Bhagat Singh’s Inqulab is Gandhi’s Satyagrah

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.


Convert, Don’t Coerce

It’s Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, or may I take the liberty to say another birthday. What a man so frail and so small could do without power that all economic and military might in world could not do and will never be able to establish. The mightiest word and concept ‘Satyagrah’ he gifted to the world, so effortlessly. Request to follow the truth.

His basic premise, evil can be converted to good not destroyed, has power to change world order, only if we are courageous enough to follow it. Today world order and society works for concentration of power. Power is destructive; it instills fear, the mother of all evils.

Today we see all the powers in this world come to gather in search of peace. The UN was created, it became worlds biggest POWER to create peaceful world order. It, within its self has POWER hierarchy, the Security Council. If it was not enough, further groups of POWER emerged in name of G8 and other G’s. All these powers are taking the path of coercion to bring out much-needed change.

Coercion, which has largely become our way of life, whether its effort to change world order or bring about changes in family, at work or in society hasn’t worked and won’t work as well.

911 happened many years ago and it’s been equal number of years that US has been pounding Afghanistan and Pakistan, it has achieved nothing. They have successfully added to misery and poverty of people who see them as aliens and the Terrorists as ‘Hum Majhabi’ (belonging to same religion thus well wishers). After so many years of violence US is starting to learn it’s better to cut of money supplies to the terror groups than pound them with weapons, a better option, not best yet.

Power when juxtaposed with capability, which are two closely related synonyms of Coercion and conversion brings out strange contrasts. Power is convenient and thus gives signs of immediate confirmation, while Capability to convert needs courage and leads to long-term transformation. Someone rightly said “When society fails to leap forward to profound conversion, it slips backwards to severe coercion”. We don’t trust our capabilities fully and second we take a convenient path.

A research on bringing up of kids shows, harsh and capricious parents produce nonconforming and mendacious progeny. Ask a simple question to yourself, what does growth in hierarchy or high office signify? POWER is the unequivocal answer.

Power gives immediate ego satisfaction, while deployment of capability needs humility, usually seen as weakness. Power is weakness which leads people to coercive tactics; it’s used by people who are unable to bring out change either by persuasion or example.

Let’s resolve on this holy day of Mahatma’s birth, not to fall in trap of weakness of power. Let’s resolve to pick up weapon of humility to build capacity. Let’s resolve to live in light of hope and not in darkness of power.

If I have to choose truth and pain against comfort of power and hopelessness I will choose former. Satya Saarthak Sarwatha ( truth shall always prevail).


There is your truth and there is my truth, there is your right and there is my right, there is your wrong and there is my wrong, so on and so fourth. Idealistic world has only one truth, only one right and only one wrong, practical world has many. Society is full of dichotomies. Dichotomies represent two opposing forces resting in a perfect equilibrium. The absence of dichotomies creates a world which is static at the least, if not regressive. Slight polarization of equilibrium in world of imperfections now and then will exist, and, will help the weakening forces rejuvenate.

It’s important, for one of opposing forces to loose sheen and rejuvenate, that is when it resuscitates and is born with new vigor, and thus establishing the equilibrium. With all imperfections accepted, the society has tendency to polarize. Evil gets represented by a handful and so does the good, also the people willing to let evil prevail and good prevail are divided into equal numbers. A change is initiated in society when polarization in either direction takes place with decisive majority or decisive force.

History is puckered with discovery of philosophies, which changed the face of society when ever such philosophies gained momentum. They shifted equilibrium from evil to good and left lasting impact on society. It happened with Ramayana, Mahabharata, Christ, Paigambar, Nanak appearing on face of earth. In recent times humans discovered the power of Satyagrah. Satyagrah brought into fore innumerable powers of Ahimsa.

For Satyagrah to exist and flourish it’s important that equally strong if not more formidable, and opposing forces co-exist, they exist too, in majority.

Wars are being fought to establish peace, weapons of mass destruction are being created to secure peace, and we have more affinity towards money to be at peace, as apparently, money brings security and thus mental peace. No war till date has ensured peace. We had two world wars, India fought Pakistan and china, US has reduces many nations to ruins and still the mirage of peace has eluded us.

