Life and Ideas of Revolutionary Bhagat Singh and his Associates
This is supplementary to the web site www.shahidbhagatsingh.org
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Read pages 1 to 73 which makes part 1 of Jail Note Book in text . This is also available on the web site www.shahidbhagatsingh.org
Monday, April 27, 2009
A Page from the Jail Note Book maintained by Shahid Bhagat Singh from 12th Sep.1929 till 7th October, 1930
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Justice Krishna Iyer’s plea For justice to Binayak Sen thus removal of a cause of much shame to Indian democracy.”
The text of a letter written by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, former Supreme Court Judge, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, dated April 17, 2009:
I would like to bring to your attention a case of grave injustice which is a cause of much shame to Indian democracy: that of Dr. Binayak Sen, the well known paediatrician and defender of human rights.
This good doctor has been incarcerated in a Raipur jail for nearly two years now under the Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act, 2005. Among the charges against Dr. Sen, who is renowned worldwide for his public health work among the rural poor, are "treason and waging war against the state."
Chhattisgarh State prosecutors claim that Binayak, as part of an unproven conspiracy, passed on a set of letters from Narayan Sanyal, a senior Maoist leader who is in the Raipur jail, to Piyush Guha, a local businessman with allegedly close links to the left-wing extremists. He was supposed to have done this while visiting Sanyal in prison both in his capacity as a human rights activist and as a doctor treating him for various medical ailments.
The trial of Dr. Sen, which began in a Raipur Sessions Court late April 2008, has, however, not thrown up even a shred of evidence to justify any of these charges against him. By March 2009, of the 83 witnesses listed for deposition by the prosecution as part of the original charge-sheet, 16 were dropped by the prosecutors themselves and six declared 'hostile', while 61 others have deposed without corroborating any of the accusations against Dr. Sen. Irrespective of the merits of the case against Dr. Sen, there are very disturbing aspects to the way the trial process has been carried out so far.
As if all this were not enough, Dr. Sen has also been repeatedly denied bail by the Bilaspur High Court (in September 2007 and December 2008). And the Supreme Court of India rejected his special leave petition to have the bail application heard before it (in December 2007).
Given the paucity of evidence in the trial of Dr. Sen so far, in all fairness the Raipur court should have dismissed the case against him altogether by now. Certainly the weakness of the prosecution's position should entitle him to at least grant of bail. Dr. Sen is a person of international standing and reputation, with a record of impeccable behaviour throughout his distinguished career. In May 2008, in an unprecedented move 22 Nobel Prize winners even signed a public statement calling him a 'professional colleague' and asking for his release.
Normally bail is refused only in cases where courts believe an accused can tamper with evidence, prejudice witnesses or run away. In Dr. Sen's case none of these apply, as shown by the simple fact that at the time of his arrest he chose to come to the Chhattisgarh police voluntarily and made no attempt to abscond despite knowing about his possible detention.
Today Dr. Sen, a diabetic who is also hypertensive, is himself in urgent need of medical treatment for his deteriorating heart condition. In recent weeks his health has worsened and a doctor appointed by the court to examine him recommended that he be transferred to Vellore for an angiography and perhaps, if needed, an angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft without further delay.
Instead of recognising their social contributions, the Indian state, by wrongly branding Dr. Sen and many other human rights defenders like him as 'terrorists', is making a complete mockery of not just democratic norms and fair governance but its entire anti-terrorist strategy and operations.
The repeated denial of bail which results in 'punishment by trial' constitutes an even graver threat to Indian society. The sheer injustice involved will only breed cynicism among ordinary citizens about the credibility and efficacy of Indian democracy itself.
Appeal to readers to share this broadly and register your strong concern to Prime Mimister by accessing the feedback form at
Choose the subject of Law and Order and write.
Fiaz Ahmed Faiz , one of the great revolutionary poet of United India paid tribute to the spirit of Martyrdom of Bhagat Singh ,Rajguru and Sukhdev
This poem is the tribute paid by Faiz Sahib to the revolutionary spirit of Bhagat Singh and his compatriots
कब याद में तेरा साथ नहीं कब हाथ में तेरा हाथ नहीं
सद शुक्र के अपनी रातों में अब हिज्र की कोई रात नहीं
मुश्किल हैं अगर हालात वहाँ दिल बेच आयेँ जाँ दे आयेँ
दिल वालो कूचा-ए-जानाँ में क्या ऐसे भी हालात नहीं
जिस धज से कोई मक़्तल में गया वो शान सलामत रहती है
ये जान तो आनी जानी है इस जाँ की तो कोई बात नहीं
मैदान-ए-वफ़ा दर्बार नहिओं याँ नाम-ओ-नसब की पूछ कहाँ
आशिक़ तो किसी का नाम नहीं कुछ इश्क़ किसी की ज़ात नहीं
गर बाज़ी इश्क़ की बाज़ी है जो चाहो लगा दो डर कैसा
गर जीत गए तो क्या कहना हारे भी तो बाज़ी मात नहीं
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
" However ultimately the problem cannot be satisfactorily solved unless and until untouchable community themselves unite and organize. We regard their recent uniting to form their distinct identity, and also demanding representation equal to Muslims in legislatures, being equal to them in numbers a move in the right direction."
