Monday February 19, 2018

Bhagwati Charan: Unveiling the man behind the ‘Philosophy of a bomb’

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Bhagwati with his wife and young child

By Gaurav Sharma

The fight for India’s independence was a multifaceted movement comprising myriad regional campaigns, peaceful non-cooperation, civil disobedience, constitutional struggles and various other agitations.

Although the mass movement encompassed various sections of the society, the major part of the freedom struggle was shrouded under the influence of the mainstream views of the Indian National Congress.

The conflicting approaches

The later stages of the movement particularly saw the Congress adopt Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of nonviolence and civil resistance.

At the same time, the freedom struggle was brimming with an undercurrent of a rather radical approach formulated by the famous trio of Lal, Bal and Pal among other revolutionary leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh.

The contrarian standpoints of the two sides, popularly known as the moderates and extremists, led to a scuffle between the philosophical polar opposites viz-a-viz an exchange of a series of articles.

The forthright, vocal articles began with Gandhi criticizing the bombing of the train moving on the Delhi-Agra railway line, in which the then Viceroy Lord Irwin was traveling in 1929.

Irwin managed to escape unscathed and Gandhi thanked God for the miracle. Subsequently, he condemned the move orchestrated by the revolutionaries by publishing “The Cult of a Bomb”, an article in Young India, consisting of his arguments against violence based on his opinions and beliefs.

The response of revolutionaries

Soon after Gandhi’s article was published, Bhagwati Charan, an outstanding Indian revolutionary associated with the faction of the socialist movement, issued his own response–”The philosophy of a bomb”–in consultation with Chandrashekar Azad.

Meant to quash Gandhi’s description of revolutionaries as “cowards” indulging in “dastardly” activities, the philosophy of a bomb enunciated the basic principles of the revolutionary movement and intended to foster a better understanding of the ideals that inspired the mutineers.

The Uniqueness of the bomb philosophy

The primary reason why Charan supported the extremist way was because he thought it would be most effective in banishing the proletariat rule and dethroning “social parasites” from political rule.

The triple motto of “Service, Suffering and Sacrifice” lay at the core of the revolutionary ideology directed towards the independence of India.

Charan believed that the deliverance of the country was dependent solely on a revolution which not only involved an armed conflict between the foreign rule and subjugated people of India, but also something that would usher in a new social order.

But perhaps the most important characteristic which made the bomb philosophy resplendent with unique radiance was the proposition that it would spell the “death knell of capitalism” and annihilate caste distinctions and exploitative inequalities.

Defense of Revolutionary Psychology

Quite in contrast to popular notions, the revolutionaries did not stand for violence in the form of physical brutality and injustice.

Charan, on the contrary, attacked the concept of nonviolence as practiced by Gandhi and his followers.

“What generally goes by the name of non-violence is, in reality the theory of soul-force, as applied to the attainment of personal and national rights through courting suffering and hoping thus to finally convert your opponent to your point of view”, Charan opined.

He then went a step further and defended the position taken by revolutionaries through a logical argument.

“When a revolutionary believes certain things to be his right he asks for them, pleads for them, argues for them, wills to attain them with all the soul-force at his command, stands the greatest amount of suffering for them, is always prepared to make the highest sacrifice for their attainment, and also backs his efforts with all the physical force he is capable of”, argues Charan.

By quoting a rational reasoning, Charan laid the contention that such methods cannot be termed as violent because “that would constitute an outrage on the dictionary meaning of the word.”

Hence, the entire argument is turned on its head by shadowing violence and instead highlighting the moral cum practical dilemma of using soul-force plus physical force or soul-force alone.

The question of the masses

Another pertinent argument that Charan makes while defining the means of activity is a view of the general populace.

According to Charan, the average Indian and human beings, in general, do not understand theological niceties about loving one’s enemy, a central tenet of Gandhian Ahimsa.

That people love their friend and hate their enemy, forms the fulcrum of the revolutionary thought process, as it does with the minds of the common people.

Furthermore, the efficacy of “the gospel of love” was questioned by Charan by showcasing the dearth of foreign rulers who had actually been converted by such a lofty ideal.

The revolutionary Modus Operandi–No Bullying

Quashing the misconception that revolution inherently involves extremist bullying, Charan attacked Gandhi for failing to understand revolutionary psychology.

“How easy and convenient it is to call people deluded, to declare them to be past reason, to call people deluded, to call upon the public to withdraw its support and condemn them so that they may get isolated and be forced to suspend their activities, specially when a man holds the confidence of an influential section of the public!”, wrote an astounded Charan.

Simultaneously, Charan emphasized reason as the sole premise on which a revolutionary functioned.

“A revolutionary believes in reason more than anything. It is to reason, and reason alone, that he bows. No amount of abuse and condemnation, even if it emanates from the highest of the high can turn him from his set purpose”, declared Charan.

The moral arguments against the revolutionary style of working aside, it cannot be but said that the “rebels” were men driven by logic, bereft of any fear for their own lives.

In this regard, Charan’s own words enlighteningly synopsize the revolutionary way of life;  Let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind. A revolutionary is the last person on earth to submit to bullying.

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15 Amazing Facts About The Revolutionary Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh is considered to be a legend. Many of his actions are well-known. Even after his death, his inspiring actions continued to stir the desire for freedom.

