TRIBUTE TO 3 UNSUNG MARTYRS AND REVOLUTIONARIES-I
Yesterday (23-3-2010) happened to be the 78th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of 3 great revolutionaries and freedom fighters Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Shaheed Sukhdev and Shaheed Rajguru. On 23rd of March 1931, the British colonial Government hanged these 3 young heroes at Lahore Jail, now in Pakistan. The 3 heroes cheerfully walked into the gallows with the fiery nationalistic song of Bande Mataram on their lips. It has to be noted that the singing of Bande Mataram was considered as an act of sedition by the British Government at that time.
When I think of the supremely corrupt, effete, supine, and spiritless Union Cabinet Ministers in the UPA Government reporting to a doormat Prime Minister, cast in the same disgusting mould, also bowing his head in nervous reverential supplication before a 'White skinned’ Catholic woman who has usurped transitory power without a coup d 'e tat, the only civilized option open to me today is to derive my inspiration from the lives of great martyrs and revolutionaries in the cause of India's freedom like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad, Sukhdev, Rajaguru, Jatin Das and many others. All of them heroically gave their lives so that the nation can live in freedom. Victor Hugo (1802-1885) said it for all times when he said: “Revolution is the lava of civilization.”
I would be first be dealing with the martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh followed by the stories relating to the martyrdom of Shaheed Sukhdev and Shaheed Rajguru.
BHAGAT SINGH (1907-1931) WAS HANGED IN LAHORE JAIL ON 23 MARCH 1931. His martyrdom shook the entire nation. He became a symbol; though the act was forgotten, the symbol remained, and within a few months each town and village in Punjab and to a lesser extent in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name. Innumerable songs and legends grew up about him and the popularity that the man achieved was amazing.
The basic facts relating to the life and times of Shaheed Bhagat Singh which I am presenting below have been drawn from an inspiring book titled SAGA OF PATRIOTISM, ‘Revolutionaries in India's Freedom Struggle’ by Sadhu Prof.V Rangarajan and R.Vivekanandan. Bhagat Singh was born on September 28, 1907, in a family of patriots and freedom fighters belonging to Banga village in Layalpur District of the then undivided Punjab and now in Pakistan. At the time of his birth, his father Kishen Singh was in jail. To quote the words of Sadhu Prof V Rangarajan and R Vivekanandan: “Even as he was in the womb of his mother, like the great hero of Mahabharata Veer Abhimanyu, Bhagat Singh imbibed the spirit of patriotism and revolution from the songs of freedom fighters who used to assemble at Kranti Niketan, the house of Kishen Singh. No wonder that the child was a born revolutionary.”Bhagat Singh (1907-1931)
One day, when the little Bhagat Singh was playing in his father's farm, his father approached him and asked him what he was doing. At once came the reply: “I am sowing bombs, father!!” After completing his primary education in the Village School, Bhagat Singh joined the D.A.V High School at Lahore where he passed the 9th class. In 1921, when the Non-Cooperation Movement started and patriots were shifting their wards from Government aided schools, Kishen Singh got his son admitted to the National College run by the Punjab Kesari, Lala Lajpat Rai (1865-1928). The renowned revolutionary, Bhai Paramanand (1876 -1947), who was the Principal of the institution at that time, instantly recognized the genius of the young boy Bhagat Singh and straightaway admitted him to FA Course. It was in this institution that Bhagat Singh came across Sukhdev and Bhagavati Charan Varma who became his life long associates in the revolutionary movement.
Under the inspiring guidance of Lala Lajpat Rai and Bhai Paramanand, these fiery youths were drawn into the vortex of the national movement and all them took a vow to fight for the emancipation of the motherland. As a powerful orator and forceful writer, Bhagat Singh was in the forefront of the propagandists of that revolution in the 1920's. Naturally he came to the adverse notice of the British police who started shadowing him.
