For 200 years, India suffered at the hands of the Britishers, and the anguish was compounded by the India-Pakistan partition, which left untreated and unhealed scars. This is the point at which we all try to disapprove of Mahatma Gandhi’s choice to divide India into two religiously distinct countries.
Especially when Bhagat Singh, India’s greatest freedom fighter and hero, dedicated his life so that everyone, regardless of religion, could live in peace. He only wanted and so said in his own words, “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Down with Imperialism“.
His sacrifice has not gone unnoticed by the people and the country. Even though a 23-year-old youth from Punjab, British India (now Pakistan), devoted his life to making India independent, it took us another 16 years to get to a place where we could only be free if we accepted India’s split.
Bhagat Singh, along with his colleagues Rajguru and Sukhdev, were hung in Lahore Jail on March 23, 1931. The trio greeted Death like an old friend while singing slogans such as “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Down with British Imperialism.”
So, Why he is still a Hero Today?
He never tried to save himself, he smiled as he climbed the gallows, and he sacrificed his life for a greater cause. He truly lived up to the meaning of his given name, “Bhagat.”
- Bhagat Singh will always be remembered for his revolutionary ideas. He truly believed that a value of a man lies in what he is capable of giving to his country. His name has become a symbol of the Revolution, who never feared death.
- When Indian academics were preoccupied with obtaining huge perks and benefits from the British government, Bhagat Singh was ready to die for his motherland.
- Thousands were encouraged to join the independence movement as a result of his efforts. He was a valiant freedom fighter.
- He is one of the few personalities who is admired and respected in both India and Pakistan.
- He did not wish to perish in battle like the majority of the Freedom warriors. He intended to explain to the masses why he had chosen “Armed revolution” over “Peaceful demonstrations” as a means of achieving independence.
- He influenced everyone: the Left lauds his socialist doctrine, the Right lauds his patriotism and nationalism, and the Congress recognises the revolutionaries’ contribution to the cause without necessarily endorsing their methods.
- Whether it was an act of terrorism or the murder of Saunders, he never received a fair trial. In addition, he never abandoned his friends in the face of death.
- Even today, he is remembered as a hero for his heroism in standing rather than fleeing following an assembly attack, despite the fact that he knew he would be hanged.
- He stood in for all those who had been labelled “misguided youth” or “froth of a boiling liquid” and showed the nation their courage. They went from being a gang of rowdy, gun-toting boys to awakened adults with a sense of purpose for the country. Countless sacrifices were given a face, nameless victims were given a name, and silent slogans were given a voice.
- He went on an indefinite hunger strike to ensure that inmates have adequate food, books and writing supplies, restroom facilities, are not made to do any hard or inhumane labour, receive one standard daily newspaper, and are not force-fed. They should be treated as political detainees in the same way that European detainees are treated.
His Life and Philosophies:
- The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre scarred him for life and from there, his journey and fight towards the British started for complete Independence (Purna Swaraj).
- He didn’t get married as per his parents wish. For him, his bride shall always be Death. And then joined Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
- Marx and Engels, as well as anarchists and revolutionary poets like Ram Prasad Bismil, impacted and motivated him enormously.
- He was a non-believer in God. Why did God create this world, he asked the theists? This world is full of sorrow and anguish, as well as many tragedies, and not a single person lives in peace.
- Despite his admiration for Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, like most other revolutionaries, was disillusioned by his nonviolent philosophy. The Mahatma’s rollback of the non-cooperation campaign following the Chauri Chaura incident in 1922 was a turning moment in their departure from the Gandhi-led struggle. Bhagat Singh was an enthusiastic participant in Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement, which was abruptly ended by Gandhiji, and it was at this point that he lost faith in nonviolence.
- He and Shivaram Rajguru shot John Saunders (December 1928), mistaking him for John Scott as they were avenging the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, who died in the lathi-charge, ordered by Scott. To save them from getting caught, Chandrashekhar Azad, shot constable Channan Singh.
- He shaved his beard and cropped his hair to avoid being recognised and arrested for the murder, despite being a Sikh by birth.
- In April 1929, he and Batukeshwar Dutt detonated two low-intensity homemade bombs among the Central Legislative Assembly’s vacant benches in Delhi. They flung leaflets from the gallery towards politicians below, yelled slogans, and let the cops arrest them.
- After joining fellow defendant Jatin Das in a hunger strike to seek better jail conditions for Indian prisoners, Singh won popular sympathy. Das died of malnutrition in September 1929.
- During his time in prison in 1930, Bhagat Singh created the term “political prisoner” and requested that he and his companions be provided with the same basic facilities as British looters and goons.
- He didn’t give any defence during his trial, instead of using the opportunity to promote India’s independence.
- On 24th March 1931, Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were sentenced to death for the murders of John Saunders and Channan Singh. But they were hanged 11 hours before the official date i.e., on 23rd March 1931 and were secretly cremated on the banks of the river Sutlej by jail authorities.
- In March 1940, Bhagat Singh’s Ghadar Party member Udham Singh exacted vengeance for the atrocity by assassinating Michael O’Dwyer, the former Governor of Punjab, in London. After a quick trial, Udham Singh, like Bhagat Singh, was executed by the British.
Bhagat Singh embodied the revolutionary strand of our fight for independence. Because the British were afraid of him, they caught and hanged him before he could destroy and forced them to leave India before 1947. The independence in 1947 was nothing more than a ruse to put Nehru in power.
Bhagat Singh – A Terrorist, Not a Martyr:
Regrettably, he is still referred to as a terrorist by the Indian government. In 2013, the Union Home Ministry responded to an RTI request by saying it had no records of Bhagat Singh’s ‘Martyrdom.’
In May 2018, in response to a demand for an official list of martyrs, the Punjab administration recognised that it couldn’t give Bhagat Singh and his companions such a title because Article 18 of the Constitution prohibits the state from conferring any title.
According to the late historian Bipan Chandra and three co-authors’ book ‘India’s Struggle for Independence,’ which was part of the Delhi University’s history curriculum, Bhagat Singh is referred to as a “revolutionary terrorist.”
All we can do is commemorate his sacrifices with the name “Shaheed” and be grateful for what he has done as a covenant to everyone to stand up for the Hero who gave his life for the greater good of his country. He is a role model for some, while for some he is a Leader!