Bhagat Singh's birth centenary celebrations from Sep 28, 2007
Bhagat Singh (September 28, 1907 – March 23, 1931) was an Indian revolutionary, considered to be one of the most famous martyrs of the Indian freedom struggle. For this reason, he is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh (the word Shaheed means "martyr"). He is also believed by many to be one of the earliest Marxists in India and has been labeled so by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) . He was one of the leaders and founders of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.
Bhagat Singh was born into a Sikh (Sandhu) family to Sardar Kishan Singh Sandhu and Vidyavati in the Khatkar Kalan village near Banga in the Lyallpur district of Punjab. As a child, he was deeply affected by the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre that took place in Punjab in 1919. When Mahatma Gandhi started the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920, he became an active participant at the age of 13. He had great hopes that Gandhi would bring freedom in India. But he was disappointed when Gandhi called off this movement following the Chauri Chaura riot in 1922. At this point he had openly defied the British and had followed Gandhi's wishes by burning his government-school books and any British-imported clothing. In 1923, Bhagat famously won an essay competition set by the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. This grabbed the attention of members of the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan including its General Secretary Professor Bhim Sen Vidyalankar. At this age, he quoted famous Punjabi literature and discussed the Problems of the Punjab.
In his teenage years, Bhagat Singh started studying at the National College in Lahore, but ran away from home to escape early marriage, and became a member of the organization Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Translated to 'Youth Society of India'). In the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Singh and his fellow revolutionaries grew popular amongst the youth. He also joined the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association at the request of Professor Vidyalankar, which was then headed by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan. It is believed that he had knowledge of the Kakori train robbery. He wrote for and edited Urdu and Punjabi newspapers published from Amritsar. In September 1928, a meeting of various revolutionaries from across India was called at Delhi under the banner of the Kirti Kissan Party. Bhagat Singh was the secretary of the meet. His later revolutionary activities were carried out as a leader of this association. The capture and hanging of the main HRA Leaders also allowed him and Sukhdev to be quickly promoted to higher ranks in the party.
The British government created a commission under Sir John Simon to report on the current political situation in India in 1928. The Indian political parties boycotted the commission because it did not include a single Indian as its member and it was met with protests all over the country. When the commission visited Lahore on October 30, 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led the protest against the commission in a silent non-violent march, but the police responded with violence. The police chief Scott beat Lala Lajpat Rai severely and he succumbed to his injuries later. Bhagat Singh, who was an eyewitness to this event, vowed to take revenge. He joined with other revolutionaries, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev, in a plot to kill the police chief. However, in a case of mistaken identity, Bhagat Singh accidentally killed J.P. Saunders, a Deputy Superintendent of Police. He quickly left Lahore to escape the police. To avoid recognition, he shaved his beard and cut his hair, a violation of one of the sacred tenets of Sikhism.
Inquilab Zindabad !
On April 8, 1929, Singh and Dutt threw bombs onto the corridors of the assembly and shouted "Inquilab Zindabad!" ("Long Live the Revolution!"). This was followed by a shower of leaflets stating that it takes a loud voice to make the deaf hear. The bomb neither killed nor injured anyone; Singh and Dutt claimed that this was deliberate on their part, a claim substantiated both by British forensics investigators who found that the bomb was not powerful enough to cause injury, and by the fact that the bomb was thrown away from people. Singh and Dutt gave themselves up for arrest after the bomb. He and Dutt were sentenced to 'Transportation for Life' for the bombing on June 12, 1929.
Shortly after his arrest and trial for the Assembly bombing, the British came to know of his involvement in the murder of J. P. Saunders. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were charged with the murder. Bhagat Singh decided to use the court as a tool to publicize his cause for the independence of India. He admitted to the murder and made many anti-British statements during the trial. At the time the Congress was bidding for Dominion Status. As Singh grew immensely popular, they decided to act more aggressively towards the British and changed their bid to one of Total Independence. This change in events had an effect on the British government, which ordered the case to be carried out without Bhagat Singh and his comrades present at the hearing. This refusal of rights created uproar amongst Singh's supporters as he could no longer publicise his views.
On March 23, 1931 Bhagat Singh was hanged in Lahore with his fellow comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev. His supporters, who had been protesting against the hanging, immediately declared him as a Shaheed or martyr.
Bhagat Singh was cremated at Hussainiwala on banks of Sutlej River in Punjab where Bhagat Singh Memorial commemorates freedom fighters of India.
Bhagat Singh was known for his fearlessness of death and his appreciation of martyrdom. His mentor as a young boy was Kartar Singh Sarabha and he eventually was hanged for avenging the death of martyr Lala Lajpat Rai. In the leaflet he threw in the Central Assembly on 8th April 1929, he stated that it is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas. Great empires crumbled while the ideas survived. He hoped his death would inspire the youth of India to unite and fight the British Empire.
Personation of Real Hero on reel
Several popular Bollywood films have been made capturing the life and times of Bhagat Singh.
The most successful was Shaheed in 1965, starring Manoj Kumar as Singh.
Two major films about Singh were released in 2002, 23 March 1931: Shaheed and The Legend of Bhagat Singh. 23 March 1931: Shaheed was directed by Guddu Dhanoa and starred Bobby Deol as Singh, with Sunny Deol and Aishwarya Rai co-starring. The Legend of Bhagat Singh is Rajkumar Santoshi's adaptation, in which Ajay Devgan played Singh and Amrita Rao was featured in a brief role. But owing to proximity of release of both films, neither one could obtain popular success.
The 2006 film Rang De Basanti (starring Aamir Khan) is a film drawing parallels between revolutionaries of Bhagat Singh's era and modern Indian youth. It covers a lot of Bhagat Singh's role in the Indian freedom struggle. The movie revolves around a group of college students and how they each play the roles of Bhagat's friends and family.
The patriotic Urdu and Hindi songs, Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna (translated as "the desire to sacrifice") and Mera Rang De Basanti Chola (colour my cloak saffron) are largely associated to Bhagat Singh's martyrdom and have been used in a number of Bhagat Singh-related films.
Notes & Quotes
Bhagat Singh, a great reader and thinker was able to break the jail conditions, even when officially not allowed he was reading and writing but finally after long hunger strike got the right of reading & writing included in Jail Manuals. Thus he maintained a note book of 404 pages and kept notes & quotes from the books he read. Here are few of these
Man and Mankind
"I am a man and all that affects manking concerns me"
- (Page 43 of Jail notebook)
Aim of life
"The aim of life is no more to control mind, but to develop it harmoniously, not to achieve salvation here after, but to make the best use of it here below, and not to realise 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 democracy or universal brotherhod can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity of opportunity in the social, political and individual life." (Page 124 of Jail notebook)