In 1924, Bhagat Singh founded the NAUJAVAN BHARAT SABHA in Lahore, a secret revolutionary organisation and its branches soon started spreading to other parts of Punjab and even outside that Province. The Sabha organized virulent and hectic propaganda against the British Government in India, hailing the heroic martyrs who sacrificed their lives and calling upon the people to revolt against the Government. When the police laid a net to trap Bhagat Singh in Lahore, he secretly left for Kanpur in the United Provinces. He attended the Belgaum Session of the Indian National Congress in 1924. Later he returned to Punjab and started working as Editor of Akali, published from Amritsar.
The disillusionment caused by the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement by Mahatma Gandhi in 1922 following the Chauri Chaura Massacre, led to a renewal of revolutionary activities. Jogesh Chatterjee and Sachin Sanyal founded the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) in 1923. A leaflet, REVOLUTIONARY, issued by it proclaimed its aim to establish the FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF UNITED STATES OF INDIA by an armed revolution. To raise funds for the HRA, there was a train hold-up, to loot Government money, near Kakori Station on the Lucknow-Saharanpur Railway line in August 1925. Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah and others organized the hold-up. Soon, many important members of the HRA were arrested and tried in the Kakori Conspiracy Case. Four of them were awarded capital punishment. Chandrasekar Azad escaped and reorganized the HRA which joined hands with the Naujawan Bharat Sabha organized by Bhagat Singh in 1925.
8 September, 1928 is indeed a red-letter day in the history of Indian Revolutionary Movement, which was initiated by Khudiram Bose in Bengal in 1908. The young revolutionaries all over the country, including Bhagat Singh and Rajguru, met at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi and established the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA) to coordinate the violent Revolutionary Movement throughout the country. Though Chandrasekar Azad was not present at that time, he had already offered his full support to the move and he himself was elected as President of the Army whose declared aim was to bring about a revolution in the country. It was with this objective in mind that Bhagat Singh arranged to reprint and distribute copies of the proscribed book, The Indian War of Independence (1857) by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966).
In December 1928, Saunders, a Police Officer in Lahore City who had ordered the physical assault on Lala Lajpat Rai in November 1928 during the Simon Commission ‘Go Back’ demonstration, was assassinated. In April 1929, Bhagat Singh and B K Datt through threw bombs and 'Red Pamphlets' in the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi in protest against the repressive Trade Dispute and Public Safety Bills and the arrest of labour leaders earlier in March. They were arrested and tried in the Assembly Bomb Case and, later, along with others, in the Lahore Conspiracy Case for the murder of Saunders and an Indian Constable. In jail Bhagat Singh and others went on a historic group hunger-strike for securing better conditions for political prisoners, which ended in the martyrdom of Jatin Das on the 64th day of his hunger-strike.
Of the 15 accused, BHAGAT SINGH, RAJGURU AND SUKHDEV WERE SENTENCED TO DEATH and seven to transportation for life. Bhagat Singh and his comrades became legends in their life-time. At the time of his execution on 23 March 1931, Bhagat Singh's popularity all over India rivalled that of Mahatma Gandhi. An attempt was made to blow up the Viceroy's train in December 1929. The 'ever elusive Azad' who had escaped arrest earlier fell in a shootout with the police in Allahabad.
When Bhagat Singh was hanged on 23 March 1931, there was a widespread general belief that Gandhiji did not do enough to save the lives of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev while negotiating with Viceroy Irwin. When Gandhiji wrote a letter to Lord Irwin on 23 March 1931, the day on which Bhagat Singh was hanged under pressure, he made a very feeble plea for commutation of his death sentence. Gandhiji wrote with a forked-tongue and a twisted pen: “Popular opinion rightly or wrongly demands commutation. When there is not a principle at stake, it is often a duty to respect it”. There were anti-Gandhi demonstrations throughout the country. When Gandhiji travelled by train to attend the Karachi Session of the Congress he got down at Malir railway station, fifteen miles from Karachi to avoid the angry demonstrators. Some of them had even reached Malir.