And the suggestion Bhagat Singh makes is very interesting to
" Waste no time and unite to stand on your own feet and challenge the existing order of society. Let it then be seen as to who dares to deny your due. Do not be at mercy of others and have no illusions about them. Be on guard so as not to fall in trap of officialdom , because far from being your ally it seeks to make you dance to its own tunes. The capitalist bureaucratic combine is, truly speaking responsible for your oppression and poverty . Hence always shun it. Be on guard about its tricks. This is then the way out." - Editor
[ This article by Bhagat Singh was published in the "KIRTI " a Punjabi Magazine published from Amritsar in June,1928. : ed]
Our is in a really bad shape; here strangest questions are asked but the topmost among them concerns the Untouchables, who count 6 crore in a population of 30 crore.
For instance :
Would contact with an untouchable mean defilement of upper class?
Would the God in the temples, not get angry by entry of untouchable there?
Would the drinking water of a well not get polluted if the untouchables drew the water from the well?
These questions are being asked in the twentieth century, is a matter which makes our heads hang in shame.
We the Indians who boast of our spiritualism ,but we avoid accepting every human being as a fellow being just like ourselves. Western people on the other hand , who carry a reputation of being money-minded, had unequivocally affirmed their faith in the principle of equality. This they did during the revolutions in America and France and above all in Russia; these days Russsia is committed to the extension of this principle to all aspects of life and to ending the discriminations in any form whatsoever, there by fulfilling the ideals of May Day declaration. But we Indians on our part who never tire of boasting about our gods and godliness are, yet seriously debating whether to permit the untouchable to wear the sacred thread or the janeu and whether the untouchable be permited to read Vedas / Shastras. We often complain about our maltreatment in other countries, and particularly when we are maltreated by the whites, do we have any moral right to voice such a protest?
In 1926 , a Sindhi Muslim gentleman, Mr. Nur Mohammad , member of Bombay Legislative Council aptly remarked:-
" If the Hindu Society refuses to allow other human beings, fellow creatures at that , to attend public schools , and if …. The president of local board representing so many lakhs of people in this house, refuses to allow his fellows and brothers, the elementary human rights of having water to drink, what right have they to ask for more rights from bureaucracy? Before we accuse the people coming from other lands, we should see how we ourselves behave towards our own people.
How can we ask for greater political rights when ourselves deny elementary rights to human beings?
How true! But since this had been said by a Muslim, Hindu lost no time in alleging that Muslim's real intention was to convert the untouchables to Islam and thus assimilate them into their own brotherhood. But then, it amounted to an open admission of the harsh truth – that if you ( The Hindus) treat them worse than your cattle, they will desert you, join the fold of other religions where they hope to enjoy more rights, where they are treated as fellow being.
Would it not then be pointless to blame the Christians and Muslims that they were undermining Hinduism?
How fair and true! Yet the Hindus tremble in anger on hearing this plain truth. In any case, it has shaken Hindus from their complacency in the matter. Orthodox Brahmins too have started re-thinking about it, joined also by some self-proclaimed reformers. At Patna a gala Hindu meet was held. Lala Lajpat Rai, known for his longstanding sympathy for the untouchables, was presiding. A lot of hot arguments were exchanged as to whether the untouchables are eligible to wear sacred thread, the Janeu ? Could they read Vedas / Shastras ? A number of social reformers lost their temper but Lala ji was able to persuade them to compromise on these two matters and thereby saved the prestige of Hindu religion; otherwise what would have been the consequence?
Just imagine how shameful it is ! Even a dog can sit in our lap , it can also move freely in our kitchen but if a fellow human being touches you, your dharma is endangered. So much so, even a reputed social reformer like Pandit Malviya ji known for his soft corner for untouchables, first agree to be publicly garlanded by a sweeper , but then afterwards regards himself to be polluted till he bathes and washes those clothes . How ironical! In the temples meant for worshipping God, who lives in us all, if a poor man enters, it gets defiled and God gets annoyed. When this is the state of affairs within the Hindu fold, does it behove us to quarrel and fight in the name of the brotherhood? Above all this kind of approach to this question amounts to ingratitude of the highest degree; those who provide the comforts by doing menial jobs for us, we shun them. We could worship even animals, but would not tolerate fellow humans to sit beside us.
This is an issue of hot debate these days, the poor creatures getting special attention in this way. In the context of our advance towards national liberation, the problem of communal representation ( seats in the legislatures allotted to Hindu, Sikh and Musl;im population) may not have been beneficial in any manner but at least Hindu/Muslim/Sikhs are all striving hard to maximize their own respective quota of seats by attracting the maximum number of untouchables to their own respective folds. Accordingly Muslim started providing them equal rights after converting them to Islam.
This naturally hurt the Hindus. Bitterness mounted riots too broke out. By and by Sikhs too woke up lest they be left behind in this race. They too started administering Amrit; tension mounted between Sikhs and Hindus over the removal of Janeu or hair shaving. All in all, all the three are trying to outdo the others , resulting in widespread distrurbances. Christians sitting on the fence are quietly consolidating their hold.
Be as it may, this turmoil is certainly helping us to move towards the weakening of the hold of untouchability.
As for the untouchables, when they discovered that all this great turmoil was on their account and Hindus, Muslim and Sikhs , all were trying to profit at their cost, they also started thinking, " why should we not organize on our own?" No one is certain whether they are doing so as a result of official prompting or at their own but once this line of thinking had taken roots, certainly this trend is being fully backed up by official quarters. " Adi Dharma Mandal" and the like are end result of this trend.
