Mainstream, VOL LII, No 40, September 27, 2014
Shahid Bhagat Singh
Sunday 28 September 2014, by , ,
September 28, 2014 marks the immortal revolutionary martyr Bhagat Singh’s 107th birth anniversary. On this occasion we are publishing the following article on Bhagat Singh and a review of a book on him in the subsequent pages.
Shahid Bhagat Singh is widely recognised as perhaps the most famous and respected revolutionary of the freedom movement of India. Although he, along with his two comrades Sukhdev and Rajguru, was hanged by the colonial regime at the extremely young age of 23, he had already won so much affection and respect that in vast parts of India his fame rivalled that of Gandhi. This has been acknowledged by the official chronicler of the Congress party. His death (and that of his two colleagues) was mourned by millions across India, from Punjab (his home-province) to Tamil Nadu. Many of them wept openly. Political and other differences were set aside as the vast nation was united by tears over the loss of its most beloved sons. Indeed, there were appeals against this death sentence even from the base of the imperial power, from Britain.
While details of this inspiring saga of Shahid (Martyr) Bhagat Singh have been published widely, nevertheless there remain significant gaps in acknowledging the many-sided achievements and contributions of this remarkable youth, one of the most accomplished among the young leaders of world history. While his predominant role has been that of a freedom fighter, this encompassed many distinguished roles as a scholar, writer, journalist, disaster relief worker, civil liberties activist, and socialist ideologue, all of which he performed with great merit. Among many dedicated comrades, he emerged as almost a natural leader, a reality acknowledged spontaneously by people. On the lighter side, more by force of circumstances (the need to hide his main identity) he also worked for some time as a school teacher (actually a headmaster) and even a small-time dairy entrepreneur (where he is reputed to have distributed free a substantial share of the milk to employees and friends, remonstrating with his annoyed mother that milk should be distributed among all).
Even more significant are the gaps relating to acknowledging the contributions which Bhagat Singh and his colleagues also made to non-violent struggles during the period of their jail-sentences, as also their assertion of the importance of non-violent struggles and sustained organisational work among peasants and workers. Their significant work for resisting violence and discrimination based on the religious divide has not received due recognition, as also their commitment to the rights of Dalits (the castes who faced widespread discrimination as untouchables).
Last but not the least, while Bhagat Singh’s many-sided accomplishments at a very young age evoke admiration and awe, the family influences which made this possible have not been adequately explored. Bhagat Singh’s remarkable consciousness and yearning for justice even at the age of 12 to 14 has been frequently cited. We must know what made this possible and contributed to this.
This paper seeks to fill some of these gaps.
Childhood and Family Influences
Bhagat Singh was born on September 28, 1907 at Banga Village (now in Lyallpur district of Pakistan). At the age of nine he heard about the efforts of the Gadar Party in which 8000 emigrés returned from America, Canada and South-East Asia to liberate India, particularly its 19-year-old leader Martyr Kartar Singh Sarabha who became a source of great inspiration. In 1919 many innocent people were killed by the security forces in the most cruel way at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar. At the age of 12 Bhagat Singh insisted on going to Amritsar to pay his homage to those who were killed and brought back a handful of blood soaked soil from the site of the massacre. With his sister, Amar Kaur, he put flowers on this soil, as if paying homage to those who had died. At the age of 14 we find him observing closely the massacre at Nanakana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak. In November of the same year we find him writing (in a letter to his grandfather) about the preparations of an impending railway strike. At the age of 14 we also see him getting involved in the non-cooperation movement and partici-pating in activities like burning bonfire of foreign cloth. At the age of 15-16 we see him establishing contacts with revolutionaries and immersing himself in studying revolutionary literature. At the age of 16 we see him leaving home for some time with a message for his father that his life is now dedicated to the freedom of India.
This is quite an extraordinary childhood and to understand the ‘making of Bhagat Singh’ we need to understand the equally remarkable family in which Bhagat Singh was born and brought up.
Bhagat Singh’s grandfather, Arjun Singh, was a man of strong feelings for social reforms as well as freedom of India. In his family Arjun Singh often told stories of his own grandfather, Fateh Singh, who had helped Muslim tenants to get land rights and later, unlike other big landowners, refused an offer to get more land by entering into a deal with the British. This happened at the time of the great struggle for independence in 1857. Refusing the offer Fateh Singh said that the teaching of Guru Gobind is that as a principle we should stand with the struggle for justice.