Gandhi’s unrequited infatuation for Muslims –-- and more particularly Muslim terrorists with a proven record of murder of Hindu men and rape of Hindu women --- was total and absolute. His contempt for the Hindus of India was also total and absolute. When Swami Shraddhananda, a spiritual leader of Arya Samaj, was on his sick-bed, he was brutally murdered by a Muslim terrorist called Muhammad Rashid on 16-November 1926. Muhammad Rashid was tried and sentenced to death. Gandhi tried his best to influence the Viceroy to commute the death sentence of the Islamic terrorist Muhammad Rashid and failed. In the Congress session in Guwahati, 1926, Gandhi himself said in a manner totally insensitive to Hindu religious feelings, emotions and sentiments, “I have called Abdul Rashid a brother and I repeat it. I do not even regard him as guilty of Swami's murder. Guilty indeed are those who excited feeling of hatred against one another.” (History of Congress, page 516, by Pattabhi Sitaramayya, a prominent Congress leader.) For Gandhi, Mohammad Rashid was a hero and a ‘brother’. Bhagat Singh was viewed as a misguided terrorist by Gandhi. Gandhi’s diabolic double standards were authoritarian and dictatorial!
In spite of Gandhiji's un-called-for and most unpatriotic warning that, “The Bhagat Singh worship has done and is doing incalculable harm to the country”, the saga of Bhagat Singh --- man, martyr, myth and legend --- continues even today and will do so for ages to come. No one can dispute the fact that all the Gods in Heaven gave to Bhagat Singh a more glorious death than Mahatma Gandhi.
Another stark irony enacted by Madame Time completely falsifying the assessment of ‘Bhagat Singh Worship’ made by Mahatma Gandhi in 1931 is this: The Gandhi-Nehru worship has done a Himalayan harm to the country for the past 70 years and is continuing to do so even today with no immediate hope for National Redemption.
I have been inspired to write this story on Bhagat Singh by the disgraceful attempt being made by the anti-national and soul-destroying UPA Government in New Delhi to run down freedom fighters and martyrs who laid down their lives for the cause of our national freedom as misdirected terrorists. Of late, in many school textbooks approved by the Government of India, heroes like Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekar Azad, Sukhdev and Rajguri have been labeled as violent terrorists. No wretched Government can ever confiscate sacred public thoughts and memories. The last words uttered by Bhagat Singh to the Magistrate who sentenced him to death in March 1931 will ring across centuries: “Well, Mr Magistrate, you are fortunate to be able to see how Indian Revolutionaries can embrace death with pleasure for the sake of their Supreme Ideals.”
These great martyrs walked into death for the sake of our motherland. The words of the poet Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) are wholly applicable to such heroes:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow,
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
I have just finished reading 'Bhagat Singh - The Jail Notebook and other Writings', compiled with an introduction by Chaman Lal, Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Editor of ‘Bhagat Singh Aur Unke Sathiyon ke Dastavez’, the collected works of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. The Jail Notebook has been annotated by Bhupinder Hooja (1922-2006) who was a student activist in the Revolutionary Movement in the 1940s and who later had a distinguished career as a journalist, broadcaster and administrator. The other writings of Bhagat Singh included in this book are from 'Selected Writings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh', edited with an introduction by Shiv Verma and published in 1986.
Bhagat Singh was executed in Lahore Jail on 23 March, 1931. Bhagat Singh was in jail for nearly two years from 8 April, 1929 to 23 March, 1931. During this period, Bhagat Singh and his comrades fought one of the most celebrated court battles in the annals of struggles for national liberation and freedom. What is most inspiring to note is that they very ingeniously converted the court into a convenient vehicle for the propagation of their revolutionary message. They also launched a strike against the inhuman conditions in the Colonial Jail in Lahore and were subjected to torture and pain by the Police in British India. The saga of the heroism and fearless self-sacrifice of Bhagat Singh and his comrades has made them icons and idols of inspiration for all time to come.
Bhagat Singh (1907-1931)
While all this is known, what is not so well-known is that in a very short life span of less than 24 years, Bhagat Singh wrote four books and they were all written in Lahore Jail in the last two years of his life. Unfortunately for posterity, though those books were smuggled out, yet they were subsequently destroyed and thus lost for ever.
