The Kalam Vichar Manch ( thinkers' association) recently organized a thought provoking seminar to commemorate the death anniversary of freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagat Singh, who was 'hanged to death' on 23 March 1931.
On this occasion, noted historian Dr. Irfan Habib spoke on the relevance of Bhagat Singh in the present times. It was a real treat to hear the renowned professor dwell on the various facets of the personality of the great revolutionary, in his characteristic style.
Bhagat Singh is indeed a unique character of Indian history. his life is what legends are made of. Several films have been made on him and his photo is still garlanded by various political parties (though sadly for their own dubious interests).
Although termed as a terrorist by the then British Empire, Bhagat Singh rightly wanted to be called a revolutionary and a soldier in the war against imperialism. He believed that his retaliation against oppression could not be termed as anarchy. His ideas reflect his deep understanding of the Indian milieu and his thought provoking writings make him a class apart from his contemporaries. Though he died at the young age of 24 years, he had a clear vision of an India which was not only politically free, but also free from poverty and social injustices. In one of his speeches, less than 2 months before his death, he stressed the need for a Socialist Revolution, through a political revolution. Else, he said that it did not matter whether Purushottam Das Thakur ( a wealthy industrialist of his times ) ruled India or the Britishers. So for any movement to succeed, it was (and still is) imperative that the masses be involved in it.
Dr. Habib lauded the scientific temperament of Bhagat Singh, which is very relevant in today's scenario. More than any other nationalist of his times, Bhagat Singh stressed the importance of being rational. He believed in ideological firmness and said, 'Religion has no connection with the National Movement.' Bold sentiments indeed, but very true. It is distressing to see that today Nationalism is being touted in the garb of religion and caste. This has resulted in fragmentation of society and in communal riots. Instead of insisting on religious instructions to our children, it would be better if we instruct them in the values of love and peaceful co existence.
Bhagat Singh also believed in a 'realistic socialism'. He dreamt of social equality and prosperity. His vision of a Communist Society was very similar to that of Marx and Lenin--- a society where there were equal opportunities for all and a just distribution wealth according to one's capabilities, and where even the lowliest could live comfortably. His brand of socialism was not a utopia, but a reality which could be brought about with non violent and peaceful methods. He knew that in this quest for socialism, one would have to make compromises at times, without losing sight of the main aim. In any such compromise, both parties gain some and lose some. But the onward, non violent march towards socialism should continue. Nothing worth while can be achieved by being a hardliner.
During his trial in the court, Bhagat Singh said that India 's struggle for freedom cannot be carried out in isolation. It will have to be linked and influenced by other international movements and happenings. This concept of International Solidarity is very important today, when we talk of the world as a global village. Yet our leaders are sadly lacking in ideological condemnation of anti people regimes. We tend to be guided more by economic self gains rather than by valued principles.
It is time we paid just more than lip service to the dreams of Bhagat Singh. There relevance in modern day India cannot be ignored.
The author writes extensively in English and Hindi media. She serves as Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS).
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