Arjun Singh carried this tradition further and provided conducive conditions for his three sons to join the freedom struggle and reform movements. He set high standards for good relationships with farm workers. He provided free medicare to the needy and encouraged his wife, Jay Kaur, also to do so. At a time when education of girls was frowned upon, he gave the name ‘Vidyawati’ to his eldest daughter-in-law (mother of Bhagat Singh). He encouraged his daughters-in-law to carry out various constructive activities to help villagers like educating girls and providing a helping hand to the needy. He along with his wife and other family members supported the upbringing of about 22 orphan children, most of whom later contributed to the freedom movement with dedication.
At the time of the thread ceremony of his two grandsons, Jagat Singh and Bhagat Singh, he said: “I dedicate them to the freedom struggle of the nation.”
The eldest son of Arjun Singh was named Kishan Singh (father of Bhagat Singh). At a young age he worked with great dedication in earthquake, flood and drought relief. (Bhagat Singh also later worked with great dedication in flood relief in Kanpur.) Then he joined the freedom struggle with an equally strong resolve, helping an Gadar Revolutionary Party’s efforts, going to jail several times and enduring much hardship. He was also active in the efforts for improving jail conditions. (Again a role that was taken up further by his illustrious son, Bhagat Singh.)
Kishan Singh’s wife Vidyawati supported her husband bravely in his various activities, apart from helping in bringing up many orphan children. At a later stage, her courage and firm resolve received nationwide admiration. When her son, Bhagat Singh, had been hanged and her two other sons, Kulbir and Kultar, as well as daughter, Amar Kaur, had been arrested, she challenged the colonial government saying: “You can kill me but you can’t bend me.”
No less inspiring for Bhagat Singh was his uncle, Ajit Singh. In cooperation with other leading freedom fighters like Sufi Amba Prasad, Lala Hardyal and Lala Lajpat Rai, he quickly took forward many initiatives like the farmers’ movement against unjust taxes and publication of inspiring literature. (Both these aspects were later emphasised also by Bhagat Singh.) He led a successful public agitation, popularly known as Pagri Sambhal Jatta, which forced the colonial rulers to withdraw the unjust tax rules imposed on farmers. Ajit Singh impressed the freedom movement’s leader, Lokmanya Tilak, so much that the latter said when India becomes free, Ajit Singh should be the first President of India. However, due to his brilliance and rapid progress the colonial government was expected to take strong action against Ajit Singh. So at the age of 26 he had to leave India and for 37 years he worked for the freedom of India in various countries outside India. Bhagat Singh cherished the memories and anecdotes about his uncle.
Ajit Singh’s wife, Harnam Kaur, came from a family with strong sufi influence. She helped villagers with educational and medical services, and spinned a lot of khadi thread (this was an integral part of the various constructive works taken up by freedom movement).
Arjun Singh’s third son (and Bhagat Singh’s younger uncle) was named Swaran Singh. He started his social activities with working for orphans and for drought and earthquake relief. Then he participated very actively in the freedom movement including publication of freedom literature. He was arrested and became seriously ill in jail. On his release he couldn’t recover and died at the young age of 23. His wife, Hukam Kaur, continued to help in the family’s many struggles.
As a child, Bhagat Singh sympathised with both his aunts. Harnam’s husband had to leave the country he loved so deeply. Hukam had lost her husband at a very young age. The thoughtful child that he was, Bhagat linked his family’s tragedies to the oppressive foreign rule.
Growing up in such a family Bhagat Singh was constantly exposed to stories of glaring injustices of foreign rule, the extreme distress of the people and the valour of those who opposed this injustice. The family had a rich collection of literature on these issues and Bhagat Singh started reading all this at a very young age.
From this family, which challenged the prevailing social and religious norms and supported reforms, Bhagat Singh got a strong sense of rationality and reasoning based on the reality and facts.
This was a family which, despite suffering many-sided oppression and economic loss, continued to care for workers, poorer families and orphans. Bhagat too imbibed strong concerns of siding with the poor and deprived people.
This family had tried to embrace what was best in many rich traditions as well as reform movements and the freedom movement, and all this contributed to the very remarkable qualities seen in Bhagat Singh at a very young age.
