‘terrorist’. The result was that these revolutionaries who were non violent in their thought and process and wanted to change India remain outside the purview of college students, many of them liked Bhagat Singh for being ‘violent’ and Gandhi for being ‘non violent’. However, in the absence of idealism and understanding of Indian situation, revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh are grossly under evaluated and misrepresented.
Therefore, it is important to understand the idea of Bhagat Singh in these hours of communalization where crony capitalist of Indian caste order continue to use God and religion for their nefarious purposes. Religion is the biggest market in India and other south Asian countries. Your religion is important to realize your love for nation. Hence being a Hindu in Pakistan and Bangladesh is a crime as being a Muslim in India or being a Tamil in Sri Lanka. Being a Dalit is a crime everywhere though constitutional provisions in India make it relatively better than its neighbors.
Bhagat Singh wanted a radical change in our system and would not have been satisfied with a mere transfer of power. It is absolutely demeaning when Bhagat Singh is referred as a terrorist and some of the commentators from our neighboring countries made comparison of attack on the Parliament with that on the Lahore Assembly. Our younger generation must know what Bhagat Singh stood for and therefore need to challenge such malicious writings which club a revolutionary with religious fanatics. It would be the travesty of truth if people like Bhagat Singh are bracketed with the religious fundamentalist.
The shocking attack on Indian parliament by the terrorists has been equated with the issue of bombing at the Central Legislative Assembly, Lahore, in 1929, where Bhagat Singh and his colleagues were involved. A question was asked by a Pakistani commentator as why is Bhagat Singh a nationalist and kashmiri Mujahidin as terrorists. After September 11th events the Pakistani ruling elite is under tremendous pressure to curb on the Islamic terrorists operating in Kashmir, which the Pakistanis continue to term as ‘Mujahidin’despite the fact that most of them are not Kashmiris and have sneaked into the valley in the name of Islamic Jihad and are particularly targeting the people who dissent with them. Democracy has been the biggest casualty in the aftermath of the Islamisation process in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
It is in the interest of us to know that the Congress particularly Gandhi did very little to save the lives of Bhagat Singh and his friends yet the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah termed them nationalists and tried to get support for them in Lahore’s political and legal circle. To understand the revolutionary zeal of Bhagat Singh one should study his writings in which he talks of humanity and brotherhood. It is equally important to understand as why Bhagat Singh became an atheist so that those who equate him with terrorism are exposed to his rational views which are not tainted in the garb of religion which the so-called Mujahidins are involved in. Bhagat Singh became an icon of Indian youth fighting against the British Imperialism and was hanged at the young age of 23 years when a large number of our political leaders were either at the primary stages of their career or enjoying their life abroad. Bhagat Singh never justified violence as he could have easily killed numerous political leaders present in the Lahore Assembly including Moti Lal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malviya and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, if he had wanted that. The aim was just to awaken the ruling establishment about India’s long pending freedom. He said: “It is famous that I am a terrorist but I am not that. I am a revolutionary who has certain ideology, defined ideals and a long programme and if people think that after living in for a long period in the jail, there is any change in my ideologies then they are wrong. It is my firm belief that we cannot get any benefit from either bombs or pistols. Throwing bomb is not only dangerous but also harmful. It is required in certain specific conditions. Our main aim is the organization of laborers and farmers.”
Not only was Bhagat Singh against the communal parties and ideas but also his views on caste are equally inspiring. He mocked at India’s caste system and questioned the legitimacy of a system, which make people untouchable on the basis of their birth in a particular caste. He was equally aware of the capitalist class, which was compromising with the British imperial class. And certainly his conviction that this system based on exploitation can not be eliminated with just transfer of power from the British to ‘Indian British’. It needs revolution he said. As far as India was concerned, we can easily correlate the upper caste feudal power forces with that of the capitalist class in India who gained everything from the British occupation in India.
In fact, Bhagat Singh has become more relevant today when the state is abdicating its responsibility and private goons are being legitimized by it in the name of obstacles free capital while ignoring the same demand of the labor. It was this fact, which had disturbed Bhagat Singh and his comrades. April 8th, 1929, the Lahore Assembly was to pass a bill, which could have nullified the rights of the trade unions and labors. And this was the occasion, he felt, best, to convey his anger to those in powers. Bhagat Singh and his friends became immortal, the de-facto voice of the common man, labors and farmers of the country. While the bomb was not really meant to destroy the assembly and kill political leaders as they had made their intentions very clear. They became revolutionaries who inspired an entire nation cutting across caste and communal lines. In fact, it is heartening that Bhagat Singh is still an icon today for the youths all over the country.
On 6th June 1929 Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt said in a statement, ‘ To change the system based on injustice, we need revolution. Is it not a constructed injustice that the labors and producers, despite being the part of mainstream, are victim of exploitation and have been denied basic human rights? Farmers, who produces die of hunger. The weaver who weaves cloths for others cannot do so for his own family and children. Meson, Carpenters, Ironsmiths build huge palaces die living in huts and slums. On the other side, capitalist exploiters, anti social elements, spend crores of rupees on their fashion and enjoyment. Those who enjoy at the cost of hardworking and hungry people should understand that they are sitting on such a volcano which is about to erupt.’
