History is tarnished in a way that a projected and celebrated man will be that as chosen by the state. However, history is not only just written in the official history books but is also carried in the hearts of the people. A hero is one who continues to live in the hearts of the people no matter what the history books suggest, no matter how many times Bhagat Singh is martyred.
Our recorded heroes are mostly invaders. Alexander from Greece was a man of great valor and has been taken up to the extent of being called a Muslim. We would willfully condemn Akbar for introducing Deen-e-Ilahi and marrying Hindu women but his invading and looting background has kept everyone’s eyes shut. The Mughals are taken to be the pioneers of our cultural tradition and are celebrated as saints at times. We do not mind neglecting the efforts of Bhagat Singh and Sir Ganga Ram for them not being Muslims and in our definition, one basic quality of a hero is his practice of religious doctrine.
Bhagat Singh was born into a Sandhu Jat Sikh family which had earlier been involved in revolutionary activities against the British Raj. In 1907 he was born in Bunga a village near Faisalabad. This was the same year when his uncle Ajeet Singh was punished Kala Pani in the lieu of ‘Pagri Sambhal Jutta’ movement. The new boy was named Bhagaanwala which later became Bhagat Singh.
Jallianwala Bagh incident occurred when he was just nine. This among many other movements like Reshmi Roomal Movement and the killings of Ghadar Party workers left a very important impact on his sensitive personality. His family background and these happenings had started shaping a revolutionary.
This photograph was taken by Ram Nath in his photo studio in Kashmiri Gate Delhi before Bhagat Singh went for Central Assembly Hall action in the first week of April 1929
After finishing school when Bhagat reached college he made friends with revolutionaries like Chandar Shekhar Azad. In 1927 he was arrested for Lahore Dussehra Bomb case and was locked in the notorious jail ‘Tashaddudgah’ of Lahore Fort. He was hardly twenty at that time. When released on bail from there he laid the foundation of First Youth Bharat Sabha and then also formed Socialist Republican Party. A magazine ‘Kirti’ was also started by him whose editor was Sohan Singh Josh.
Bhagat’s family was a staunch follower of Lala Lajpat Rai. In 1928 when many rallies and protests were carried out for the arrival of Simon Commission Lala Lajpat Rai was conducting one such rally. He was tortured to death during it and this greatly enraged masses. Bhagat was also greatly moved.
Seeking revenge for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai at the hands of the police, Singh was involved in the assassination of British police officer John Saunders on 27th December 1928. Along with his fellows, he fled. In their absence, many cases like rebellion, conspiracy, and murder were lodged against him. During these many fellows of Bhagat were arrested from near River Ravi. In April 1929, when Delhi Assembly Session was proceeding Bhagat Singh was again accused of planting a bomb although he was in Kanpur at that time. The revolutionaries volunteered themselves for the surrender. He and his friends finally launched a spirit of revolution among all the Indians. The movement that was initiated in 1921 was now lit as a full-fledged revolutionary fire.
Lahore Conspiracy case proceeded for almost eleven months. Bhagat Singh continued raising voice against the odds in the jail too. His famous hunger strike against the inhumane attitude of the jail administration towards the prisoners is to be noted considerably here.
The response of the public baffled the British administration. Finally, in October 1930 the case proceeding started in a closed room under a special ordinance of the viceroy. Interestingly, neither the convicts nor the witnesses were needed here. The only local judge whose name was probably Sajjad Hussain resigned against this unjust decision of the court. Finally, Bhagat Singh along with his fellows Sukh Dev and Raj Guru was hanged at a young age of 24.
Ironically in 1931, there was the session of Indian National Congress going on in Karachi. Everyone was expecting Gandhi to talk about the case of these revolutionaries to the British government. But Gandhi clearly refused to talk about these saying that he was against all forms of violence. On getting to know of his hanging, a huge crowd gathered outside Lahore Central Jail and sang the famous ‘ghori’ of Bhagat Singh. The administration was afraid that the mob might crash the jail so they secretly took out the bodies of the three martyrs. Their bodies were chopped into pieces, burnt and ashes were floated in a river near Ferozepur.
Every year 23rd March comes with a celebration of Pakistan day totally forgetting the heroes who led to this. Leave aside remembering Bhagat Singh, we even changed the name of Bhagat Singh Chowk(where he was martyred) to Shadman Chowk. Ironic, no?
Reasons unknown, causes undefined. History never lies. The narrative of the state might differ from that of masses. But the reality remains unaltered. The quest is to find that and never forget what we are made to forget and avoid.
Long live Bhagat Singh!