Preparing for a Wider and Durable National Role
Bhagat Singh completed the first four years of his education in his village and after this he came to Lahore for further studies. Here he heard and read a lot about the valiant struggles of the Gadar Party. About 8000 Indians living abroad had come to India with strong hopes and aspirations of securing the freedom of their country. They did not succeed, but their courage and particularly the leadership role of Kartar Singh Sarabha had a lasting impact on many youths of Punjab (and other parts of India) including Bhagat Singh.
Bhagat Singh’s school education was disru-pted by his involvement in the freedom movement, and later he had to study hard to rejoin the National College at Lahore. Here he came in contact with revolutionaries and read a lot of revolutionary literature. Then to avoid family pressures for marriage, he left for Kanpur at the age of 16.
Bhagat Singh’s first stay in Kanpur was for only six months but he came here again after some time. His time spent at Kanpur was of course devoted to his revolutionary activities, but it also had some other aspects. Here he plunged into flood-relief work with great dedication. He also worked for some time as a teacher/headmaster in a National School in Aligarh district. He established a close friendship with B.K. Dutt and learnt Bangla from him to directly read Kazi Nazural Islam and the memoirs of Bengal revolutionaries.
Above all, in the inspiring company of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, he improved his skills as a journalist and political commentator, and wrote many articles for Pratap, the famous newspaper edited by Vidyarthi. His writing continued to progress and it was published in several journals. Thus even though several writings of Bhagat Singh have been lost, he has left behind many writings of durable and historical interest which continue to inspire many people specially youth in India even today.
Bhagat Singh accompanied his father, Kishan Singh, to the Belgaum Congress session where Kishan Singh introduced him to leaders like Nehru and Subhash, to impress that to play an effective role in the freedom struggle one must be highly learned. Here he also had a long sitting with the Bengal revolutionary, Nirlamba Swami.
Back in Punjab, Bhagat Singh proved his abilities as an organiser in the mobilisation at his village Banga to help activists participating in the liberation of gurudwaras from the control of pro-colonial occupiers. Defying the govern-ment’s orders for not helping any of these activist-marchers, Bhagat Singh mobilised rural communities to welcome and provide hospitality to the activist-marchers passing through their villages.
The success of Bhagat Singh’s mobilisation also raised possibilities of his arrest, and so Bhagat Singh went to Delhi. Here apart from continuing his journalism work Bhagat Singh also played a very courageous role in the efforts to check communal tensions. His roommate Deenanath Sidharthalankar recalled that Bhagat Singh stepped into very high-risk situations to reason with the angry people and calm them down.
A similar prioritisation for resisting comm-unalism and asserting the unity of people is evident in the activities of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha. Bhagat Singh teamed up with close comrades like Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Sukhdev and Ramchandra to form the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, an organisation of youth, that motivated them to participate in the wider mobilisation of people in communal harmony for attaining freedom on socialist basis and fighting injustice.
Back in Punjab, he took keen interest in writing for Kirti, an Urdu and Punjabi paper established by the Gadrites. He wrote on many topics of concern. His writings about the Kakori heros led to his arrest in 1927 by the police.
He was subjected to much harassment and intensive interrogation, but nothing could break him and the authorities had to release him on a bail of Rs 60,000. The photograph on a cot was taken by the police at this time.
The year 1921 saw two world events in contrast, the Indian non-cooperation movement failing to achieve the desired result but the Irish movement succeeding to get dominion status. In 1924 the memoirs named, My Fight ForIrish Freedom, by Dan Breen was published, Bhagat Singh translated it in Hindi and got it published so that they could understand and learn from the Irish success story at that time.
During his Kanpur days Bhagat joined the organisation of revolutionaries named the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA). However, in the Kakori case several leading members of the HRA were arrested. Four of them were sentenced to death. This led to a very difficult situation for the remaining members, including Bhagat Singh and the more senior leader Chandrashekhar Azad. Bhagat Singh went through a period of intense introspection.
As he wrote later: “Up to that period I was only a romantic idealist revolutionary. Uptil then we were to follow. Now came the time to shoulder the whole responsibility. Due to the inevitable reaction for some time the very existence of the Party seemed impossible. Enthusiastic comrades—nay leaders—began to jeer at us. For some time I was afraid that someday I also might be convinced of the futility of our own programme. That was a turning-point in my revolutionary career. ‘Study’ was the cry that reveberated in the corridors of my mind. Study to enable yourself to face the arguments in favour of your cult. I began to study. My previous faith and convictions underwent a remarkable modification. The romance amongst our predecessors was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith. Realism became our cult. Use of force justifiable when resorted to as a matter of terrible necessity: non-violence as policy indispensable for all mass movements. So much about methods. The most important thing was the clear conception of the ideal for which we were to fight.”