What has survived is a JAIL NOTEBOOK that Bhagat Singh kept as a young martyr which is full of notes and occasional jottings from what he was reading in jail. THE CONGRESS PARTY HAS CONSIDERED ONLY THE JAIL WRITINGS OF NEHRU AND GANDHI AND OF NO OTHER PATRIOT OR PATRIOTS AS RELEVANT OR SACRED TO THE NATION. Thus sixty three years after August 15 1947, we are A NATION WITHOUT A SOUL, A MERE NOTION WITHOUT AN IDENTITY!
The anecdotes and stories associated with Bhagat Singh's childhood have become a part of song, legend and popular story in Punjab and several other parts of India. As a child of four, he told the well-known freedom fighter Mehta Anand Kishore that 'he would sow riffles in the fields, so that trees would yield weapons with which the British could be driven away'. As a boy of 12, he visited the Jallianwalabagh a few days later after the massacre in April 1919 and brought back as sacred souvenir a pack of blood soaked earth. His grandfather S. Arjun Singh was a staunch Arya Samajist and under his inspiration Bhagat Singh learnt Sanskrit, in addition to Urdu, English and Hindi.
The front cover of Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook (See Bhagat Singh’s Signature And The Facsimile Of His Handwriting)
It is amazing to note that even as a young boy of 15, Bhagat Singh was hotly debating with his father, Mahatma Gandhi's knee-jerk decision to withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement following the Chauri Chaura massacre in the United Provinces (UP) in 1922. The withdrawal of Non-Cooperation Movement had the immediate effect of radicalizing the youth of India. There is no doubt that great revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Chadrashekar Azad, Sukhdev, Rajaguru and many others chose the path of armed revolution only because of Mahatma Gandhi's tepid decision to call off the Non-Cooperation Movement. Thus many sections of the youth were attracted to the revolutionary groups of Anushilan and Yugantar in Bengal or the Hindustan Republican Association in the United Provinces (UP). Bhagat Singh went to Kanpur in 1923 after writing to his father that he would not marry since he was determined to dedicate his whole life to the cause of the nation. In Kanpur he joined Pratap, a newspaper whose Editor at that time was Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, one of the front rank Congress leaders in UP. Bhagat Singh started writing in the Pratap under the pen name Balwant. When six Babbar Akali Revolutionaries were executed in 1926, Bhagat Singh wrote a fiery article ‘Blood Drops on Holi Day’ ('Holi ke Din Rakt ke Chhinte') was published in the Pratap with the byline 'A Punjabi Youth'.
Simultaneously Bhagat Singh was also writing for a Punjabi journal run by the Ghadarite Revolutionaries of Punjab called Kirti(Punjabi). He wrote on leading contemporary issues of the time on public subjects as varied as Communalism and its Solution, Problem of Untouchability, Religion and Our Freedom Struggle etc. Through his seminal articles in Kirti journal, Bhagat Singh clearly demonstrated his versatile ability as a fearless journalist and freedom fighter.
Anyone can see from this Jail Notebook that Bhagat Singh was a great scholar and voracious reader. An economist, a political scientist, a historian, a sociologist, an agitator, a freedom fighter and above all a martyr in the cause of India's freedom Bhagat Singh was all this and more. We can also see that as a student, his friends remembered him as being fond of films, especially Charlie Chaplin's Films. As a good singer and actor, he took part in college plays.
(Please see that Bhagat Singh has noted on 12 September 1929 that there are 404 pages in the Notebook kept by him in Lahore Jail)
The historic trial of Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary comrades resulted in the cry Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live Revolution) throughout the country. When Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutta threw bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly and threw the copies of the historic pamphlet ‘TO MAKE THE DEAF HEAR’ on April 8, 1929, the Assembly erupted and dissolved in commotion and consternation. Members ran helter-skelter. Only a very few amongst them, Pundit Motilal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malviya and Jinnah remained cool. On Bhagat Singh's specific directions, it had been earlier decided that after actually throwing the bombs, they would not try to escape, but would get arrested. As planned, Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutta heroically surrendered to the Police. The Hindustan Times in New Delhi brought out a special evening edition on 8 April, 1929, publishing the full text of the statement of Bhagat Singh and others contained in the historic pamphlet. They proclaimed:
“IT TAKES A LOUD VOICE TO MAKE THE DEAF HEAR, with these immortal words uttered on a similar occasion by Auguste Valliant (1861 - 1894), a French anarchist martyr, do we strongly justify this action of ours. Inquilab Zindabad!”
