The Secret of Bhagat Singh’s Popularity

The Secret of Bhagat Singh’s Popularity
·         His slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ came to replace ‘Vande Mataram’
·         Challenging the mighty British Empire made him extremely popular
Dr. Hari Desai
Despite being an atheist and a hardcore leftist, even after 88 years of his martyrdom he continues to be a popular revolutionary icon not only in India but even in Pakistan. Lovingly hailed as Shaheed-e-Azam, the name of Bhagat Singh is hailed by leftist as well as rightist. He continues to be the most popular hero of the youth. The first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru referred to “the phenomenon of Bhagat Singh, and his sudden and amazing popularity in north India”. Bhagat Singh was not the first martyr of the national struggle for freedom, nor was he the last.  Prof. Harish Puri notes while exploring his amazing popularity in “Mainstream”: “Actually the number of martyrs was quite large… In fact, in the then dominating context of religious symbolism and mysticism in the revolutionary organizations, Bhagat Singh’s atheism could have been a good enough reason for him to be less glorified than some others. How do we then make sense of the extraordinary stature that Bhagat Singh gained at the young age of less than 24 years?”

Bhagat Singh was highly respected and loved among his comrades for his knowledge and qualities of a good human being. His slogan of ‘Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live Revolution)’ came to replace the earlier popular slogan ‘Vande Mataram’. His serious rethinking on making a choice between terrorist actions and revolution, the Irish nationalist path and the Marxist-Leninist road, as also his maturity of mind reflected in three of his writings during the last six months of his life reflect an image quite different from the popular perception about the martyr. His popular image in the minds of most Indians in those days, as also at present, was of a handsome young man who challenged the mighty British Empire, avenged the national insult of the British assault on Lala Lajpat Rai, and smilingly sacrificed his life alongside two other comrades, Rajguru and Sukhdev.
A number of students and youth organizations sprang up at various places. The most prominent of these was the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, first established at Lahore in 1926 which, in the words of Subhas Bose, was “a thoroughgoing nationalist movement, in order to fight communalism and religious fanaticism in Punjab”. The radicalism inspired by that Russian Revolution affected not only those who were dissatisfied with the course of Gandhian struggle but also a new generation of Congress-men like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose.
The year 1928 was marked by an anti-Simon Commission upsurge everywhere in India. On 30 October 1928, the Simon Commission faced a large hostile crowd led by Lala Lajpat Rai at Lahore Station. The Lala was severely beaten by the Police under J. A. Scot, British SP and he later succumbed to his head injury. The whole nation was stunned by this savagery. As news of the attack on Lajpat Rai spread, the country reacted with anger. Bhagat Singh was appalled. He could not believe that a white man could dare take a stick in hand and set upon Lajpat Rai. The HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Republic Army) decided to undertake retaliatory action. On 17 December, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Chandra Shekhar Azad mistook the ASP, J. P. Scot for Saunders, as they pounced upon him and shot him dead.
A few months later, on 8 April 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeswar Datta threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly Hall in Delhi. It was hurled from the midst of a packed gallery, not aimed at anybody, but to draw the attention of the House, the Indian people and the British rulers in India. As Bhagat Singh and Batukeswar Dutt had planned not to escape after throwing the bomb, they were arrested. While Dutt was sentenced to transportation for life in the Assembly Bomb Case, Bhagat Singh, along with Rajguru and Sukhdev, was sentenced to death for the murder of Saunders in what became famous as the Lahore conspiracy case.
One does get the feel of direct rapport of Bhagat Singh with the people in his words as quoted by Shiv Verma in ‘Sansmritiyan’ :“The people of the country appreciate our courage and our actions but they are not able to directly connect with us. So far we have not even told them in clear words regarding the meaning of the freedom that we talk about—what would be the form and content of that freedom. What would be the shape of the government to be constituted after the exit of the British and who would constitute that government? To give our movement a popular support base we will have to take our objectives and programme to the people. Because without gaining such a support our old type of sporadic individual actions of killing one or the other British official or government approvers will not do.”
Next column: Mahatma Gandhi on Jammu-Kashmir
The Secret of Bhagat Singh’s Popularity   The Secret of Bhagat Singh’s Popularity Reviewed by Dr.Hari Desai on October 06, 2019 Rating: 5

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