Bhagat Singh’s Revolutionary Legacy Can Awaken The Consciousness Of Our Youth
Bhagat Singh was, is, and will remain a great hero for the masses. Today we really need to awaken the consciousness of our people, particularly the youth, because consumer culture has consumed their consciousness. It has made their lives one-sided. This has weakened their consciousness and has made their material aspect dominant. Bhagat Singh was really an awakened person. His thinking was far more mature than his age. He had reached a level of maturity at the age of 23 which very few people reach in their lifetime. Just two of his predictions can prove the maturity of his thinking. He said that capitalism will lead to anarchy, and this will lead to its downfall. He also said that one day, the Desi Angrej (indigenous exploiters) will replace the Gora Angrej (white oppressors).
In 1925, when Bhagat Singh was a student of the Punjab National College, Lahore and was only 18 years old, he started the Naujawan Bharat Sabha. This organization held very big events where people belonging to different castes and religions came together and ate together. Bhagat Singh felt that this will help to unite the people against the British Imperialists. In 1928, when he was 21 years old, he organized the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army. This organization had two goals. The first was to liberate India from the British Imperialists, and the second was to bring socialism in India. The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army is associated with the three well known incidents:
· Murder of J.P. Saunders, the Assistant Superintendent of Police Lahore
· Bombing of the Assembly
· Bombing of Viceroy Lord Irwin’s train
Out of these three, Bhagat Singh played the leading role in the first two.
During the hearing of his court case, Bhagat Singh made it clear that he did not support acts of terrorism. However, he had to resort to these to make the people aware of the issues and their policies. Bhagat Singh felt that they were forced to take that approach because the government did not let their ideas reach the people. He said that when they blasted the bombs in the Assembly, they made sure that there will be no causalities. Bhagat Singh showed the level of his maturity when he gave the reply to the Judge’s question that what did he mean by revolution. He said that a peasant toils to feed the others, but his own children go hungry. Similarly, a weaver clothes others, but his own children are naked. The masons and the construction workers build buildings for others, but they cannot afford homes for themselves. Revolution means changing this sorry state of affairs by stopping the exploitation of a country by another country, and of a man by another man.
It is obvious that Bhagat Singh was not just an emotional young man but was a very deep thinker. Reaching such a maturity level at the age of 23 is really a remarkable achievement. His thinking was fundamentally different than the Congress Party leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi. These leaders adopted a vacillating approach towards the British Imperialists, and always left the doors wide open for a compromise. On the other hand, Bhagat Singh wanted to wage an uncompromising struggle to completely liberate the country from the British Imperialists. The leaders like Gandhi worked with the corporate houses such as the Birlas. These corporate houses hoped that they will replace the British one day. However, Bhagat Singh wanted to give power to the people. Bhagat Singh enjoyed a very wide support among the people. Jawaharlal Nehru said that Bhagat Singh seemed to vindicate, for the moment, the honor of Lala Lajpat Rai, and through him, of the nation. In the 1929 annual Congress Party meeting in Lahore, Mahatma Gandhi’s resolution to deplore the bombing of the Viceroy Lord Irwin’s train and to congratulate the Viceroy, met with a very tough opposition and passed with a very small majority of only 81 votes out of the 1,731 votes.
My father also told me about the personality of Bhagat Singh from his personal experience. My father was a political prisoner in the Lahore Central Jail. He was also a graduate. Therefore, he got a B class in the jail. He was not supposed to do any physical labor; instead, he did administrative and paperwork for the other prisoners. He was there a few years after Bhagat Singh. There were many prisoners who were serving life or long-term sentences. These prisoners had a chance to see Bhagat Singh from very close. They found him very friendly and jovial. He had a magnetic personality. He used to take a lot of exercise and kept himself physically fit. He also used to read a lot. Just two days before the hanging, he was reading Lenin’s State and Revolution. When the jailors came to take him for the hanging, he requested a little time so that he could finish the few remaining lines of the book.
The Vishav Budh Jivi Forum (World Intellectual Forum) organized an event in Patiala to pay homage to Bhagat Singh. I was the keynote speaker. I said that we need Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary legacy to awaken the minds of youth and save them from becoming victims of consumer culture. Capitalism has blunted their spirits and the natural idealism of youth. By limiting their thinking to careerism only, it has made it easy for consumerism to prey upon them. By falling victim to consumerism, our youth and our children are getting prematurely old. One speaker said that Bhagat Singh was a Sandhu Jatt. I told him that Bhagat Singh’s concept of a Jatt was very different than the distorted image of Jatts being projected by our TV, movies and songs. For Bhagat Singh, a Jatt was a toiling peasant who was exploited by the system; whereas today’s distorted image is completely divorced from Kirat (honest and productive work) and incites false, casteist ego. Bhagat Singh will be very saddened by this distortion because he was the greatest advocate of equality and universal brotherhood. Bhagat Singh visualized a world free of exploitation, oppression and discrimination, where all people can prosper together.
Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.