Today is the death anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. He went to Gallows with two fellow revolutionaries Rajguru and Sukhdev. Bhagat Singh, One of the greatest inspirations for Indians. Inqulab Zindabad (Long Live the Revolution!) – a slogan given by him hasn’t lost its relevance even today, nearly a century after it was coined. Yet, Bhagat Singh is one leader who has been misunderstood the most, or at least has not been understood completely.
Before I write more about this Great Soul I set the rules which will guide us throughout this piece. First and foremost, I will not extrapolate what Bhagat Singh would have become had he not gone to gallows at the age of 23. Humans are no mathematical equation, life experiences have profound effects on the way we behave. I will abstain from making assumptions on what future potential he held. I will not compare him with anyone. Not with Che Geurvara and Fidel Castro (attempts to draw comparisons to both have been there, Bhagat Singh was for conversion of mind set of adversary and the oppressed without use of force). Will not compare or contrast him with Gandhi. Not that I am insecure about the stature of these gentlemen had in society, and also not that I hold more or less reverence to Gandhi and Bhagat Singh, only because his greatness deserves no comparisons, it deserves absolute respect.
We are so ill informed about him that many think he went to gallows on 14th Feb. Every valentine’s day is preceded with the messages calling all not to celebrate valentine’s day but pay homage to Bhagat Singh. Most presume him to be a gun wielding and bomb dropping leader. We assume him to be such leader who, with Inqulab Zindabad slogan could have lead masses to mount a carnage on British. We assume all wrong and too less.
As a young boy he grew up chanting Gaitary Matra, yet religion had less influence on him than the events that surrounded him and the country, he died as an atheist. He mastered English, Punjabi and Urdu, not by formal education but mostly by self-education. A keen student who kept learning till the last days of his life.
While we celebrate Inqualab, it’s important to understand his concept of Inqulab – The revolution which he wanted to usher. In his message to students Bhagat Singh said, “Today we cannot ask youth to take pistols and bombs…”, he continues, “so that we will be independent and exploitation of man by man will become an impossibility”. He, in a letter close to 23rd march 1931 again wrote, “My heart nurtured some ambitions for doing something for humanity and my country.”
Having being known for killing British officer and then becoming famous for dropping bomb at parliament house (a bomb so designed that it was harmless) Bhagat Singh never wanted to kill. Said two acts of Bhagat Singh could never have terrorised any one, leave alone the British Empire, but he shook the conscious of Indians and The Inqulab began.
After Killing Saunders he ran away, perhaps, partly out of fear and also because he knew killing Saunders served no purpose, greater purpose awaits him. After dropping bombs at the parliament he had enough time and opportunity to run away, yet he did not. And to this account he says, “We deliberately offered ourselves to bear the penalty for what we had done and let the imperialist exploiters know that by crushing individuals, they cannot kill ideas.”
His Satyagrahi approach became more and more pronounced as he approached the climax of his plan. The plan of doing something such which shook the consciousness of the country and then during the trial sent out a strong message to the masses. The message was unequivocal, revolution for good of humanity and the country, Inqulab by self-sacrifice and sufferings.
Bhagat Sigh got brutally beaten up many times while in police custody only because he challenged the unjust and unfair system of British Empire. As a true Satyagrahi he observed a fast of 102 days in the jail. Sending out a strong message of revolution to the masses.
Inqulab and Satyagrah are the same concepts, expressed differently by two individuals, both influenced by different life experiences and separated by time and space. Inqulab was conceptualised and executed within a time frame of 5-7 years, even less. Concept of Satyagrah evolved over a great length of time. Perhaps that’s the only difference why we perceive both of them differently.
Special thanks to my good friend Paramjit S. Virk.