Here the basic question arises, how precisely can we solve this tangle? The answer is quite obvious; above all it needs to be settled for good, that all human are equal without distinction of birth or vocation. In other words that since someone is born in poor sweeper's family, he shall continue cleaning toilets all his life and thus get deprived of all chances of progress in life, is all nonsense. Historically speaking when our Aryan ancestors nurtured these practices of discrimination towards this strata of society , shunning all human contact with them by labeling them as menials and assigning all the degrading jobs to them, they also, naturally started worrying about a revolt against this system. "All this is result of your past sins; nothing can be done about it now. Bear it silently!" and with such kind of sleeping pills, they were able to buy peace for quite some time. All the same they were guilty of a great sin on this account, since the amounted to negation of core human values like self-esteem and self-reliance, a grossly cruel conduct by all means. Yet present is the moment of atonement.
In a broader social perspective , untouchability had a pernicious side-effects; people in general got used to hating the jobs which were otherwise vital for life. We treated the weaver who provided us cloths as untouchable. In U.P water carriers were also considered untouchable. All this caused tremendous damage to our progress by undermining the dignity of labour, especially manual labour. We have thus accepted it one for all, that in order to move forward we have to give up either considering or calling them untouchables.
Everything else shall fall in place by itself.
In this regard, a strategy adopted by Naujawan Bharat Sabha and Youth conference is , most apt to seek forgiveness from those brethrens , whom we have been calling untouchables by treating them as our fellow beings, without making them go through conversion ceremonies of Sikhism, Islam or Hinduism, by accepting food/ water from their hands. On the other hand quarreling among ourselves in the race to win them over, without restoring to them their human dignity is futile.
But the moment we went to villages with our message of human equality and brotherhood mentioned above, Government agents started inciting the Jat community saying that this would embolden these menials to refuse serving them. This was sufficient to provoke the Jats , to oppose our efforts in the right direction.
But the upper casts should also realize that their own status in life cannot change for better as long as they persist in considering these people as inferior, calling them menials, and keeping them under their heels. It is argued that they are unclean. The harsh truth is that they are poor; remove their poverty and they shall be clean. Don't we find that the poor even among the upper casts are no less unclean? Besides doing unclean jobs is not bad; for example mothers perform all the unclean duties for their children. Do they become unclean?
However ultimately the problem cannot be satisfactorily solved unless and until untouchable community themselves unite and organize. We regard their recent uniting to form their distinct identity, and also demanding representation equal to Muslims in legislatures, being equal to them in numbers a move in the right direction. Either reject communal representation all together else give these people too their due shares! In principle, Councils and Assemblies are duty bound to ensure full and free access for all these communities to schools, colleges, wells and roads; that too not only on paper but by actually accompanying them to wells , schools, and get them admitted there. But can these legislatures , where a lot of hue and cry is raised even over a bill to ban child marriage, on the ground that it shall be a threat to their religion dare to bring the untouchables to their level on their own? No, never; that is why we plead that they must persist in pressing for their own distinct representation in legislatures in proportion to their numerical strength. We mince no words in proclaiming: "Arise ! So called untouchables , the real sustainers of life , awake and reflect over your past , you were the backbone of Guru Gobind Singh's army .Shivaji was able to achieve all that with your participation which made him ever shining in history. Your sacrifices are worthy of being embedded in golden letters. The way in which you sustain us and add to your comforts ought to make us feel grateful to you. It is we who fail to appreciate you." The Land Alination Act ( banning transfer of land to non agricultural communities, defined as per caste) does not permit you to buy land even if you manage the necessary amount of cost. The way you are being oppressed had prompted Miss Mayo of USA to label you "less than Man". As a matter of fact, without your own efforts, you shall not be able to move ahead.
"Those who would be free must themselves strike the first blow". It must be kept in mind that every one belonging to the privileged class, strives to enjoy his own rights, but would try his utmost to keep oppressing those below him, and keeping the underprivileged under the heel. Thus, might is held to be right. Waste no time and unite to stand on your own feet and challenge the existing order of society. Let it then be seen as to who dares to deny your due. Do not be at mercy of others and have no illusions about them. Be on guard so as not to fall in trap of officialdom , because far from being your ally it seeks to make you dance to its own tunes. The capitalist bureaucratic combine is, truly speaking responsible for your oppression and poverty . Hence always shun it. Be on guard about its tricks. This is then the way out. You are the real working class. Workers unite – you have nothing to lose but your chains. Arise and rebel against the existing order. Gradualism and reformism shall be of no avail to you. Start a revolution from a social agitation and gird up your loins for political and economic revolution. You and you alone are pillars of the nation and its core strength. Awake, O sleeping lions! Rebel , raise the banner of revolt.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Under this series the actual quotes along with source will be presented so that the reader knows Revolutionary Bhagat Singh's thoughts in his own words.
The tendency to quote out of mind needs to be curbed as it distorts things very badly.
Quote from the document " To Political Workers' dated 2nd Feb,1931 , reproduced in original by Police commissioner Calcutta Police in
"Notes on the Development of United Front Movement in Bengal (PAGES 45 to 57 )
CES Fairweather 8.9.1936 "
"Let me announce with all the strength at my command, that I am not a terrorist and I never was, expect perhaps in the beginning of my revolutionary career. And I am convinced that we cannot gain anything through those methods. One can easily judge it from the history of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. All our activities were directed towards an aim, i.e., identifying ourselves with the great movement as its military wing."