To come back to Bhagat Singh's Jail Notebook and other writings, we should note that Bhagat Singh had three main agendas in jail from 8 April, 1929 till his execution on 23 March, 1931:
a) To use the trial and the publicity he and his comrades were getting to spread the ideas of the great revolutionaries and propagate their message;
b) To fully expose to the world the inhumanity and brutality of the British Colonial State by resorting to protests, including hunger strikes, inside the Jail;
c) To equip and advance himself politically and ideologically by subjecting himself to the academic discipline of a rigorous and structured programme of extensive and intensive reading.
While the whole of India knows that Bhagat Singh succeeded magnificently in achieving his first two agendas, yet it is unfortunate that the country as a whole is completely unaware of the fact that he was a great intellectual with extraordinary ideals and convictions who buried himself in a programme of unremitting intellectual toil and exertions during the last two years of his incarceration.
On page 37 of the Jail Notebook, Bhagat Singh has written the following famous lines of James Russel Lowell (1819-1891), American poet and editor of ‘Atlantic Monthly’:
They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.
Given the disastrous political conditions in Sonia's India (and all her slaves in the UPA), I have no doubt that even if Bhagat Singh were given the option by God of coming back to life today, he would rather vote for instantaneous death with greater fervour, passion and anger than he did on 23 March 1931.
THE JAIL NOTEBOOK of Bhagat Singh is a document of great historical significance. Bhagat Singh's Jail Notebook is not a Diary at all in the conventional sense, in that it does not record his daily life in the Prison, nor his thoughts and emotions. Bhagat Singh's Jail Notebook is a record of his study and reading in the Prison prior to his execution. It helps us to understand the roots and trajectory of his political and philosophical role and development. It also reflects his esthetic taste and sensibilities, as it contains a large number of quotations from literary classics from across the world.
BHAGAT SINGH WRITING HIS JAIL NOTE BOOK
Bhagat Singh was a keen student of world history. He firmly believed that world history is nothing but philosophy teaching by example. History is but the unrolled scroll of prophecy. In the last two years of his life in Jail, unmindful of the sure prospect of death by hanging, inspired and sustained by nothing but his soaring and deathless idealism, Bhagat Singh immersed himself in books on history political, economic, social, religious and cultural and literature and law. His immortal message to us on every page of his Jail Notebook can be paraphrased by me in this manner: Books are bred by men, men by life and life by books through a constant interrelation and cross-fertilization, so that an element of political, social, economic, and cultural history can scarcely be dispensed with in any account of literary phenomena and forces.
The only inference we can draw from the quotations in his Jail Notebook is that Bhagat Singh was greatly inspired by the political writings of John Locke (1632--1704), particularly by his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), the Two Treatises of Civil Government (1680 -1690) and A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689). It is an accepted fact that John Locke had a tremendous intellectual and political influence on men like Thomas Jefferson (1743 -1826), George Washington (1732--1799), Benjamin Franklin (1706 -1790) and John Adams (1735 --1826) and many others who created the American State in the last two decades of the 18th century.
On page 23 of the Jail Notebook, Bhagat Singh, under the heading Tree of Liberty has recorded the following quotation of Thomas Jefferson with approval: “The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
Bhagat Singh’s writing in The Jail Notebook
On page 24 of the Jail Notebook, we see the following inspiring message from the Will of Fanscisco Ferrer (1859--1909), a Spanish Catalan free-thinker and anarchist:
“I also wish my friends to speak little or not at all about me, because idols are created when men are praised, and this is very bad for the future of the human race.... Acts alone, no matter by whom committed, ought to be studied, praised or blamed. Let them be praised in order that they may be initiated when they see to contribute to the common weal; let them be censured when they are regarded as injurious to the well-being, so that they may not be repeated. I desire that on no occasion, whether near or remote, nor for any reason whatsoever, shall demonstrations of a political or religious character be made before my remains, as I consider the time devoted to the dead would be better employed in improving the conditions of the living, most of whom stand in great need of this.”
