In a bid to cash in on the popularity of Bhagat Singh as the youth icon of Punjab ahead of the Assembly polls, the Congress under its latest campaign ‘Dil Vich Bhagat’ has asked the Centre to grant him the status of a ‘martyr’. Designed by poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s IPAC team, a petition was circulated in areas like Dhuri, Balluana and Abohar where Congress organised bike rallies on the martyr’s 109th birth anniversary.
The Congress also claimed that over 8,000 people had signed the petition on Tuesday at Dhuri and over 4,500 signed it on Wednesday in Balluana and Abohar. A copy of the petition, which is with The Indian Express reads, “Petition to Government of India: He may rule a million hearts, his supreme sacrifice inspiring many a revolution, but in government records Bhagat Singh is not a martyr. We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to award Shaheed Bhagat Singh the martyr status their sacrifices deserve.”
However,this latest campaign by the Congress has left people puzzled. Many have raised questions as to what the Congress was doing when it itself was in power at the Centre for over five decades. Historians have also questioned the meaning of ‘martyr status’ that the political parties are seeking.
Professor Chaman Lal, an eminent research scholar on the martyr, said, “It is just a political drama. When the BJP was in the opposition, it was questioning Congress and now its is doing vice-versa. But the entire debate is irrelevant. The Congress government led by Manmohan Singh celebrated the 100th birthday of the martyr in 2007 with great fanfare. So, was he a terrorist then whose birthday they celebrated? We all know he is a martyr. Even the list of freedom fighters which the government publishes since 1950 has the name of Bhagat Singh. So what exactly is this official martyr status?”
Talking on similar lines, Gurmeet Rai Sangha, director, cultural resource conservation initiative (CRCI) and heritage management specialist, said, “It is not clear what exactly are they asking for? Don’t we recognise Bhagat Singh as a martyr now? Is he not an inspirational figure for our youths? He is and will continue to be. It is just a political gimmick in a poll-bound state.”
However, not all in the party is happy with the Congress’s lastest campaign. Sunil Jakhar, spokesperson of Punjab Congress, slammed his own party for running such a “demeaning” campaign and termed it as “unfortunate”.
“The sacrifice of Bhagat Singh does not need an official stamp of any government to prove he was a hero. He sacrificed his life for this country and we do not need any government to certify this. Playing petty politics over the great martyr is not only unfortunate but extremely hurting. If Congress is running such a campaign, I myself condemn it. I am completely against demanding any official martyr status for Bhagat Singh. He is our national martyr and would always be. Similar question was raised when Congress government was at the Centre and our PM Manmohan Singh had clarified that no government stamp is needed to prove that Bhagat Singh was a martyr or not,” said Jakhar to The Indian Express.
The former Prime Minister in a statement had said “supreme sacrifice of Bhagat Singh is not dependent on any official records and cannot be questioned. His role in our freedom struggle is an inalienable part of the discourse of our independence. He is a part of our proud national legacy.’