In the same document there is more detailed discussion on Terrorism
Let us be clear on this thorny question of terrorism. The cult of the bomb is old as 1905 and it is a sad comment on Revolutionary India that they have not yet realized its use and misuse. Terrorism is a confession that the Revolutionary mentality has not penetrated down into the masses. It is thus a confession of our failure. In the initial stages it had its use; it shook the torpor out of body politic, enkindled the imagination of young intelligentsia, fired their spirit of self-sacrifice and demonstrated before the world and before our enemies the truth and the strength of the movement. But by itself it is not enough. Its history is a history of failure in every land – France, in Russia, in Balkan countries, in Germany, in Spain every where. It bears the germ of defeat within itself. The Imperialist knows that to rule 300 millions he must sacrifice 30 of his men annually .The pleasure of ruling may be bombed out or pistolled down, but the practical gain from exploitation will make him stick to his post. Even though arms were as readily available as we hope for, and were it pushed with a thoroughness unknown any where else, terrorism can at most force the Imperialist power to come to terms with party. Such terms a little more or less, must fall short of our objective – complete independence. Terrorism thus hope to wring out what Gandhism bids fair to attain – a compromise and an installment of reforms – a replacement of a white rule at Delhi by a brown rule. It is aloof from the life of the masses and once installed on the throne runs the risk of being petrified into a tyranny. The Irish parallel, I have to warn, does not apply in our case. In Ireland it was not sporadic terroristic activities she witnessed; it was a nation wide rising, the rank and file were bound by an intimate knowledge and sympathy with the gunmen. Arms they could have very easily, and the American – Irish poured out their money. Topography favoured such a warfare, and Ireland after all had to be satisfied with an unaccomplished movement. It has lessened the bonds but not released the Irish proletariat from the shackles of the Capitalist, native and foreign. Ireland is a lesson to India and a warning – warning how nationalistic idealism devoid of Revolutionary social basis although with all other circumstances in its favor, may (be?) lost itself in the shoals of a compromise with Imperialism. Should India, if she could imitate Ireland still?
In a sense Gandhism with its counter – revolutionary creed of quietism makes a nearer approach to the revolutionary ideas. For it counts on mass action, though not for the masses alone. They have paved the way for the proletariat revolution by trying to harness them, however crudely and selfishly to its political programme . The Revolutionary must give to the angle of non- violence his due.
The devil of terrorism needs, however, no compliments. The terrorist has done much, taught us much and has his use still , provided we do not make a confusion of our aims and means , at desperate moments we can make of terrorist outrages our best publicity works but it is none the less fire works and should be reserved for a chosen few . Let not the revolutionary be lashed round and round the vicious circle of aimless outrages and individual self-immolation. The inspiring ideal for all and sundry workers should not be that of dying for the cause but of living for the cause, and living usefully and worthily
Needless to point out, that we do not repudiate terrorist activities altogether. We want to asses its proper value from the standpoint of proletariat Revolution. The youth, who is found not to fit in with the cold and silent organization work, has another role to play - he is to be released from the dry work and allowed to fulfill his destiny. But the controlling body should always forsee the possible reaction of the deed on the party, the masses and on the enemy. It may divert the attention of the first two from militant mass action to the stirring sensational action and it may supply to last with clues for striking at the root of the whole party In either case it does not advance the cause. "
Bhagat Singh : Transcendence From Romantic to True Revolutionary
By Prof Jagmohan Singh*
*Secretary Shahid Bhagat Singh Research Committee, Dr Amarjit Building, 2409 Krishna Nagar ,Ludhiana-141001
Martyr Bhagat Singh has a very brief period of active political life. In this brief time span he has transcended to the top of a thought process which make him ever relevant to the immerging situations. As these years there is increased interest in him by the common man so there is an urge to have more thorough understanding.
The short period of active life also creates a paradox. In absence of thorough understanding of the process of his revolutionary growth, the scope for interpretation of Shahid for narrow benefit has been on rise. Thus there is an urgent need to have a better understanding of the evolution of his thought process.
The family has developed a value system in which as per his great grand father Sardar Fateh Singh , the principle should have precedence over property. His property was confiscated due to participation in the wars to defend independence of Punjab against aggression by British East India Company rulers. In 1857 he was offered to get back this land along with award of more for helping the company rulers. The other feudal lords had agreed to help company against Indian freedom fighters. He publicly declared that when his ancestors choose to follow Guru Gobind Singh, the lesson learnt was to stand with the people fighting for their rights and going against them is treason with Guru. So in the choice between principle and property, the principle was to get precedence.1
His grandfather Sardar Arjan Singh followed this advice more dedicatedly and inculcated same in his three sons i.e Sardar Kishan Singh , Ajit Singh and Swaran Singh. Incidentally the other brother of Arjan Singh namly Surjan Singh chooses property over principle and became staunch supporter of British Rulers.
Sardar Arjan Singh also provided a most harmonious cultural environment in home. He was a great scholar of Sri Garanth Sahib, was a Unanni Hakim to help needy. But he choose Arya Samaj against Singh Sabha. The Singh Sabha having been started by the Sikh feudal lords who had patronage of British Governor as an antidote to Kuka patriotism. Whereas Arya samaj declared that one's liberty is linked with liberty of every one in society, hence helping the people affected by famines or earth quakes became a routine duty. The removal of untouchability not only preached but was practiced by Arya Samaj. This provided a rational look to Bhagat Singh.