On page 21, Bhagat Singh quotes the following poem of Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) on LIBERTY:
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets-
Those hearts pierced by the grey lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere
With unslaughtered vitality.
They live in other young men, O Kings!
They live in other brothers again ready to defy you!
They were purified by death-
They were taught and exalted!
On page 25 of the Jail Notebook, Bhagat Singh has quoted the famous poem of FIGHT FOR FREEDOM by William Wordsworth (1770-1850).
On page 26, we see him recording in his own hand-writing the immortal poem THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE by Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). He has also translated a few of the lines from this poem into Urdu.
Bhagat Singh thought deeply about Law, Justice and Jurisprudence and their impact on society and politics through the ages. Bhagat Singh was convinced that Law without Justice resulted in only an arid formation. Here are some of his observations in his Jail Notebook (pages 105-106):
Historical Jurisprudence: Deals with the general principles governing the origin and development of Law; legal conceptions. It is the history.
Ethical Jurisprudence: Is concerned with the theory of justice in its relation to Law.
Law and Justice: The total disregard of the ethical implications of the Law tends to reduce analytical jurisprudence to a system which is only in the nature of an arid formation.
According to Bhagat Singh, in England, two different words 'Law' and 'Justice', are a constant reminder that these are two different things and not the same thing. And their use tends to hide from view the real and intimate relation which exists between them. In the European Continent, Bhagat Singh says that Continental Speech conceals the difference between Law and Right, whereas the English Speech conceals the connection between them.
On Page 107, Bhagat Singh has quoted Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), English jurist, whose Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vol. (1765--69), is the best-known description of the doctrines of English law. The work became the basis of university legal education in England and North America. He was knighted in 1770. Here is the quotation given by Bhagat Singh from Blackstone: “Law in its most general sense signifies a rule of action and is indiscriminate to all kinds of action, whether rational or irrational, animate or inanimate. Thus we say, the Laws of Motion, of Gravitation, of Optics, of Nature, and of Nations.”
On page 104 of his Jail Notebook, it is fascinating to note that Bhagat Singh, under the title 'All Legislators Defined as Criminals', has quoted Feodor Mikhailovach Dostoevski (1821-1881), one of the greatest Russian novelists in world literature. In his famous novel 'Crime and Punishment', he wrote as follows: “All Legislators and Rulers of men commencing with the earliest down to LYCURGUS, SOLON, MAHOMED, NAPOLEON, etc. etc., have, one and all, been criminals, for, while giving new laws, they have naturally broken through older ones which had been faithfully observed by society and transmitted by its progenitors.”
On page 107, Bhagat Singh defines the pernicious nature of ‘Foreign Subjugation’ in the words of Prof. A.E. Ross: “Subjugation to foreign yoke is one of the most potent causes of the decay of nations.”
There are brilliant quotations under the headings and themes like ‘Life and Education', 'Truth', 'Desire vs. contentment', 'Aims of Life', 'Science of the State', 'Kinds of Governments', 'Sovereignty of the People', 'French Revolution', 'Hindu Civilization', and many other interesting subjects.
On page 278, under the title ‘No Indian Parliament Conceivable!’, Bhagat Singh has noted: “The Indian National Congress assumed unto itself, almost from the beginning, the function of a Parliament. There was and is no room for a Parliament in India, because, so long as British Rule remains a reality, the Government of India, as Lord Morley (1838-1923) has plainly stated, must be an autocracy benevolent and full of sympathy with Indian ideas, but still an autocracy.”