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Bhagat Singh belonged to Punjab and popularly referred as legendary revolutionary Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh. Wikimedia Commons
Bhagat Singh belonged to Punjab and popularly referred as legendary revolutionary Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh. Wikimedia Commons
  • Bhagat Singh was born on 28 September 1907
  • At a very early age, he got inclined towards socialism and socialist revolutions
  • Bhagat Singh was a very versatile theatre artist

Bhagat Singh stands out to be one of India’s greatest revolutionary freedom fighter who was given the death penalty by the British colonizers. Although he died at a very young age of 23 but his actions inspired the youth of the nation to fight for the nation’s freedom.

Bhagat Singh belonged to Punjab and popularly referred as legendary revolutionary Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh. He was born on 28 September 1907 in the village of Banga, Lyallpur district (now in Pakistan). Bhagat Singh is considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. He inculcated the spirit of martyrdom since his childhood.

Due to the utter influence of Bhagat Singh, Britishers hanged him an hour ahead of the official time. Wikimedia Commons
Due to the utter influence of Bhagat Singh, Britishers hanged him an hour ahead of the official time. Wikimedia Commons

At a very early age, he got inclined towards socialism and socialist revolutions led by Lenin and soon he started to follow and read about them. The leaflet that he threw in the Central Assembly on 9 April 1929, he stated, “It is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas. Great empires crumbled while the ideas survived.”

Also Read: 8 must-read works of Rabindranath Tagore

Take a look at the life of one of the most celebrated Indian freedom fighters.

  1. Bhagat Singh was a great actor in college and a theatre artist. He took part in several plays. The most notable plays he was part of were ‘Rana Pratap’, ‘Samrat Chandragupta’ and ‘Bharata-durdasha’.
  2. When the Jalianwala Bagh incident occurred, Bhagat Singh was in school. He immediately left the school and went straight to the place of the tragedy. He collected the mud of that place which was mixed with the blood of Indians and worshipped the bottle every day. At that time, he was just 12 years old.
  3. In his childhood, Bhagat Singh often talked and wanted to grow guns in the fields, so that he could fight the British and push them back.
  4. Being a kid, he never talked about toys or games. He used to speak about driving out Britishers from India.
  5. The bomb that Bhagat Singh and his associates threw in the Central Assembly, were made of low-grade explosives. They were thrown away from people in the corridors of the building and were only meant to startle and not harm anyone. The British investigation report and forensics details also confirmed this.
  6. Bhagat Singh coined the word “political prisoner” during his stay in prison in 1930. He demanded basic amenities for his comrades in the prison which were even given to British looters and goons in the jail.
  7. ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was the very famous phrase of Bhagat Singh. It fueled the independence vision of the people and later on became the slogan of India’s armed freedom struggle.
  8. Due to the utter influence of Bhagat Singh, Britishers hanged him an hour ahead of the official time. He was then secretly cremated on the banks of the river Sutlej by jail authorities. However, on hearing the news of his execution, thousands of people gathered at the spot of his cremation and took out a procession with his ashes.
  9. When Bhagat Singh was imprisoned in Lahore Jail, he kept a diary with him in which he penned down his fervent thoughts about freedom and revolution.
  10. At the very young age of 14 years, Bhagat Singh took part in a protest against the killing of a large number of unarmed people at Gurudwara Nankana Sahib.
  11. Bhagat Singh debunked Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. After the 1922 Chauri Chaura incident, he joined the Young Revolutionary Movement and began to advocate for the violent methods to overthrow the British Government in India.
  12. To avoid a forced marriage by his family, Bhagat Singh ran away to Kanpur and left a letter, which read, “My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore, there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now.”
  13. When the British police became aware of Singh’s influence on youth, they immediately arrested him on the false pretext of having been involved in a bombing.
  14. After witnessing the Hindu-Muslim riots that broke out after Gandhi disbanded the Non-Cooperation Movement, he began to question religious ideologies of the society. After that point, Singh dropped his religious beliefs. He believed that the religion hinders the revolutionaries’ struggle for independence, and started studying the works of Bakunin, Lenin, Trotsky – all atheist revolutionaries. Later on, Bhagat Singh also wrote an essay titled ‘Why I am an Atheist’ in 1930 in Lahore Central Jail.
  15. Bhagat Singh wrote for Urdu and Punjabi newspapers which used to get published from Amritsar. He also contributed to the publishing of pamphlets by the Naujawan Bharat Sabha that excoriated the British. In his college time, Singh won an essay competition set by the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. Bhagat Singh also published a series of articles on anarchism in Kirti and used many pseudonyms such as Balwant, Ranjit and Vidhrohi for publishing his writings.
    ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was the very famous phrase of Bhagat Singh. Wikimedia Commons
    ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was the very famous phrase of Bhagat Singh. Wikimedia Commons

     

    Also Read: 10 Facts You Need To Know About Homi Bhabha

    Bhagat Singh is considered to be a legend. Many of his actions are well-known. His execution ignited the feeling of unity in many people to take up the revolutionary path, playing an important role in India’s freedom struggle. On the other hand, many didn’t agree with his radical approach to attain freedom. Even after his death, his inspiring actions continued to stir the desire for freedom.

    Once Bhagat Singh said, “They may kill me, but they cannot kill my ideas. They can crush my body, but they will not be able to crush my spirit.