The home culture was further enriched by sufi culture due to Mrs. Harnam Kaur wife of Sardar Ajit Singh who belonged to Kasur the seat of teachings of Baba Bule Shah. Thus the home was a unique center of composite culture of Punjab.
There was oneness of practice and preaching in the house. Humanism and empathy for the working people was spontaneous. Bhagat Singh's bringing up under the guidance of his grandfather trained him of critical thinking. There was full awareness of political environment in the house and political activities were regularly part of discussion. This provided incentive to Bhagat Singh to keep close watch of the political activities taking place around. He imbibed independence of action in early life.
Firsthand experience of events
That explains, how at the age of twelve, he goes to Jallianwala Bagh Amritsar, on his own for learning the effect of the mass massacre by General Dyer. On this firsthand experience he comes alive with a question about the naked brutality of the colonial ruler. This was 1919. He also finds that every where marshal law is implemented and suppression is to the extent that First World War air force airplanes were used to bomb Gujjaranwala city in Punjab.
In March 1921 following the brutal killings of 139 peaceful Sikhs at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib ( the birth place of Guru Nanak ) by Mahant ,the Sarbrah and his mercenaries , Bhagat Singh visits the site. Mahant had acted under the protectorate of British Deputy Commissioner. This raised further questions in his young mind as to how British colonial rulers not only are brutal by them self but they also used Indian vested interests to inflict atrocity on Indians.
This is the period when post Tilak , Gandhi was immerging as a mass leader and in early 1920 he " brought two elements to the anti-imperial struggle that had been missing since the Sepoy Mutiny. His political skills, plans, and charisma drew a mass base into the first all-India struggles since 1857, and the struggles themselves connected popular grievances against aspects of British rule to the final goal of ending British rule. … Gandhi's success made him into the Congress Party's preeminent--and indispensible--leader.1"
Call of Gandhi in 1921
His advised the students that "I consider it sinful to take education where the (british) flag flies. I consider it sinful to study even the Gita and the crafts there. To tell you the truth I do not wish even to live under such a regime. If it were possible to renounce it altogether I would have done so……. I consider this the regime of Ravana. Tulsidas has called it a sin to live under such a regime. I can positively say that all the twenty-four hours I am taken up with the idea of destroying it or mending it…. You must do what it is possible for you to do. The main thing for you is to refuse the education that is offered to you. . I do not speak of co-operation in general. I ask you to give up the specific co-operation with which you as students are concerned. If you feel the same way about this Government as I do, then you should consider it your dharma to leave. This dharma involves no conditions as to the kind of education you may then get. I merely tell you your dharma."2
Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 further gave clear call that "To everyone I say: whether no education is available elsewhere, you should leave. You can try for a similar sort of education elsewhere if you are so inclined but it should not be under the aegis of the Government. I want to say that it is not a question of livelihood; it is a question of humanity. The question of livelihood may come next. Freedom is dharma. …. For I consider it a sin to take education under the aegis of a regime which I consider rakshasi and which has committed such outrages in the Punjab." 3
This call was very enthusing to the sensitive youth like Bhagat Singh , Chander Shekhar Azad and others. He and many of his later revolutionary colleagues left the education and joined the non cooperation movement on this call of Gandhi.
Bhagat Singh was keeping a close eye on activities of unions in preparations for Hartals. This is clear from his remarks in a letter to Grandfather dated 14 Nov,1921. He, writes "these days railway persons are preparing for hartal. It is possible that it may start in a week's time"4 This shows that he had got himself involved in the activities of non- cooperation and it was being done with the knowledge of his family. The call for non-cooperation was very attractive for a 14 year old young man as it was the answer to the brutality of British colonial rule. Particularly Mahatma Gandhi's further assurance that he will get the "Swaraj in one year" raised confidence of these young minds.
The situation of peasantry was precarious. This is well documented as follows. "The exploitation of and the tyranny practised against the Oudh peasantry by the rapacious landlords and their minions are a known reality in the annals of peasant history. After the Mutiny of 1857, the British created and buttressed a small class of taluqdars in Oudh to help them in their colonial domination of this part of India. These feudal barons and their 'kinsmen' led luxurious., westernised lives, and the burden of their high living fell on the poor peasantry. They heaped numerous indignities on the peasantry to realise their extortionate demands. Nazarana (gift payments), bedhakli (eviction), rasad (compulsory supplies) and begar (forced labour) were not the only weapons in their hands."5 They would also impose cesses like Hathiana Moturana6 and so on to meet their extravagance. The taluqdars wielded the sword of eviction to pressurize the tenantry into paying higher cesses, as owing to increases in population there was a growing demand for more and more holdings. Nazarana had become such an evil that some peasants were painfully forced to commit the most heinous sin of kanya vikraya (sale of daughters) to raise nazarana money.7 Forced labour on a wage ranging between two to eight paise per day was a common practice. Even these wages were generally not paid.8 Further, the peasantry had to provide rasad and begar to the touring government officials, failing which they were exposed to the wrath of their landlords.9
Under such conditions the call of noncooperation and boycott came as a ray of hope. It enthused and emboldened the masses to get liberated of their miseries. They saw a new dawn of freedom which will provide them relief from suppression, exploitation as well as brutality of colonial rule.