I have very carefully read all the pages of Bhagat Singh's Jail Notebook. If I am permitted to speak on his behalf, I would summarize the letter and spirit of his broad message to us in the following words:
a) The best and noblest lives are those which are set toward high ideals.
b) Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without.
c) The ideal life is in our blood and never will be lost.
d) An ideal is the only thing that has any real force. We have lost sight of our own ideal and its tremendous force and vigour. Somehow, that must be recaptured.
e) Expedients are for an hour, but principles are for the Ages. Just because the rains descend, and the winds blow, we cannot afford to build on the shifting sands.
f) All politicians, regardless of caste, colour, creed or race are fraternal companions in hypocrisy and fraud.
g) To live in the presence of great truths and eternal laws, to be led by permanent ideals that is what keeps a man patient when the world ignores him, and calm and unspoiled when the world praises him.
h) Better be poisoned in one's blood, than to be poisoned in one's principles. Blessed is the Man who carries within himself a God, an ideal, and who obeys it.
When I went through some of the remarkable entries in the Bhagat Singh's Jail Notebook. I was reminded of the following words of George Santayana (1863--1952) in his Little Essays published in 1920: “The vital straining towards an ideal, definite but latent, when it dominates a whole life, may express that ideal more fully than could the best-chosen words”.
But after reading the gleaming and glowing words of Bhagat Singh issuing out of the gloom of the condemned prisoners' cell in Lahore Central Jail between September 1929 and March 1931, I can say with a certain degree of self assurance that Santayana was only partially right. In the case of Bhagat Singh, his great ideals not only were expressed magnificently through his very short and heroic martyr's life but also through his ever living words recorded in his Jail Notebook.
As a revolutionary freedom fighter, who believed passionately in the supreme efficacy of deliberately calculated, planned, and launched campaign of organized violence against the British enemy, Bhagat Singh's daily message to his revolutionary friends and comrades was: “Words without actions are the assassins of fearless and selfless idealism. Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step: only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road..... our bodies can be mobilized by law, police and men with guns, if necessary but we should all strive to find that which will make us believe in what we must do, so that we can fight through to the finish to our final victory.”
Contemporary history comes alive in Bhagat Singh's Jail Notebook. His understanding of contemporary politics, political and social trends was very sensitive and all-pervasive.
On page 13 of this Notebook, we find the following entries under the titles Benevolent Despotism, Government of India, British Rule in India and Liberty and English People.
A rare historical photograph of students and staff of National College, Lahore, which was started by Lala Lajpat Rai for education of students participating in the non-cooperation movement. Shaheed Bhagat Singh can be seen standing fourth from the right.
Montague-Chelmsford called the British Government a 'benevolent despotism' and according to Ramsay Macdonald, the imperialist leader of the British Labour Party, 'in all attempts to govern a country by a benevolent despotism, the governed are crushed down. They become subjects who obey, not citizens who act or react. Their literature, their art, their spiritual expression go'.
Rt Hon'ble Edwin S. Montague, Secretary of State for India, said in the House of Commons in 1917: 'The Government of India is too wooden, too iron, too antediluvian, to be of any use for modern purposes. The Indian Government is indefensible'
British Rule in India
Dr. Ruthford's words: ' British rule as it is carried out in India is the lowest and most immoral system of Government in the world the exploitation of one nation by another
A painting of Bhagat Singh in chains in Lahore central jail in 1928. Bhagat Singh was 21 at that time.
Bhagat Singh wrote thus on the ‘Liberty and English People’: “The English people love liberty for themselves. They hate all acts of injustice except those which they themselves commit. They are such liberty-loving people that they interfere in the Congo and cry, 'Shame' to the Belgians. But they forget their heels are on the neck of India.”
Bhagat Singh was convinced that the British monarch was getting a fat salary at the expense of the common poor people of India for doing nothing excepting to support a Government in India which was only looting the nation and sucking the blood of the toiling millions. On page 16, Bhagat Singh observed as follows under the title King's Salary:
“It is inhuman to talk of a million sterling a year, paid out of the public taxes of any country, for the support of an individual, whilst thousands who are forced to contribute thereto, are pining with want and struggling with misery. Government does not consist in a contract between prisons and palaces, between poverty and pomp; it is not instituted to rob the needy of his mite and increase the worthlessness of the wretched.”
