“The callous execution of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru…has filled the country with deep resentment… I bow my head before the patriotism, sacrifice and courage of Bhagat Singh and his companions.” –Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
The continuous struggle of the countrymen for ninety years (1857-1947 AD) to cut the shackles of India’s slavery under the British imperialism and attaining the Swaraj is, in fact, a living story of their sacrifices. During this period, Indians made sacrifices, one-after-the-other for the freedom of their Motherland. Hundreds and thousands of people laid down their lives and they became a source of inspiration for the countrymen, especially the youth. Many of them remain an inspiration to this day.
This year marks the Diamond Jubilee of our independence from British imperialism. We are proudly organising various programmes on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of our country’s freedom. We are, especially, remembering the sacrifices of our freedom fighters. But, such programmes would be incomplete without proper remembrance of the heroes, especially a trio who made the supreme sacrifice of their lives for the cause of the nation at a very young age of just 22-23 years. Without the familiarity of legacy left by three young men –Bhagat Singh (lifetime: September 28, 1907–March 23, 1931 AD), Shivram Hari Rajguru (lifetime: August 24, 1908–March 23, 1931 AD) and Sukhdev Thapar (lifetime: May 15, 1907–March 23, 1931 AD) for the countrymen, especially the youth, the series of such programmes will not be complete.
Although the name of Bhagat Singh leads in this trinity, but, he (i.e., Bhagat Singh) cannot be sung in isolation without mentioning the names of his allies, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who shared the same fate with Bhagat Singh.
Bhagat Singh was the grandson of Arjun Singh Sandhu, a leading figure of the Gadar Party, a left ideology influenced organisation formed in the year 1913 AD with the aim of advancing the cause of the freedom of India. Bhagat Singh’s father Kishan Singh was a close associate of Lala Lajpat Rai. Kishan Singh and his brother Ajit Singh were also the front ranking freedom fighters and peasant leaders of Punjab. Bhagat Singh, thus, along with the passion, ardour and motivation to work for the independence of the Motherland, got an ideological plane from his own upbringing.
Bhagat Singh had been a witness to the horrific inhuman massacre of the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar (in April, 1919 AD) at the age of twelve. This brutal incident not only had a profound effect on his life, but also intensified his yearning for nationalism and the country’s freedom. He stopped his studies at the DAV School of Lahore on Mahatma Gandhi’s call for Non-Cooperation in 1920 AD.
After the suspension of the Non-Cooperation by Mahatma Gandhi due to a violent incident at Chauri-Chaura in February, 1922 AD, many people disagreed with his principle and programme. Young Bhagat Singh was one among them. Along with his colleagues, he himself became inclined towards leftist ideology. But, his activities and works for the independence of the country did not diminish at all.
His works among his fellow students with the purpose of awakening young minds for the freedom of the country during his study at the National College (founded by Lala Lajpat Rai under the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi in Lahore itself) were also noteworthy.
During his education in this very college, Sukhdev Thapar came in close contact with Bhagat Singh and from then onwards he became his lifelong friend. At the same time, there was a revolutionary turning point in his life. He joined the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association reconstituted by Chandrashekhar Azad from the Hindustan Republican Army and the Hindustan Republican Association. He came in close contact with Chandrashekhar Azad, and it was through this that Rajguru later became his closest companion.
He started writing for “Kirti”, “Veer Arjun” and other Urdu and Punjabi newspapers, which divulged to an extent the principles of his ideology. Along with his leaning towards leftist ideology, prevailing poverty in the country, caste-discrimination and mass exploitation, problem of cleanliness, and desired reforms were the main themes of his articles.Quoting fromone of his write-ups about untouchability, poverty and cleanliness, “It is often said that untouchables do not keep themselves clean. The reason is simple –they are poor. Solve their poverty. The poor from high castes too do not live any clearer...Councils and Assemblies need to push for the freedom of untouchables to use schools-colleges, wells and roads...”
His write ups gave a clear message to the youth of the country to discharge their duties towards the society and the nation. Such a work for the nation on the part of a youth, Bhagat Singh, was, in fact, unprecedented.
Through the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and the Naujawan Bharat Sabha (formed by Bhagat Singh himself in the year 1926 AD with the aim of uniting the youth and putting them to the task of the country’s independence), he carried forward various activities. Along with other companions, Rajguru and Sukhdev especially accompanied him in the activities conducted to inculcate the spirit of patriotism among the compatriots, especially the youth and to oppose the oppressive policies of the colonial government. Punjab, Delhi, United Provinces and other parts of North India were the main centers of their revolutionary activities.
Whatever be the mode of conduct of activities of Bhagat Singh; be it related to the Lahore Dussehra Bomb Case (1926 AD), the assassination of John Saunders (1928 AD) or the throwing of low-intensity bombs (with Batukeshwar Dutt) in the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi (1929 AD), their aim was clear. Bhagat Singh and his colleagues, in fact, wanted to alert the colonists of their repressive policies and actions; they, at the same time, wanted to cut the chains of India’s slavey by awakening the public consciousness through the youth of the country. One other important thing was at the centre of their thoughts and actions. They, under the leadership of Bhagat Singh continuously raised their voice for urgent reforms including humane treatment for political prisoners. Along with his companions, Rajguru and Sukhdev, Bhagat Singh himself went on a long hunger strike during his prison time, which attracted the attention of millions of people not only in India, but also abroad.
Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged at a very young age. By sacrificing lives for their loyalty to the country –patriotism and the freedom of the Motherland, they left a legacy, especially for the youth. In the centre of that legacy was a burning urge for the discharge of duties towards the nation. It could be well realized even today from a short note, which Bhagat Singh left for his father after the Lahore Dussehra Bomb incident. In his note he wrote, “My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore, there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me…”
*A Padma Shri and Sardar Patel National Awardee Indologist Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut; he is, currently the Ombudsman of Swami Vivekananda Subharati University, Meerut (India).