It was as a result of this intense introspection and discussion based on this that when leading members of the HRA from different provinces met for an important review in Delhi (Firozshah Kotla) on September 8-9, 1928, they took a very important decision to add ‘socialist’ to the name of their organisation. Thus the new name the organisation obtained was the ‘Hindustan Socialist Republican Association’ (HSRA). Bhagat Singh played the most important role in this decision. This was to make clear the socialist concept of free India.
The responsibilities of Bhagat Singh also increased as he and Bijoy Kumar Sinha were made responsible for the co-ordination of the organisation in various provinces. Bhagat Singh also changed his rustic, easily identifiable look by a hair cut at Ferozepur on his way back from the Delhi meeting.
Events moved at a brisk pace after this. There was a lot of anger in the country at the violence unleashed on the people and leaders who had gathered to protest against the Simon Commission at Lahore. This violence was widely believed to be the cause of Lala Lajpat Rai’s death soon after. There was a lot of despondency in the country at the inability to do anything while a national-level leader died from such an attack. The HSRA reckoned that strong action against the perpetrators of this attack will help to turn this inertia into a new confidence to move forward on the path of independence. In a much discussed action in December 1928 a police official Saunders was shot dead (while another police official had to be shot to make the escape possible). Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Durga then escaped in well-planned disguise to Calcutta where the leading revolutionary, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, received them with warmth and congratulated his wife, Durga, at the well-planned and daring escape. Here they observed the Congress session and then moved to B.K. Dutt’s village near Burdwan for further planning. The decision to establish a revolutionary centre at Agra was taken and a library with a good collection of revolutionary books was set up.
The need for further action that could focus the people’s attention on the limitations and weaknesses of the colonial government’s reforms and hence prepare the people for a more forward looking path towards independence was strongly felt by the HSRA. Hence a plan was drawn out that when the Central Legislature will debate highly unpopular bills to curtail civil liberties and curb trade union rights, one or two specially prepared bombs will be thrown in the legislature by the HSRA members in such a way that they’ll cause minimal damage and certainly not any loss of life.
This was precisely what Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt did on April 8, 1929, throwing bombs with such precision and care that apart from a big noise and the resulting mayhem, only a few bruises were caused. Bhagat Singh and Dutt then voluntarily handed their revolvers to the security personnel, all the time throwing leaflets explaining their stand and also shouting revolutionary slogans. This was is in a spirit of Satyagrahi but with a revolutionary zeal, that if you challenge the system then stand with determination to face the consequences and propogate your view and convince the world with your arguments.
Courageous as these actions were, these did not necessarily succeed in the aim of the HSRA to win much more widespread support, at least not to the extent that the revolutionaries had hoped for. But these did influence the politics of the time. The slogans raised in the Assembly—“Down with British Imperialism” and “Long live Revolution”—started echoing everywhere.
More arrests were made than was anticipated and the HSRA members were linked to a big conspiracy to overthrow the British Imperial rule and in the series of actions including the Saunders case.
Two Year Battle Fought from Prison—How Handcuffed Prisoners Defeated Biggest Imperial Power
Despite all these limitations and adversities, after their imprisonment Bhagat Singh and his comrades, by their courage and noble conduct, were able to inspire and mobilise millions of people for greater participation in the freedom movement. This period of the imprisonment of Bhagat Singh and his close comrades thus became one of the most glorious chapters in the freedom movement of India and indeed in all liberation struggles. During these two years, April 1929-March 1931, Bhagat Singh and his close comrades can justly be credited with not justly defying but even defeating the world’s biggest imperial power from behind the bars. The more the colonial government tried to repress and torture them, the more reverence and affection they received in the entire country because of the courage and determination with which they faced the onslaught. This is why the colonial power with its vast reach and strength was defeated by its handcuffed prisoners.
Much more than their own defence, Bhagat Singh, along with B.K. Dutt and other comrades, concentrated on focusing attention on the rights of all political prisoners and issues concerning this. In the course of the various struggles of the freedom movement, a large number of political prisoners (mostly freedom fighters) were all the time being imprisoned and the terrible conditions in jails posed a serious threat to their life and health much beyond the punishment to which they were sentenced by the legal system. Bhagat Singh and his close comrades went on fasts ranging from 60 to 95 days to demand the essential rights of all political prisoners.
