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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 13, March 22, 2014

Bhagat Singh : A Tribute

Sunday 23 March 2014, by Bimal Prasad

Eightythree years ago on March 23, 1931, Bhagat Singh and his comrades, Sukhdev and Rajguru, were executed by the British Raj at Lahore Central Jail. On this occasion we reproduce excerpts from an AIR broadcast on Bhagat Singh to mark the fiftieth anniversary of their martyrdom by the eminent historian and retired Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Bimal Prasad. The text of the broadcast was carried in Mainstream (March 28, 1981).

As Bhagat Singh, flanked by Rajguru on the one side and Sukhdev on the other, and singing a patriotic song, approached the place earmarked for their hanging, he noticed the Deputy Comm-issioner of Lahore standing there. Bhagat Singh said to him with a smile: “Well, Mr Magistrate, you are fortunate to be able today to see how Indian revolutionaries can embrace death with pleasure for the sake of their supreme ideal.”

All the three proved equal to this claim. No one present there witnessed a shadow on their faces as they took the noose round their necks raising the slogans—Long Live Revolution! Down with Imperialism! The date was March 23, 1931; the time: 33 minutes past 7 in the evening. Bhagat Singh was only twentythree years old at that time.....

Bhagat Singh’s heroism and fearlessness come out most vividly in some of the letters which he wrote from prison......

After the sentence of death was announced he wrote to Batukeshwar Dutt:

I am eagerly waiting for the day when I shall have the good fortune of being hanged for my ideal.

In another letter to one of his younger brothers he wrote that after he was hanged, his mother need not be brought along when the members of the family came to take possession of his dead body for she was sure to burst into tears and then people would say that Bhagat Singh’s mother was weeping.....

Largely a self-educated man, though he did attend some educational institutions, Bhagat Singh had a sharp intellect and was a voracious reader. He had read and digested quite a large number of books dealing with history and politics, particularly those relating to revolutions the world over. Prison for him became a place of learning and research and writing and he penned some of the finest pieces on the objectives and facets of the Indian revolutionaries. Indeed we know on sound authority that he wrote not less than four books while in prison, but the manuscripts of these have been lost. However, some of his statements and letters survive and they show how clearly he looked into the future and what visions he had of the new society which he wanted to be founded in India. Thus in his statement in the Delhi Court on June 6, 1929, on behalf of both himself and Batukeshwar Dutt, he declared:

We dropped bombs on the floor of the Assembly Chamber to register our protest on behalf of those who had no other means left, to give expression to their heart-rending agony. Our sole purpose was to make the deaf hear and to give the heedless timely warning...Out of our sincerest good-will and love for humanity we have adopted this method of warning to prevent untold sufferings which we, like millions of others, clearly foresee.

He further added:

Force when aggressively applied is violence and is, therefore, morally unjustifiable. But when it is used in the furtherance of a legitimate cause it has its moral justification. Elimination of force at all costs is Utopian and the new movement which has arisen in the country and of which we have given a warning is inspired by the deeds which guided Guru Govind Singh and Shivaji, Kamal Pasha, and Reza Khan, Washington and Garibaldi, Lafayette and Lenin. As both the alien Government and the Indian public leaders appeared to have shut their eyes and closed their ears against the existence and voice of this motive, we have felt it our duty to sound the warning where it could not go unheard.

.....the significance of Bhagat Singh lies in the fact that he was not merely an ardent nationalist, but was also endowed with a radical social outlook. He was a convinced socialist and saw India’s salvation only in following the path of socialism. It was primarily at his insistence that the name of the Hindustan Republican Army had been changed in 1928 to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army.

(Courtesy: Spotlight, AIR) (Mainstream, March 28, 1981)