On page 16, under the title Give me Liberty or Death, Bhagat Singh has quoted extensively from the most famous speech of Patrick Henry (1736--1799). Patrick Henry was a prominent figure in the American Revolution. Henry is perhaps best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses in Virginia on March 23, 1775, urging legislature to take military action against the encroaching British military force. He ended his speech with his most famous words: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” The crowd jumped up and shouted: “To Arms! To Arms!” These great words have been quoted with acclaim by Bhagat Singh.
On page 124 of the Jail Notebook, under the caption Aim of Life, Bhagat Singh wrote as follows : The aim of life is no more to control mind, but to develop it harmoniously, not to achieve salvation hereafter, but to make the best use of it here below, and not to realize truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life ; social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of the many; and spiritual democracy or universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity in the social, political and industrial life.” Unlike Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru, Bhagat Singh did not quibble with words.
We find Bhagat Singh quoting extensively from the writings of Socrates (470 BC--399 B.C), Aristotle (384 B.C--322 B.C), Plato (427 B.C--347 B.C), Zeno (490 B.C--430 B.C), Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 A.D--180 A.D), Epicurus (341-270 B.C) and Seneca (4 B.C-65 A.D).
On page 165, Bhagat Singh has referred to Aristotle in these words: “He was the first to disentangle politics from ethics, though he was careful not to sever them.” 'The majority of men' Aristotle argued, 'are ruled by their passions rather than by reason, and the State must therefore, train them to virtue by a life-long course of discipline, as in SPARTA. Until political society is instituted, there is no administration of justice..... but it is necessary to enquire into the best constitution and best system of legislation'. On the same page, Bhagat Singh has said this about Plato. He traces the origin of society and the State to mutual need, for men as isolated beings are incapable of satisfying their manifold wants. Plato while depicting a kind of idealized Sparta says, 'In an ideal State, philosophers should rule, and to this aristocracy (government of the best), the body of citizens would owe implicit obedience'. Bhagat Singh emphasized the careful training and education of citizens.
As a revolutionary leader, committed to the supreme cause of political and socio-economic emancipation and liberation of the oppressed and suppressed toiling masses, Bhagat Singh was greatly influenced by Victor Hugo's great novel Les Miserables. Bhagat Singh has quoted the following words of Victor Hugo from his preface to Les Miserables: “So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, a social damnation artificially creating hells in the midst of civilization, and complicating the destiny which is divine with a fatality which is human; so long as three problems of the age the degradation of man through poverty, the ruin of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through ignorance are not solved; so long as in certain regions, social asphyxia is possible in other words, and from a still wider point of view, so long as ignorance and wretchedness exist on the earth, books like this cannot be useless.”
As a keen student of all the Social Sciences, Bhagat Singh understood that he who learns but does not think is lost and he who thinks but does not learn is in danger. For him learning consisted of ideas, and not of the noise that is made by the mouth. He was of the view that learning and liberty should march hand in hand, or they do not march at all: the one is the condition of the other.
In November 1930, after he was sentenced to death, Bhagat Singh wrote to his comrade B.K. Dutta who had been sentenced to transportation for life: “The Judgment has been delivered. I am condemned to death. In these cells, besides myself there are many other prisoners who are waiting to be hanged. The only priority of these people is that somehow or other they may escape the noose. Perhaps I am the only man amongst them who is anxiously waiting for the day when I'll be fortunate enough to embrace the gallows for my ideals. I will climb the gallows gladly and show to the world as to how bravely the Indian revolutionaries can sacrifice for the cause of National freedom.”
Bhagat Singh was a great admirer of Thomas Paine (1737-1809), who influenced the French Revolution and later the American Revolution in many ways. Bhagat Singh often quoted the following words of Thomas Paine with passion and fervour: “I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles to death”.
BHAGAT SINGH DID JUST THAT AND SO HE BELONGS TO THE AGES.