Secondly, despite the fact that the colonial government was violating all norms of justice to rush up the case against Bhagat Singh and his close comrades, denying various essential rights to the accused, Bhagat Singh and his colleagues worked very hard to present their views and idealogy in careful, well-thought-out ways. As a result it became increasingly clear to the people that these revolutionaries had actually taken all care to save human lives in the Assembly Bombing Case. A terrorist generally tries to take more human lives, whereas these freedom fighters had taken the maximum precaution to ensure that there was no loss to human life. This was evident in the way the bombs were prepared, and the way in which these were used. They had also given away their revolvers on their own to security-men, although they could have used these weapons to make good their escape.
It was becoming increasingly clear to the people from the conduct and statements made by the revolutionary prisoners that far from indulging in any indiscriminate violence, they had planned their activities very carefully keeping in view only the interests of their country and the freedom movement for which they were willing to make any sacrifice and bear any hardship.
This became apparent from the courage and nobility with which they faced torture and beatings. They endured fasting for very long periods. Even as they saw their own health and the health of their dearest friends collapsing before their eyes, they did not surrender. Paralysis gradually spread from one part of the body of the fasting freedom fighter, Jatindranath Das, to another part, and yet he did not break his fast. Prison authorities used to mix milk in the water, so that when they drink water the fast of the revolutionaries would automatically break. Instead of drinking this milk-mixed water, the thirsty prisoners simply broke the pitchers containing this water. When the authorities tried to force feed them in a cruel way, the prisoners still resisted so much that they were injured. Ultimately fearing loss of life due to force feeding the jail officials had to discontinue these efforts.
As news of such acts of courage and determination spread, the support for these revolutionaries grew rapidly in the country, just as these young freedom fighters had hoped.
In a paper ‘Bhagat Singh as Satyagrahi’, (Modern Asian Studies 43, 3 -2009) Neeti Nair has summarised the impact of such actions on the nation:
“Soon after news of the hunger strike spread, 30 June (1929) was observed as Bhagat Singh-Dutt Day in a majority of districts in the Punjab. In Lahore, 10,000 people attended a meeting organised by the City Congress Committee... The Tribune reported that thousands of Lahorians had expressed their solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoners by fasting that day.... Bhagat Singh and Dutt were hailed as the honour of Punjab and Bengal.... Volunteers from the Congress and the youth leagues marched in procession with red banners carrying photographs of the hunger-striking prisoners bearing the inscription ‘all for country’s honour sixteen young men are starving to death’.
“When the success of these processions unnerved the administration and Section 144 was suddenly imposed, Congress, Ahrar and Akali leaders, including Sardar Mangal Singh and Zafar Ali Khan, courted arrest by shouting the newly banned slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ along with members of the newly banned Naujawan Bharat Sabha.
“The Satyagraha Committee won its first victory when the District Magistrate was forced to modify his order and release the defiant demonstrators. The Naujawan Bharat Sabha celebrated its victory by announcing that 21 July will be celebrated as the All India Bhagat Singh-Dutt Day. The proposed programme included fasting, processions, the collection of funds for the Conspiracy Case Defence Committee and meetings to explain the purpose of the hunger strike and protest the treatment of political prisoners.”
When fasting freedom fighter Jatindranath Das died on September 13, 1929 after a continuous fast of 63 days, “50000 funeral processionists marched through Lahore. The Central Legislative Assembly passed a motion of adjournment to censure the government for their policy regarding the hunger striking prisoners in the Lahore Conspiracy Case...... In the Punjab, Drs. Muhammad Alam and Gopi Chand Bhargava resigned from the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Subhas Bose led the miles-long funeral procession in Calcutta.... Rabindranath Tagore was inspired to compose a song.
“Later, when Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to death, Bhagat Singh Appeal Committees were established in every district of the Punjab. At a Bhagat Singh day on 17 February, 1931, colleges emptied out into streets, 15,000 people met in Lahore. Over 138,000 signatures seeking the commutation of the death sentence were sent by the All Punjab Bhagat Singh Appeal Committee to the Viceroy. In Amritsar, a public meeting organised by the Workers and Peasants Party demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners. The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee insisted that commuting the death sentence was an essential condition for peace.”
Indeed the protest against the glaring unjust trial and death sentence even reached Britain where an appeal titled ‘Stop the Lahore Executions!’ was signed by thousands of people. This appeal stated: “We, the undersigned electors in Great Britain, emphatically protest against your sanction being given to the sentences, including three death penalties, passed by the judge in the Conspiracy Case at Lahore, India, after a trial, the character of which arouses the gravest misgivings.
