The Role of Bhagat Singh and Revolutionaries in Indian Freedom Struggle


We are going to enter seventh decade of independence. We the people of India have many reasons to celebrate, rejoice this freedom but introspection with utmost seriousness is need of the hour. On this 87th martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Shaheed Sukhdev Thapar and Shaheed Shivram Rajguru, i aim to point out critical sociopolitical aspects of Indian revolutionaries who envisioned nation’s liberation based on universal brotherhood and equality.
Bhagat Singh is considered to be a great martyr, as gun toting nationalist renowned for bombing assembly and firing shots at J.P.Saunders but this perspective needs to be done away with understanding motives and activities of organizations like Naujawan Bharat Sabha (NBS), Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). Bhagat Singh was embodiment of the ideal hero, a brilliant theoretician, a modern man who went to the films, an ardent internationalist and a committed celibate, undistracted by desire in his struggle against the British Raj. The intellectual bend of Bhagat Singh and leaders of HSRA can be traced in their “Telegram to Moscow” on death anniversary of V.I.Lenin dated 21st January 1930 which said, “ON LENIN DAY WE SEND HEARTY GREETINGS TO ALL who are doing something for carrying forward the ideas of the great Lenin. We wish success to the great experiment Russia is carrying out. We join our voice to that of the international working class movement. The proletariat will win. Capitalism will be defeated. Death to Imperialism”. As soon as the magistrate took his chair they raised slogans "Long Live Socialist Revolution", "Long Live Communist International", "Long Live People" "Lenin's Name Will Never Die", and "Down with Imperialism". Bhagat Singh then read the text of this telegram in the court and asked the magistrate to send it to the Third International. Most leaders of HSRA inculcated the reading habit with wide range of books kept at self-made Saharanpur library. The behavior of leaders like Sukhdev towards contemporary political figures like M.K.Gandhi is worth emphasis. In a letter written to Gandhi, Sukhdev wrote, “you are issuing appeals to us that we should call off our activities but you have not advanced any arguments in support of your appeal; under these circumstances, your such appeals corroborate only the plain truth that you are helping the administration in crushing the revolutionary movement…hence it is our earnest request to you, to discuss the matter with some of the revolutionaries who are jailed, or cease issuing such appeals. Kindly adopt any one of the two, and adhere to that in all sincerity”. This letter was later published by M.K.Gandhi in his newspaper, Navjiwan. Such dignified was level of politics unlike present day politics. As Prof Chaman Lal mentions, the britishers after arresting Rajguru had found a book on Socialism which he used to lend to one of his co-patriot for narration with translation. Heroic efforts of Durga Devi Vohra just cannot be overlooked when Bhagat Singh and his gestures are discussed. Due to her selfless, fearless efforts Bhagat Singh after murder of J.P.Saunders was rescued to Calcutta in disguise. Understanding  Bhagat Singh is impossible without knowing his comrades arm-in-arm such as Chandrasekhar Azad, Batukeshwar Dutt Shiv Verma, Dr. Gaya Prasad, Jaidev Guta, Manmanth Gupta, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Jatin Das. Use of pen more than bombs and pistol can be traced when one goes back to underline the cautious call given by Bhagat Singh and his comrades on issues which they considered as most vicious and harmful for whole human race. Among them were Communalism, discrimination on both social (Untouchability) and economic (Inequality) dimensions. 

STAND AGAINST CASTE DISCRIMINATION AND CLASS OPPRESSION- During British colonial rule, Bhagat Singh took a firm stand beyond imperial atrocities. It included caste discrimination and class oppression. Bhagat Singh wrote an article for the newspaper Kirti under the pen name Vidhrohi in June 1928 named ‘Acchoot Ka Sawaal,’ in which he clearly said, “we are animatedly engaged in a debate whether or not the untouchables are entitled for a sacred thread? Are they allowed to read the Vedas? We whine that some foreign countries do not respect us and the British do not give us equal status. Do we have a right to bemoan all this?” Existing caste based discrimination proves relevance of concern of Bhagat Singh on untouchability which hangs our head in shame. Even during last days in prison, he urged the jail sweeper to serve him with a meal of one time. This request came as a surprise for sweeper who belonged to low caste keeping human race above caste identity. The two harmless bombs thrown by Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt in Central Assembly Hall on 8th April 1929 were intentional efforts against Trade Disputes Bill and Public SafetyBill, which aimed to crush rights of workers and liberty of citizens. This proves matured understanding of revolutionaries which stood by the the working class people against class oppression.
Class consciousness was among critical concern for him. In historic court statement of 6th June 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt declared- By “Revolution” we mean that the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice, must change. Producers or labourers, in spite of being the most necessary element of their labour and deprived of their elementary rights. 

