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Remembering Bhagat Singh: A socialist, a revolutionary and a writer, all by the age of 23

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By Harshmeet Singh

 “Let me announce with all the strength at my command that I am not a terrorist and I never was, except perhaps, in the beginning of my revolutionary career. And I am convinced that we cannot gain through those methods.” – Bhagat Singh

For most 23 year olds, the biggest worry in life remains choosing between an MBA degree and a job. At this very age, Bhagat Singh, along with Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru happily stepped on the gallows on 23rd March 1931 with a dream of uprooting the British rule from his country. A dream, which, he knew, he won’t be able to relish himself. The world has rarely seen any examples of such courage, patriotism and determination from any one, let alone men in their young 20s.

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To many, Bhagat Singh represented the anarchists. One who went by his own terms and adopted violent means in a largely non-violent freedom movement. However, a larger section of historians believe that his popularity was akin to Gandhi’s and in some sections, even more.

Born to a Sikh family in 1907, Bhagat Singh got the seeds of patriotism from his family members. His father was in the jail at the time of his birth for his role in the agitation against Canal Colonization Bill. An ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s politics in his childhood days, Bhagat Singh was seemingly disappointed after Gandhi abruptly put off the non-cooperation movement following the violent incidents at Chauri Chaura.

When his family began pressurizing him for marriage after college, he left his home by leaving behind a letter saying “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.”

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A socialist to the core, Bhagat Singh also wrote for a number of newspapers in Delhi and Punjab. The untimely death of Lala Lajpat Rai as an aftermath of the lathicharge during protests against the Simon Commission brought together Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, Shivaram Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad.

Bhagat SIngh’s real revolution started inside Delhi’s Mianwali jail, where he took up the cause of discrimination between European and Indian prisoners and went on a hunger strike which only ended after 116 days following a Congress resolution and a personal request by his father.

Moved by his determination, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said “The man who goes on hunger strike has a soul. He is moved by that soul, and he believes in the justice of his cause … however much you deplore them and however much you say they are misguided, it is the system, this damnable system of governance, which is resented by the people”

Bhagat Singh’s life is difficult to understand. He was an atheist, a socialist, a revolutionary and a writer, all by the age of 23. He believed that his death would help India inch closer towards independence. He believed that the next generation would value the freedom he is trying to earn by giving his life. It was this belief that helped him take his last walk towards the gallows while singing with his friends.

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Do we value our freedom & the people who gave it to us?

Looking back and studying the historical accounts from books isn’t quite enough to realize the number of lives lost and families broken during the freedom struggle. On the face of this earth, there is no greater bliss than ‘being free’. What comes as the ‘fundamental right’ to us was in fact taken from the British by our freedom fighters after years of struggle, humiliation and bloodshed. While we are humble enough to spare a few days in the memory of handful freedom fighters, there are hundreds who lived and died in oblivion to ensure that we could call this country as our own.

It would be a grave mistake to assume that those great souls were solely fighting for administrative control over the land. Trying to make people understand his idea of India, Bhagat Singh said “I think in India the idea of universal brotherhood, the Sanskrit sentence vasudhaiva kutumbakam etc., has the same meaning.” Religious intolerance, a rapidly increasing social evil in the country, is stark opposite to the ideals of Bhagat Singh and other great freedom fighters. This leads us to the question – ‘Is it the same India for which Bhagat Singh laid down his life when he was just 23?’

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Astronaut Floats in Space on Mural Sporting a Gandhi Patch on Shoulder

The mural that looks up from the vista that opens to the iconic glass-fronted UN building a block away commemorates the occasions

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Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN. Wikimedia

The high-tech future of green jobs and the Gandhian virtue of the dignity of work meld their messages on a six-storey high mural commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN that was inaugurated on Tuesday.

The mural that looks up from the vista that opens to the iconic glass-fronted UN building a block away commemorates the occasions.

The other themes on the mural, a joint effort of the ILO and the Indian mission, include the concept of “green”, environmentally sustainable jobs and the greening of the world by planting trees.

India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said at the inauguration that the mural addresses global concerns of decent jobs and the environment.

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Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN. Pixabay

He said the mural effort goes beyond the diplomatic work at the UN of dealing with resolutions to a new diplomatic area of reaching out to people to create broader awareness of issues.

Victor Ash, the artist who painted it while perched high on a cherry-picker, told IANS: “I mixed different ideas and came up with this ‘green astronaut’ that is also worker – the worker from the future who would be working in space.”

And to commemorate the anniversary of Gandhi’ birth, he said he added Gandhi’s image as a logo on the arm of the astronaut.

Ash said that one of his inspirations was India’s record in 2017 of planting 66 million trees on a single day.

The mission building with a red-stone facade was designed by the internationally acclaimed Indian architect Charles Correa, but one of its sides was bared to the bricks after the neighbouring building was torn down and a hotel was built on the site with a deep setback.

The mural now decorates that side without impinging on the building’s Correa design.

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The other themes on the mural, a joint effort of the ILO and the Indian mission, include the concept of “green”, environmentally sustainable jobs and the greening of the world by planting trees. Wikimedia

The mural was one of several sponsored across the city by ILO to commemorate its centenary with a project called Street Art for Mankind that aims to spread the message of decent work for all with sustainable development and social justice.

Portugal-born Ash said that he had painted a mural at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai during its Summerfest.

He said that he had started as a street-artist in Paris, where he had studied, and later went into doing paintings for galleries.

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“But it was only the studio work and exhibiting in galleries was not reaching such a broad public,” he said.

“So I went back to the street and did murals because it has a much bigger impact and you can actually transmit messages much better than just exhibiting in galleries for a few specific people.” (IANS)