EIGHTY-NINE years after Bhagat Singh attained martyrdom at the hands of India’s British rulers, his ideology is even more relevant as Punjabis in general and the youth in particular are mesmerised by gun culture and songs that glorify violence.
The man who shook the British Empire and took to the gallows singing happily along with Rajguru and Sukhdev on March 23, 1931, is remembered mostly through his pistol-toting image on T-shirts and stickers pasted on vehicles, as if his killing of British police inspector JP Saunders in Lahore on December 17, 1928, gave youngsters the licence to embrace the gun craze. They are the ones who are providing millions of views/downloads to Punjabi singers hailing violence and guns in their songs. The underlining problem is that today’s youth have failed to read the martyr’s mind on violence. True, he killed Saunders, but the after-events showed the revolutionary’s insight into violence and the ideology behind it. Posters by revolutionaries appeared in Lahore a day after Saunders’ murder, explaining the path of violence. The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA) declared: “We are sorry to have killed a man. But this man was part of a cruel, despicable and unjust system and killing him was a necessity… We aim to bring about a revolution which would end all exploitation of man by man.”
He was livid when the British government branded him and other revolutionaries as dacoits. It is then that the idea of throwing a non-lethal smoke bomb at Delhi Assembly to ignite the fire of revolution was taken up. The pamphlets thrown immediately after explained it all: “It takes a loud voice to make the deaf hear...”
In his statement to the court, Bhagat Singh argued, “We hold human life sacred beyond words. Our practical protest was against the institution…It is not the cult of the bomb and the pistol…”
He famously said, “Bombs and pistols do not make (a) revolution. That is not our understanding. The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting stone of ideas.”
Bhagat Singh, in his last letter to the youth of the country dated February 2, 1931, said, “Let me announce with all my strength, that I am not a terrorist and I never was, except perhaps at the beginning of my revolutionary career. And I am convinced that we cannot gain anything through methods (a reference to violence)…I do not mean that bombs and pistols are useless, rather the contrary. But I mean to say that mere bomb-throwing is not only harmless but sometimes harmful... it should back the political work of the party. It cannot and should not work independently.”
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