The above statement clearly indicates the direction of Bhagat Singh’s thought. How worried he was about the caste and class structure in India. That he narrated the plight of the Dalits who he called as working classes is a remarkable and unparallel for a young man who was in his early twenties. It is rare for a person of that age to understand the caste prejudices and its dynamics not in terms of social and cultural but economical basis. Bhagat Singh that way was far ahead of his contemporaries. Not only he was worried about the capitalist class sucking the blood of common Indian with the blessing its imperialist masters but he clearly understood the caste dynamics and questioned the very legacy of the brahanical legacy when he wrote his famous essay ‘ The question of untouchable’.
But the powerful forces of the Raj hanged him so that the legitimate voices of the marginalized are silent but it was not to be. Bhagat Singh and his ideas have become doubly relevant in todays world where exploitation is legitimized. When the tribal are dying of hunger, when the farmers are committing suicide and when the Dalits have to face the brunt of assertion, ideas of Bhagat Singh reverberates in the air. Here was a man who unapologetically sacrificed his life for the cause of the people and country. That the country’s ruler’s are today creating ‘ Special Exploitative Zones’, to rebuild the Zamindari system which they proudly claim to have destroyed.
Tragically, while the Bhagat Singh rarely got appreciation by the Congress’s brand of historians who always belittled his contribution by arguing that a few people could not have fought with the might of British empire. The other ruling party which claim to inherit the legacy of Bhagat Singh does not feel shame in slaughtering people fighting for their rights in Nandigram. Is not ironical that the people who shed their lives for the country in the hope of an India where every person would have right over natural resources, where there would be no caste victimization and no oppression of the farmers, today we are witnessing the very antithesis of those ideas championed by Bhagat Singh.
It was the outstanding popularity of Bhagat Singh, his differences with Gandhi and other members of the Congress party, made the Sangh ideologues to assimilate Bhagat Singh as the hero of Hindutva. Like other icons such as Ambedkar who gave an inspiration to millions of oppressed world over to fight against status quo of the Varnashram dharma, they must realize that it is not an easy project for Hindutva, for, both Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh had rejected the Varna system, condemned the Hindu caste order and proudly embraced modernity. Both of them not only rejected but also questioned the so-called ‘glorious’ culture and heritage. Bhagat Singh became a staunch non-believer and remained so till his death even when his family people and colleagues tried to push him to believing God and God’s word at the last moment. That was the strength of his character that he was now cowed down. Ambedkar, for record, questioned and exposed the myths of the Hindu Social Order.
Bhagat Singh knew the dangers of religious fanaticism and capitalists legitimization of religion. Therefore it is ironical that Pakistani elite equated Bhagat Singh and Lahore assembly case with that of attack on Indian Parliament. It is blasphemous to put Bhagat Singh with religiously intolerant Islamic Jehadis or Hindutva fanatics who want to take their respective societies to backwardness and hand them over to priestly class, which had exploited them over the years. One can only laugh at the explanation and analysis of those who make such insinuation. Those who want to cleanse Kashmir or Gujarat from the ethnic minorities must understand that world is a global village and by spreading hatred in the name of religion will not work. Bhagat Singh has become immortal because of his outstanding ideas. His sacrifice for a progressive India where each of us could focus on human development. Where caste discrimination remain a thing of past and where all the ethic, religious, non religious minorities live together in extraordinary brotherhood.
As people continue to fight for their legimate rights which the Indian state has failed to provide them despite a working democracy. The democracy has turned to be a sham democracy as it turned out to be a representative democracy rather than a participatory one, youth of the country, the farmers, the Dalits, the tribal continue to live in utter marginalisation. The Muslims, the second majority of India remains clueless without any effective participation in power structure. The religious fanatics are raising their head. The affirmative actions remains failed because of our sincerity always remained doubtful. The farmers are struggling and getting fired. The country’s invited chaos today gives doubt of ‘ growth rate’. The political class has enjoyed the benefit of freedom and independence. Today, they lord over the state without any accountability. Every sector is infected with the virus of corruption. The caste prejudices have increased and God is completely hijacked by the priestly class while those oppressed are unable to ‘ reject’ the ‘love’ of God and therefore remain exploited. India remains a failed society. It remained a failed society because it was fearful of powerful ideas, as it did not want to debate openly those ideas. Bhagat Singh like Ambedkar and other humanist, rationalists are not just national icons because of their sacrifices or drafting of constitution of India. Yes, much bigger than the said ‘nationalism’ are their ‘ideas’. The ideas which shook the Indian ruling elite as well as the British empire and since their fight was not only against the British regime but also for an equitable society, a society based on modernity and science rejecting caste system, India unfortunately did not embrace their ideas. We went to the same elite class which enjoyed the fruits of power whether political or social and in return got superstition and rituals in the name of culture. Today, the market has ridiculously been using this ‘Indian’ culture for its own purposes therefore completely destroying our thinking capabilities and our sense of responsibility for the nation and other human beings.
Bhagat Singh’s ideas and sacrifice have the strength to bring hope in the lives of millions of struggling masses. Let us salute to this towering icon of our freedom movement for his indomitable spirit. Like Che Guevara, Bhagat Singh will always remain a hope for all those who believe in secular socialist values and reject the caste based hierarchical system. His legacy continue to inspire all of us who are still waiting for a modern India, an India with modern ideas and not what the crony corporate would make us believe. Yes, an India where 2% of the rogues are not smiling and shining at the cost of crying 98% oppressed who have lost their houses, forest, water, and land and whose tears do not reach the India shining media. Therefore, Bhagat Singh and his ideas have become more relevant today for the youths to stand up and challenge an entire system, which has become corrupted, dysfunctional and captive to parochial religious thugs.