Thus Nagpur Session of the Congress (December 1920) endorsed the non-cooperation and boycott of foreign cloth. Congress membership was thrown open to all adult men and women on payment of 4 annas (one fourth of a rupee) as subscription. The adoption of the Non-Cooperation resolution by the Congress gave it a new energy and from January 1921, it began to register considerable success all over India. 9,000 students left schools and colleges. The boycott of law courts by lawyers was not as successful as the educational boycott. But many prominent people did leave their lucrative practice to join national movement. By December, over 30,000 people were arrested from all over India.
Withdrawal of Non Cooperation movement – Looking to Irish success
Then came the unfortunate event of Chauri Chaura where six unarmed non cooperators were killed in indiscriminate police firing. The emboldened non cooperators chased the armed police men and the Thana where they went into hiding was put to torch. This caused death of twenty two police men. This gave cause to Mahatma Gandhi for calling an end to the Non-Cooperation Movement on 12 February 1922 without consultation with other leaders of congress. So The promise of " Swaraj in a year" remained unfulfilled. This caused great despair to the enthused youth including Bhagat Singh.
The same British empire had to come on terms with Irish nation which was much smaller than India. Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed on December 6, 1921 and Ireland Free State was created by partitioning and carving out Northern Ireland controlled by British Government.
Bhagat Singh joined National College Lahore , having refused to return to old school. He had to prepare for special test to seek entry into National College because he had not passed matriculation examination. He was so determined to seek admission that he worked very hard to achieve this goal.
In 1923, Bhagat Singh had to leave home and come to Kanpur, following insistence of family to get him engaged for marriage. He found that some youth under the leadership of Sh. Sachider Nath Sanyal were getting themselves organized under the banner of Hindustan Republican Association on the line of Ireland. Here in Kanpur he got the opportunity of working with Sh Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi a great patriot, a great journalist and a dedicated social and political worker. Though at National College Lahore he had started studying revolutionary literature yet Kanpur provided with greater exposure. This is the time when "Bolshevik conspiracy case " was initiated at Kanpur on persons returning from Russia.
He had a very close friend in Sukhdev who was discussion partner to his readings. But at Kanpur also he found such a partner in Sh B K Dutt.
The question which bothered the young minds was how could Ireland, a tiny Island, could gain status of a Free Republic from British ? While India with all the efforts and sacrifices of Gadar Party in 1915 -16 and current mass enthusiasm, fearlessness and strength could not achieve any significant progress.
In 1924 a book describing firsthand experience of Ireland freedom struggle was published entitled "My Fight for Irish Freedom" by DAN BREEN one of the fierce and daring freedom fighter. This was the book which was thoroughly studied by Bhagat Singh and his compatriots. Bhagat Singh translated this and got it published in Hindi and wanted it read broadly.10
The first lesson drawn was that Ban Breen and his comrades were guerilla war farers and hence some form of guerilla tactics can force the British to surrender to dominion status. The articles explaining guerilla tactics were also published in those days for educating youngmen.11 Prabha was the sister literary magazine published by Sh Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi the editor and publisher of "Partap". In this paper Bhagat Singh was working at the time of his stay in Kanpur.
The Hindustan Republican Association leaders Shahid Ram Parsad Bismal , Shahid Ashfaq Ullah Khan and Chander Shekhar Azad belonged to that tradition. The manifesto and constitution of HRA declared that object to "establish a Federated Republic of United States of India by an organized and armed revolution." 12 Similarly Hindustan Republican Army wing was created on the lines of Irish Republican Army.
Bhagat Singh while analyzing his own development of ideas wrote that "up to that period I was only romantic idealist revolutionary. Upto then we were to follow."13
By the end of 1925 after Kakori train holdup all the leaders except Chander Shekhar Azad were arrested . Bhagat Singh attended the court proceeding as a journalist with identity card from "Akali" a Punjabi magazine being published from Amritsar14
Revisit to Irish Experience
He found it to his surprise that the commoners gave witnesses without any concern for the persons who were ready to sacrifice themselves for their betterment. This apathy of their own fellows made Bhagat Singh revisit the Dan Breen's autobiography which he has translated. Bhagat Singh assessed Shahid Ram Parsad Bismal's capability to be "a general of Army had he been born in some other country at some different time."15
Bhagat Singh laments on the apathy of public about Babar Akali Martyrs. In an article published in Partap on 15 March 1926 when he writes that "we coward animals have not dared to come out of our luxurious life to have a sigh on their martyrdom."16
On his revisit to the autobiography of Dan Breen he found that the freedom fighters in Ireland are fully embedded with the masses. He warned that "Ireland parallel does not apply in India's case. In Ireland it was not sporadic terroristic activities she witnessed but it was a nationwide rising, the rank and file was bound by an intimate knowledge and sympathy with the gunmen. Arms they could have very easily, and the American- Irish poured out their money." 17
In another very important development, Bhagat Singh's father took him to Belgaon Congress session held on 25th Dec to 30th Dec 1924. Bhagat Singh's Father was naturally worried about Bhagat Singh who was aged 16 year at the time of escape from home. He wanted him to fully participate in the Indian freedom struggle but on a mature and long term basis. He took him to Belgaon Congress which was to be presided over by Mahatma Gandhi after return from his jail term. He wanted his son to appreciate that for a leading role one has to develop some characteristics and capabilities. Education is the most important. He introduced to him Subash Bose, Pt. Nehru, the upcoming young leaders .It was to emphasize on him that to be in leading role Subash Bose had studied in England got selected for Indian Civil Services resigned and choose to play lead role in national movement. Similarly it is after good study in England that Pt. Nehru plays a leading role. Bhagat Singh was also introduced to old revolutionary from Bengal Anushelan Samiti Sh. Nirlamba Swami. He was one who had introduced Sardar Kishan Singh and Ajit Singh to Bengal revolutionaries in 1905. Bhagat Singh had a long talk with Sh. Nirlamba Swami. This is referred to in his autobiographical note where he writes that '"I came across a book entitled Common Sense by NIrlamba Swami. It was only mystic atheism "18 But out of this meeting Sh Nirlamba Swami showed his satisfaction and approval of Bhagat Singh's activities and conveyed the same to his father. But the idea, that study is most important activity to transform oneself was sown in young mind of Bhagat Singh. It is interesting to note that Sardar Kishan Singh in his speech at Karachi Congress session following execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev was still lamenting that he could not equip Bhagat Singh with best education.