Search for peace with threat and weapons fails to achieve something which Satyagrah has power to achieve in shorter time and in more definitive manner. Still peace efforts with principles of Ahimsa and Satyagrah have not yielded any tangible result in modern human history, freedom movement and fight against apartheid being exceptions.

The reasons for failure of peace efforts lie in the way we interpret principles of Satyagrah. Peace process practiced anywhere in world has one presumption; if peace process fails we have weapons to establish peace. Having something like weapons to fallback upon has killed Satyagrah. Second, too much of adherence to peace is considered as weakness and passive resistance if not submission. Satyagrah indeed is more assertive resistance.
Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev took weapons to fight for freedom. The efforts they put were no less than efforts of Gandhi. The sacrifices they made were lager than sacrifices of Gandhi. Once Jailed and awarded death the trio did not eat or drink for 69 days, protesting while in den of enemy, creating grains of doubt in mind of enemy. It inflicted so much of fear in enemy that he had to hang them in hurry. When violence failed, satygrah took center stage. Fast for 69 days needs more strength than is needed to fire a gun. It needs more mental than physical strength.

Ramayan happened before Mahabhart. Most important events in both epics were wars.

While Lord Ram wanted way to Lanka and Sea did not respond Ram threatened annihilation of Sea. It’s this when Sea appeared with folded hands and suggested Null and Neel can create a bridge. Two lessons learnt. One, solution was some where else still Ram took to weapons, perhaps it was easier way. Two, Annihilation of sea could have had devastating effect on earth causing massive destruction. Ram, in due course Killed most learned Brahmin, destroyed most prosperous state of its times, just because he used weapons. Its not Ram did something wrong. We the humans interpreted the message wrong. He could substantiate, solutions without weapons are available (confrontation with Sea) and then he proved that use of weapons has devastating effect, by killing Ravan and reducing lanka to ashes. What we interpreted and practiced has devastating effects on entire human race.
Mankind did not learn the right lesson from Ramayan, thus Mahabharat happened. On larger scale and with more devastating effect. The greatest archer of times, karan was killed, most learned teacher, Dronacharya was killed, Most principled man of times, Bhishm was killed, bravest warrior of times Abhimanu was killed, all of them were killed with trickery. War was fought for principles, but without principles. Even Lord Krishna got offended by Shishupal and He killed him, exploiting his diplomatic immunity. Its incomprehensible, God can ever be offended. Message again was simple, distinguish between mind and body, don’t intermingle them. Means should justify ends. If means are right consequences are inconsequential. But again our interpretation assumed that to establish good trickery too is good, that is the reason why we look at Mahabhart war with great excitement.

Gandhi defined Ahimsa as non-violence in thought and action. Thus, the objective of Satyagrah is to convert, not coerce, the wrong doer. Weapons and violence are used with objective to eliminate evil. Evil can not be eliminated, it will co-exist with good, it can be converted to good.

Gandhi laid eleven principles for practice of Satyagrah. Non- violence, Non-possession, fearlessness and truth had larger impact than any other principles.

Gandhi urged us to shun weapons because use of weapons leads to compromise on two principles of Satyagrah, one, Non-violence, and two, fearlessness. Fear of failing to achieve peace through peaceful means leads one to weapons. Fear forced both, Ram and Krishna to take to weapons.

Non-possession makes you more accepting to anything which comes to you. Non-possession gives you opportunity to gain everything. It’s contrary to popular belief that non possession leads you to a state where you have nothing to lose. It helps accepting the evil without hatred and then converting it to good.

While one makes Satyagrah his weapon he is going to suffer. Best possible way to tide over sufferings will be to separate mind from body, so as bodily sufferings don’t make our resolve weak. It’s important for Satyagrahi not to retaliate, verbally or physically. Physical submission needs to be done but defiance should always continue. Satyagrah is not about insulting, it’s about converting.

In today’s world we have failed to practice even single principle. Satyagrah is already dead, lessons haven’t been learnt and a war more devastating than Mahabharat waits. Rise and start Satyagrah within your self to avoid another Mahabharat. Evil can never be destroyed, for it’s important for equilibrium, lets convert it to good.

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