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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Shaheed Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh is considered one of the foremost revolutionaries in India’s struggle for freedom. He gave direction and impetus, in many ways, to our freedom struggle through all the supreme sacrifice and strategies in planning, which eventually made him a hero amongst millions of Indians. People admire his qualities like bravery, sacrifice for the freedom of the country at the young age of 23 years, fearlessness, courage, patriotism and lovingness. He kept an open mind and channeled his energy in the right direction. He founded his life’s purpose through his trauma. Bhagat Singh believed that freedom is an imperitable birthright of all, which must be achieved by systematic and well planned revolution. His father Kishan Singh and uncle Ajit Singh were already struggling for freedom so he started reading literature regarding revolution in young age. Bhagat Singh’s sense of patriotism had been embedded in him a very young age. He was raised to value nationalism and yearned for a independent India free from British rule. He developed a socialist outlook after reading a lot of European literature and developing a great desire for a democratic future for his beloved nation. He thought that in order to attain something as precious as independence, imperialism's exploitative aspect needed to be completely eradicated. According to his opinion, only an armed revolution along the line of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia could bring about such transformation. He coined the phrase ‘ Inquilab Zindabad ‘ which eventually became the war cry of the campaign for Indian independence. Political parties used his name to win elections. However, most of the politicians did not respect the vision of freedom fighters as they remained busy in making personal property and did not care far the development of the country. India has the best climate, best land, best resources, and hardworking and intelligent people, however even then, India is still an underdeveloped country.

Bhagat Singh was born on September 28, 1907 into a Jat Sikh Sandhu family in Chak No. 105 Banga village, Jarawala Tehsel, Lyallpur District. When he born, his father Sardar Kishan Singh and two uncles Ajit Singh and Swaran Singh were in jail due to Farmer Agitation for Colonization Bill in 1907. All his family members also participated in the Ghadar Movement of 1914-1915. His ancestor hails from the village of Khatkar Kalan near the town of Banga of Nawansharhir District of Punjab. He was enrolled into the Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School which was an Arya Samaj Institution. He was deeply influenced by a number of incidents during his childhood. These events ignited the feeling of patriotism and his desire to take up the struggle for India’s independence.

In 1919, when he was 12 years old, he visited the site of the Jalianwala Bagh massacre, where a public meeting was held by a group of nonviolent people, and the people were fired upon by soldiers without warning. He took part in the Non-cooperation Movement in 1920. He welcomed the protest against the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib firing of February 20, 1921 which killed a large number of unarmed protesters. He also supported Morcha of Jaton. In 1922, he joined the Young Revolutionary Movement advocating the violent overthrow of the British Empire in India. He did not favour Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and was disillusioned after Gandhi called off the non cooperation movement. Hindu Muslim riots broke out after Gandhi disbanded the Non-cooperation Movement, as initially both were fighting against the British, and due to this he became non-religious. He studied European revolutionary movements and was attracted to Anarchist and Marxist ideologies. He was also involved with numerous revolutionary organizations and quickly rose through the ranks of the Hindustan Republic Association ( HRA ) to become one of its main leaders, and eventually changed the name of the association to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association ( HSRA ). He excelled both in studies and extracurricular activities during his student life and was a participant of the dramatic society in the college. He was fluent in English, Urdu, Punjabi, and Sanskrit languages. He won an essay competition set by the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan.

He joined the Indian Nationalist Youth Organization ‘Naujawan Bharat Sabha’ along with fellow revolutionaries and became popular in the organization and worked as a secretary. He used to write for and edit Urdu and Punjabi newspapers which were published from Amritsar. He became the leader of the Kirti Kisan Party. The Simon Commission visited Lahore on October 30, 1928, and a non violent protest against the Commission was led by Lal Lajpat Rai in a silent manner, but the police responded violently. James A Scott, the superintendent police, ordered the police to lathe charge the protesters. Lala Lajpat Rai was injured and died on November 17, 1928. However when the matter was put in the Parliament of the British, they completely denied the government’s role in Rai’s death. After that, Bhagat Singh vowed to take revenge and other revolutionaries like Shivaram, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Jai Gopal, and Chanderasekar Azad planned to kill Scott. Jai Gopal was supposed to identify Scott and had to give a signal to Bhagat Singh to shoot Scott. However in the case of mistaken identity, Jai Gopal signaled Bhagat Singh on the appearance of John P Saunders, a police officer. Saunders was shoot by Rajguru and Bhagat Singh on December 17, 1928. A head constable Chanan Singh was also killed by Chanderasheker Azad.

Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt exploded a bomb in Central Assembly Delhi on April 8, 1929 from the visitor gallery. They also raised pro-revolutionary banners and threw leaflets, because they planned to utilize the trial as a platform to propagate the message of revolution and anti-imperialism. Throughout the entire time, they screamed the ‘ Inquilab Zindabad ‘ slogan. The phrase gained lots of traction with young people and many liberation warriors. They never intended to hurt anyone physically, thus there was no casualties in the incident. In 1929, the HSRA had set up bomb factories in Lahore and Saharanpur. On April 15, 1929, the Lahore bomb factory was discovered by the police and later the Saharanpur bomb factory was also raided. With the new information available, the police were able to connect the three strands of the Saunders murder, Assembly bombing, and bomb manufacturing. Bhagat Singh was arrested for murdering Saunders and Chanan Singh based on substantial evidence against him, including statements by his associates, Hans Raj Vohra and Rai Gopal.

Bhagat Singh and his colleagues went for a hunger strike in jail due to discrimination against them in the case of food standards, clothing, toiletries, and other hygienic necessities. The hunger strike inspired a rise in public support for Bhagat Singh and his colleagues from around June 1929. Jawahar Lal Nehru met Bhagat Singh and other hunger strikers in the Central Jail of Manwali. Muhammad Ali Jinnah spoke in support of strikers in the Assembly. Jatinder Nath Das died on September 13, 1929 after a 63 day hunger strike. Bhagat Singh ended his hunger strike after 116 days on the request of Congress Party. On October 7, 1930 Bhagat Singh, Sukdev, and Rajguru were sentenced to death by hanging. Of the other accused, three were acquitted ( Ajoy Ghosh, Jatinder Nath, and Des Raj ), Kundan Lal received seven years of rigorous imprisonment, Prem Dutt received five years of the same, and the remaining seven ( Kishori Lal, Mahavir Singh, Bijoy Kumar Sinha, Shiv Verma, Gaya Prasad, Jai Dev, and Kamal Nath Tewari ) were all sentenced to transportation for life. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukdev were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case and ordered to be hanged on March 24, 1931. The schedule was moved forward by 11 hours and the three were hanged on March 23, 1931 at 7:30 PM in Lahore Jai. They were cremated outside Ganda Singh Wala village under the cover of darkness and the ashes were thrown into the Sutlej river about 10 km from Ferozpur.

Bhagat Singh was a role model for the youth of his period because of his passionate patriotism and developed idealism. He became the voice of his generation through his criticism of the British Imperial Government in writing and speech. Numerous people have questioned his dramatic departure from Gandhi’s non-violent path to Swaraj, yet with his daring embrace of patriotism, he encouraged hundreds of teenagers and young adults to fully engage in the freedom movement. He won the title of Greatest Indian in 2008 India Today poll, beating out Subash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi, demonstrating his standing in modern society. Subhas Chandra Bose said, Bhagat Singh became the symbol of the new awakening among the youth. Jawahar Lal Nehru commented that Bhagat Singh was a clean fighter who faced his enemy in the open field, he was like a spark that becomes a flame in a short time and spreads from one end of the country to the other, dispelling the prevailing darkness everywhere. Sir Horce Williamson wrote that Bhagat Singh's photographs were on sale in every city and town and for a time rivalled in popularity even that of Mahatma Gandhi himself. Bhagat Singh had a great regard for Kartar Singh Sarabha, the founding member of the Ghadar Party and he was his hero.

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