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.
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.”
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.
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?’