STAND AGAINST COMMUNALISM- As a young writer, Bhagat Singh wrote extensively on social issues, Indian politics, culture, language but the among them one article which still finds immense relevance in India of 2018 is – sampardayik dange aur unka elaj, that first came in print in “Kirti” in 1927. Bhagat Singh in 1920’s acknowledged the birth of organizations like RSS and Tablighi Jamaat with Hindutva extremism and Muslim fundamentalism. Both had a three dimensional polarizing aim – first, on society with its people, second on the political leadership and third on the Hindi and Urdu press of the times. Few passages from his writing are worth discussion as given below-
He was convinced about political role behind riots. So he did a scathing attack on political leaders – India’s future appears extremely depressing. These religions have wrought havoc to India and one does not know when the scourge of such horrendous communal riots will come to an end and India will be freed from them — from such religious riots.
As put in this article, “…At the moment, political leaders of India are conducting themselves so shamelessly. Those very leaders, who had sweared and vowed to liberate the country and had proclaimed of undertaking the great responsibility for that purpose, never tiring of talking about ‘common nationality’ and who had been vociferous in declaring their faith in the attainment of “Swaraj”, so unflinchingly and devotedly in the past, these very same leaders are now either keeping mum with their heads bowed in shame or are swaying along with the raging wind of blind religious bigotry.”
As solution to Communal riots- Bhagat Singh was among the pioneer revolutionary thinkers to identify the economic reasons behind the growth of communalism and communal riots. Questioning about what can be the probable cure for this disease of communalism and riots, he answers: “Now, if at all there is a cure for all the riots, then it can be brought about only by changing the course of direction of nation’s economic trajectorybut, it is difficult to bring about a change in the current economic conditions…That is why people have to consistently fight the government and until the government is changed, they should not rest.
Clearly, Bhagat Singh sees the class interests behind the spread of communal poison and in order to strike at the root of the problem, he calls upon for rousing the class consciousness of the people and he states – Class consciousness is required to ensure that people do not fight among themselves. It has to be made very clear to the poor, working class and peasants that their real enemy is capitalism. That is why they have to safeguard themselves from its stranglehold. The rights of all the poor – be they of any caste, colour, religion or region – are the same. Your wellbeing is in overcoming all these differences and remaining united, and strive to take the reigns of power into your hands. With these efforts, you will lose nothing; with these efforts, one day your chains will get cut and you will have economic independence. Comparing it to contemporary conditions, communal riots saw an increase of 17% in 2015 under BJP Government. Communalism remains poisonous as then and now. 

VOICE AGAINST ECONOMIC INEQUALITY- Bhagat Singh was among pioneer thinkers to be vocal on inequalities of both Social and Economic dimensions. In manifesto of Naujawan Bharat Sabha which was a masterpiece work of Bhagwati Charan Vohra and Bhagat Singh, clearly stated- “The future program of preparing the country will begin with the motto: “Revolution by the masses and for the masses. In other words, Swaraj for the 90%; Swaraj not only attained by the masses but also for the masses. This is a very difficult task. Thought our leaders have offered many suggestions, none had the courage to put forward and carry out successfully and concrete scheme of awakening the masses”.
PARALLEL TO CONTEMPORARY INDIA ON INEQUALITY- The recent “World Economic Inequality” report by Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel comparing India’s inequality trajectory with other emerging, industrialized and low-income countries. The research says, “Top 1% of earners captured less than 21% of total income in the 1930s, which dropped to 6% in the ’80s and has risen to 22%”. This doesn’t stop here. In 2016, top 1% rich cornered 58% of the generated wealth of our nation. Latest survey by Oxfam India shows the richest 1% in India cornered 73% of the wealth generated in the country last year, presenting a worrying picture of rising income inequality. LPG also called as Liberalization-Privatization-Globalization of 90’s economic reform has acted as a “Slow Poison” for working class for our country marginalizing them with low wage rate. Aspirations of Naujawan Bharat Sabha and Bhagat Singh on establishing Swaraj for 90% remains unfulfilled as growing inequality threatens India’s democracy and implicit social contract upon which modern India was to be formed. These staggering numbers prove vision of economic equality of Bhagat Singh and his Comrades.
A COMBINED EFFORT WITH A VISION- To liberate India, there were die hard efforts like Ghadar Movement, Lahore Conspiracy Case 1, Meerut Conspiracy Case, Kanpur Conspiracy Case, Kakori Loot, Chittagong Armory raid loaded with patriotism of highest order but these movements somewhere lagged behind in propagating their vision of freedom whereas Naujawan Bharat Sabha and Hindustan Socialist Republican Association had a Pan India vision and impact. There pamphlets resonated whose result was seen when E.V.Ramasamy Periyar, a colossal social thinker and activist of Tamil Nadu openly admired visionary efforts of Bhagat Singh and undertook translating his auto-biographical note Why I am an atheist? Into tamil in his paper Kiadarsu. Captain Lakshmi Sehgal (who later go on to head rani Jhansi regiment in Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army)  in her youth days had collected sum of rupees 3000/- when a nationwide call for formation of HSRA was given. Bhagat Singh his Comrades can be considered as “Frontiers in Freedom Movement” who possessed both intellect and activism having four remarkable strands of thought- a).Uncompromising struggle against imperialism; b).Unflinching resistance to communalism and caste oppression; c).Unbending opposition to bourgeois-landlord rule and d).Unshakable faith in Marxism and Socialism as the only alternative before society. The vision of Bhagat Singh and Indian revolutionaries still awaits which is a possible task with feeling of selfless struggle, service and sacrifice.

1. 1. Shaheed Bhagat Singh Research Committee Documents, Ludhiana.
2.              2.      Understanding Bhagat Singh by Chaman Lal.
3.             3.      To Make the Deaf Hear by S.Irfan Habib.
6.         6.       Indian Income Inequality, 1922- 2014 -From British Raj to Billionaire Raj by Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel
7.           7.            Bhagat Singh aur unkey Saathiyon ke sampoorna Dastwez by Satyam Verma.


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