Bhagat Singh laments, in a letter of 1927 to his friend Amar chand that, "Brother my desire to study in foreign has been lost. But if you get chance do send some good books do send "19
The dilemma, in which Bhagat Singh finds himself in the year 1926, is best stated in his own words that then "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." 20
This was the time when the attempts to get senior leaders escape from police custody had failed. The hope of having someone to lead was shattered. But this also provided opportunity for researching the process of revolutionary work.
During this time a debate between revolutionary Sachinder Nath Sanyal and Mahatma Gandhi also took placed. It started with Mahatma Gandhi's condemnation of revolutionaries in his presidential speech at Balgaum congress on 26th Dec,1924. Bhagat Singh was keenly following the proceedings as a correspondent of Akali a Punjabi paper being published from Amritsar.21 Gandhi ji tried to conclude the debate by pointing to the "three great hindrances to swaraj"22 Besides fuller participation of masses including young men and women the need to address was to "the discord between Hindus and Mussalmans and the inhuman ban upon the suppressed classes"23
Bhagat Singh agreed with the hindrances pointed out by him . Already by the end of 1924, the discussions between him and his friends were on at National College Lahore " to put the lessons of revolutionary history being taught to practice "24. The discussion was also being held on "the role of young men in the future struggle for independence."25
This was also the time for Bhagat Singh to have "a turning point in his revolutionary career. Study was the cry that reverberated in the corridors of (his) mind. Study to enable oneself to face the arguments advanced by opposition. Study to arm oneself with arguments in favour of one's cult."26 This brought a "remarkable modifications in his faith and convictions. The romance of the violent methods alone which was so prominent amongst his predecessors was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith. Realism became the cult. Use of force justifiable when resorted to as a matter of terrible necessity: Non– violence as policy indispensible 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."27 This was the period from 1925 onward. He got ample time to study ideals of world revolution. He studied " the men who had successfully carried out revolution in their countries."28
The Naujawan Bharat Sabha was founded in 1925 as per Comrade Ram Chander founder president. Bhagat Singh being the founder secretary. After Gandhi's arrest in 1922 and his release in 1924 , the menace of Hindu Muslim riots had spread so much as to involve even villages too. Hence the communalism was not only to be fought in public life by was too be wrung out of the minds of the members. Many practical methods were adopted for inculcating the ethic of communal harmony among the members. Thus The solution offered to "the national problem" was so practical that it raised a powerful youth groups all over the North India cities . Thus it did address the concerns declared by Mahatma Gandhi but with a revolutionary understanding. The manifesto of NB Sabha declared that " Religious superstitions and bigotry are a great hindrance in our progress. They have proved an obstacle in our way and we must do away with them. "The thing that cannot bear free thought must perish." There are many other such weakness which we are to overcome. The conservativeness and orthodoxy of the Hindus, extra-territorialism and fanaticism of the Mohammedans and narrow-mindedness of all the communities in general are always exploited by the foreign enemy. Young men with revolutionary zeal from all communities are required for the task." It further declared that "Our real battle is against our own disabilities which are exploited by the enemy and some of our own people for their selfish motives." Sabha also declared socialism as its objective. It declared that Sabha is to work for "Revolution by the masses and for the masses." " In other words, Swaraj for the 90%; Swaraj not only attained by the masses but also for the masses."29 This is an example of creative revolutionary work of Bhagat Singh and his colleagues where scientific understanding was applied to the reality and a dynamic social force was generated. The history and achievement of members of Sabha proves this beyond doubt.
Bhagat Singh's record of vast study as to subjects, authors and literature and that too from various cultures made him a true revolutionary. His definition of the revolution was "complete overthrow of the existing social order and its replacement by socialist order." The masses have to be "educated to create a favorable atmosphere for the social programme. The struggles are best to train and educate. 30"
As seen earlier the movement was influenced by the Irish achievement so Bhagat Singh continued his reassessment of the past position and analyzed the later developments of Ireland as a revolutionary in following words."Ireland had to be satisfied with an unaccomplished movement. It has lessened the bonds of but not released the Irish proletariat from the shackles of the Capitalist, native and foreign. Ireland is a lesson to India and a warning – warning how nationalistic idealism devoid of Revolutionary social basis although with all other circumstances in its favour may lose itself in the shoals of a compromise with Imperialism. " Thus having overcome the attraction of Ireland as it was in the beginning. He questioned, "Should India, if she could imitate Ireland still?" 31
Bhagat Singh as a revolutionary not only announced that "when he is convinced of a scientific principle, he lives by it. " He understood the basic scientific principles and applied these to the realities around and was thus able to effect the direction and outcome of the events qualitatively. As proclaimed by him that revolution is a social change and for that is only possible by a "Scientific, dynamic, social force". We can see that his transcendence to a revolutionary was complete. Humanism is basic motive force of a revolutionary. All his actions are motivated by his deep concern for the weakest person in the society and it is with his benefit in view that he works.