“We are aware that the twentyseven Indian youths accused in this case were not only tried without a jury but by the special personal instructions of the Viceroy. Extraordinary regulations were adopted to conclude the trial without regard to the usual procedure.
“We regard the sentences passed under these circumstances as a violation of justice and demand that they should be disallowed by you. If the three death sentences are put into operation, we shall hold you and your Government responsible for sanctioning what amounts to the murder of political opponents under the guise of official judicial sentences.
“Without entering into the question whether there was any justification at all for the trial of the accused men at Lahore, whose conviction could only be obtained by such extraordinary means, we desire as strongly as possible to press our views upon you that there should be in all cases, without exception, an open, normal trial by a jury of the countrymen of the accused persons.”
Invaluable Contributions of Great Relevance to Our Times
It is clear that Bhagat Singh and his colleagues with hardly any resources and working in very adverse situations were able to cause a massive impact in terms of creating high levels of commitment and courage for the freedom movement. This they achieved by their personal example of great courage and noble conduct, and also by careful planning of how to make the best possible use of their very adverse circumstances to somehow take their message in a very convincing way to the people. In all of this Bhagat Singh as a strategist played a very significant role. The impact of the fasts and other courageous actions of Bhagat Singh and his colleagues could be specifically seen in the Congress moving rapidly towards the goal of full freedom (Complete Independence) from colonial rule.
He and his colleagues also made it amply clear to the people that they did not believe in indiscriminate violence and greatly valued human life. All misunderstandings on this score were cleared by them in their statements.
Bhagat Singh wrote very clearly, “non-violence as a policy is indispensable for all mass movements” while force is justifiable only “when resorted to as a matter of terrible necessity”. During the trial, Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt said in a joint statement: “We hold human life sacred beyond words.” When asked to define ‘revolution’ they said equally clearly that it did not mean the cult of ‘bomb and pistol’. A similar message was reiterated to the Punjab Student Conference in Lahore.
Basic changes in the existing system rooted in injustice are needed. The system of capitalism and imperialism has to be confronted on a wider scale to remove the basic causes of exploitation and injustice. Only then conducive conditions will emerge for ending war and establishing real and stable peace based on justice. World level fraternity based on equality in the true sense was emphasised by Bhagat Singh.
On another aspect of peace, Bhagat Singh gave very high priority to ending all sectarian conflicts based on narrow and aggressive interpretations of religious beliefs. He was very active on this front in Punjab, Delhi and Kanpur, establishing close collaboration with others like Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi who were very devoted to this work. The Naujawan Bharat Sabha formed by Bhagat Singh and his colleagues was very active on this front in adverse situations and helped to check the spread of communalism.
Bhagat Singh also gave very high priority to the strong mobilisation of Dalits for ending discrimination and exploitation within the Indian society. He assigned great importance to social revolution based on the mobilisation of Dalits and this was also a part of the freedom struggle. He called upon the Dalits to get united and challenge the entire society against the injustices suffered by them for so long. At the same time he warned them against the manipulations of the bureaucracy of the capitalist system to misguide and use them for its own ends.
Bhagat Singh called upon the youth to mobilise workers and peasants as they are the real strength of the movement. Bhagat Singh equally emphasised workers and peasants, city slums and village huts.
The establishment of a socialist system was emphasised by Bhagat Singh, as is evident from the fact that largely on his insistence the name of their organisation was changed from the Hindustan Republican Association to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.
All this remains highly relevant for India today and a lot of this is also relevant in the international context. It is amazing that Bhagat Singh as the leading ideologue of his organisation was able to formulate such a mature agenda at an age of 20 to 23 years. All the time he was extremely tied up in various activities of his party or he was jailed, yet he was able to study and write extensively. Finally, all these ideas could be used in such a way as to inspire millions of people only because of the immense sufferings that Bhagat Singh and his comrades were able to face with great courage and nobility of conduct. It is the combination of all these achievements which makes Bhagat Singh one of the greatest freedom fighters of India and also one of the most inspiring figures of all liberation struggles who continues to inspire millions of people even today.
Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist involved with several social initiatives and movements. Jagmohan Singh is the Chairman, Shahid Bhagat Singh Centenary Foundation. Madhu Dogra is a free-lance writer and researcher.