Today, let’s look back in time and remember the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Nowadays youngsters are unfortunately kept away from society and politics but the three were only in their twenties at the time of their passing in 1931.
For in those days, political activism was welcomed, in fact, encouraged and treated with respect. Bhagat Singh was honored with various titles such as ‘Prince of martyr’ and ‘Son of the nation’.
The main questions we wish to ask in this blog post: Why did the British execute Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev a day prior? And too in secrecy? How did the three become an inspiration for youngsters? What was Bhagat Singh’s idea of freedom?
In 1928, Simon Commission (which involved 7 British MPs) was set up to suggest constitutional changes in India. There wasn’t even a single Indian representative to carry out those reforms. In other words, no consultation before making the law.
So, protests across India erupted.
Prominent leader Lala Lajpat Rai was among the protesters. Police superintendent James Scott ordered lathi charge on Lala Rajpat Rai which left him bruised and battered and ultimately led to his demise in 1928.
Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and Chandrasekhar Azad wanted to take revenge. But they terminated the deputy superintendent Saunders instead. Which became the cause for their term in jail. The British police could never find Azad not until his death at least.
The interesting thing is that Bhagat Singh was left leaning and Lala Rajpat Rai was right leaning. But despite having opposite world views, the two were quite close. In fact, Bhagat Singh considered Lala Lajpat Rai his mentor.
Their goal was common, a free, sovereign India, which helped.
Assassination of Saunders failed to inspire the revolutionary reaction that Bhagat Singh had anticipated. Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders of Congress party condemned the act of violence.
But, Bhagat Singh decided to go one step further. He famously once said: “If the deaf have to hear, sound has to be very loud.”
Along with Batukeshwar Dutt, Bhagat Singh exploded a few bombs in Central Hall of Parliament in 1929. They had both agreed, prior to bombing, to appear before the court. The goal was to promote Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) and inspire revolutionary reaction. The plan was to use the court as a stage for their message.
He was jailed again. This time for longer. Until his execution day.
But one cannot kill the ideas of a person by imprisoning their body. Bhagat Singh continued to voice his protest even when in jail. In 1929, he sat on a hunger strike. His demands: That Indians be treated with same dignity in jail as British inmates are. Plus, they be given the status of political prisoners.
Their HSRA colleague, Jatin Das who had participated in this hunger strike, passed away after 63 days. This caused a huge uproar in the entire nation and their party started to receive letters and nationwide support.
The goal that he had in mind, i.e., to invoke revolutionary thinking seemed possible. Bhagat Singh ended his strike after 116 days! Despite that long a strike, they did not receive the status of political prisoners. As their execution day approached closer, the British police predicted a strong backlash.
And that is why they preponed it in complete secrecy.
Jail superintendent Chattar Singh informed Bhagat Singh about this move but Bhagat Singh was not bothered by it. (He was busy reading a book written by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin).
The early morning atmosphere was quiet until the three revolutionaries emerged from jail shouting “Inquilab Zindabad”. The three were executed one by one to cause more shock and horror among the inmates. Their bodies were stuffed into sacks and dragged to the banks of river Sutlej, in complete secrecy, where their last rites were organized. Before dawn; Before the villagers could mourn, their charred remains were hurled into the river.
Bhagat Singh wrote a letter before dying. ‘Desire for revolution is more than desire for life.’ ‘To say farewell with a smile would encourage more Bhagat Singhs’ ‘And then the revolution will be inevitable.’
That is how Bhagat Singh decided to awaken his fellow countrymen even by his death.
Shockingly, today, most people only know Bhagat Singh for his aggressive approach. Few care about his thought processes, his ideologies, his beliefs. He was a visionary young man. (You can easily find his predictions of today’s problems in his writings).
In one of his writings from 1928 you will find how he wanted religion and state to be separate. He had also written about casteism and untouchability. ‘We call ourselves spiritual but don’t treat fellow humans with dignity.’
He has strongly condemned those politicians who use religion and caste to win elections in his writings. Sadly, even 90 years after his death, we haven’t learned anything. Politicians continue to make misuse of caste and religion to win votes.
About media, Bhagat Singh wrote that it could be used as a tool to disintegrate society. Media is a manipulator, he wrote. It can control the human mind. Riots have erupted in some places only due to poor choice of headlines, he said. So, clearly, Bhagat Singh understood deeply and intimately the ills of politics.