The various actions by Bhagat Singh need a further detailed analysis from this angle. He concentrated his focus of actions on the "institutions" which supported the British regime. This also distinguishes him from his contemporaries.
On deeper analysis one will find that all the four major actions of Bhagat Singh were direct attack on the institutional arms of British colonial rule viz : "satanic arm" the police ( this is repeatedly stated by Mahatma Gandhi ) , central Assembly which was used to sustain a fake hope of achieving freedom by passing a law, the jail system which was most dehumanized and was used to terrorise and demoralize and the Justice system which was used to perpetuate Imperial designs. The end effect is that the British Imperialism's hold was shaken. The sprit kindled by him continued simmering.
The colonial C I D in 1936 said that Bhagat Singh's thesis stated in the letter to political workers is the active force for all the leftist movements active against British Imperialism. It is his revolutionary legacy which perpetuates the hope of Indian masses for better future of Indian masses.
Bhagat Singh also wrote that all the activities of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association " were directed towards an aim i.e identifying ourselves with the great national movement as its military wing."32 This statement is very significant and if further analyzed and understood in the context of contemporary activities of the national movement viz a viz HSRA's revolutionary contribution to Freedom movement can be better appreciated.
Here is a brief backgrounder to the various influences and how that effected the decisions taken by Bhagat Singh in his earlier phase. This is an attempt to understand how a romantic revolutionary transcended to be a true revolutionary. It is also an attempt to understand him in the contemporary situation and his contribution to influence the course of events. This latter part needs more detailed study which will be attempted in the future.
1. Meneejeh Moradian and David Whitehouse, "Gandhi and the Politics of Nonviolence" International Socialist Review Issue 14, October-November 2000
2. THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI VOL. 22 : 15 NOVEMBER, 1920 - 5 APRIL, 1921 p23
3. Ibid vol22 page 23
4.Jagmohan Singh " Shahid Bhagat Singh ate Unahn De Sathian dian Likhtan" Chetna Parkashan Ludhiana 2005 p 27
5. S K MITTAL KAPIL KUMAR ,"Baba Ram Chandra and Peasant Upsurge in Oudh: 1920-21" Social Scientist. v 6, no. 71 (June 1978) p. 35
6 Hathiana was imposed as a cess on the peasantry if the taluqdar had to purchase an elephant , and if a car was to be purchased Moturana tax was levied on the peasantry.
7 Mehta Report No 753/1920, Revenue, U P State Archives (hereafter UPSA,) p 11.
8 Independent, September 24, 1920.
9. . S K MITTAL KAPIL KUMAR ,"Baba Ram Chandra and Peasant Upsurge in Oudh: 1920-21" Social Scientist. v 6, no. 71 (June 1978) p. 36
10.Jagmohan Singh " Shahid Bhagat Singh ate Unahn De Sathian dian Likhtan" Chetna Parkashan Ludhiana 2005 p 163
11. Agiat ( a pen name), "Gurilla Yudh" Prabha, Kanpur 1924
12. Malwinder jit Singh & Harish Jain Editors " The Hanging of Bhagat Singh Confession ,statements and other Documents" Unistar 2007 p351
13 Bhagat Singh / Why I Am An Atheist/NBT/2006 page 23
14. Jitendranath Sanyal "Amar Shaheed Sardar Bhagat Singh" NBT 2006; p. 27
15..Jagmohan Singh Ed. " Shahid Bhagat Singh ate Unahn De Sathian dian Likhtan" Chetna Parkashan Ludhiana 2005 p 58
16. ibid ; p 39
17. Bhagat singh, "To the young political workers" 2 feb , 1931 : www.shahidbhagatsingh.org/documents
18 Bhagat Singh / Why I Am An Atheist/NBT/2006 page 26
19. Jagmohan Singh ed. " Shahid Bhagat Singh ate Unahn De Sathian dian Likhtan" Chetna Parkashan Ludhiana 2005 p 73
20 . Bhagat Singh / Why I Am An Atheist/NBT/2006 page 28
21. THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI VOL. 29 : 26 DECEMBER, 1924 page 489
22. . THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI VOL. 30 : 12 Feb 1925 page 243
24. Comrade Ram Chander ," History of Naujawan Bharat Sabha and H S R A" published by author 1978 p xiii.
26 Bhagat Singh / Why I Am An Atheist/NBT/2006
29. Manifesto of Naujawan Bharat Sabha , 6 April,1928 : www.shahidbhagatsingh.org
30.S irfan Habib " To Make the Deaf Hear" Three Essays Collective 2007
31. Bhagat singh, "To the young political workers" 2 feb , 1931 : www.shahidbhagatsingh.org/documents
32. ibid .
This is an attempt to understand Revolutionary Bhagat Singh