“Ro ro aakhe dharat Doabe di, Maajhe Malwe di, Ajj lod desh nu Bhagat Singh tey veer Sarabhe di (The land of Doaba, Majha and Malwa is crying. The country needs Bhagat Singh and Kartar Singh Sarabha again).”
Amid massive protests against the three farm Bills in Punjab and Haryana by the farming community, Darshan Singh, block secretary, for Budhlada of Mansa, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakonda), recently put this song calling for the country’s needs to have Bhagat Singh again, as his caller tune. He says, “Bhagat Singh saw 90 years back what we are facing now. He knew that even if the British leave this country, the governments and ruling classes will exploit worker class, the farmers, labourers and the poor. He will always be our icon because it is his ideology which motivates each of us to fight for our rights. His words were ‘Inquilab Zindabad, Samrajaywad murdarabad’ (Long Live revolution, Down with Imperialism). If before 1947 it was the British who suppressed working class, today it is the corporates and the government which is passing such laws. What is the difference?)”
On Bhagat Singh’s 113rd birth anniversary — he was born on September 28, 1907, and hanged by the British on March 23, 1931 when he was just 23 — his land Punjab is witnessing massive protests by the farmers against the three contentious farm Bills passed by Parliament. Holding his pictures and raising slogans of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, the farmers say that for them Bhagat Singh was not just a freedom fighter but a revolutionist, a philosopher, an ideologist and a guide whose words and knowledge that he left behind, continues to inspire them to have that fighting spirit against what is wrong. And not just the farmers, for 90 years after his death, he continues to be the face of protests among students, youths, labourers whenever they are on a warpath with the governments. Be it the recent protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) across the country or by the students in colleges/universities, Bhagat Singh’s ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ spearheads their fights against injustice.
Professor Chaman Lal, honorary advisor, Bhagat Singh Resource Centre, Delhi, says that fighting for the rights of suppressed classes was in the blood of Bhagat Singh as his paternal uncle Ajit Singh was the man behind ‘Pagri Sambhaal Jatta’ Lehar in 1907 which was against anti-peasant laws of the Britishers. “Not only was he from a farming family but also his paternal uncle Ajit Singh led ‘Pagri Sambhaal Jatta’ movement against anti-farmer laws of the British government along with Lala Lajpat Rai in 1907 when peasants were drowned in debt then too and were being heavily taxed by the government. Both of them were arrested and sent to a jail in Burma. Till 1946, Ajit Singh lived in exile before returning to India,” Lal says.
“Every country, every region has some iconic figures who are admired and remembered always. For India and more so Punjab, it is Bhagat Singh because he is not just remembered for sacrificing his life for the country’s freedom but is also the symbol of fearlessness and standing for the right. His idea of India is what peasants, labourers and other working class people relate to, his idea of India is where working class is not exploited and is given equal rights in every aspect,” Lal says. “This is why every section of society, including farmers, students and workers, invoke him during their protests even after 90 years of his death. And not just in north India, he is even popular in South Indian states and Pakistan. But for Punjabis, he matters the most because there is a sense of belongingness, they feel Bhagat Singh belongs to them and was one among them.”
In his last petition to the Punjab Governor in 1931, Bhagat Singh while elaborating on his idea of revolution had written that even if the Britishers leave India, there will be such rulers among the Indians who will oppress and exploit their own countrymen and till this exploitation of a human by a fellow human doesn’t stop, the fight will go on.
He wrote, “..Let us declare that the state of war does exist and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites. They may be purely British Capitalist or mixed British and Indian or even purely Indian. They may be carrying on their insidious exploitation through mixed or even on purely Indian bureaucratic apparatus. All these things make no difference…. The war shall continue….”
Ranjit Chauhan, from Azad Rangmanch Barnala inspired from Bhagat Singh’s ideology, a theatre group performing ‘nukkad naatak’ (street plays) during the ongoing farmers’ agitation, says Bhagat Singh for them has not been just a freedom fighter but ‘an ideology, a philosophy’. “There are many other freedom fighters who gave up their lives for country’s independence but Bhagat Singh is an ideology, a philosophy in himself who dreamt of India where everyone is equal. He wrote ‘Jadon tak manukh ton manukh di lutt khatam nahi hundi, eh jang jaari rahegi..’ and this is also the climax of our street play ‘Lockdown’ which we are performing during farmers’ protests,” he said.
Vimla Sakkarwal, women’s wing convenor, Karkhana Mazdoor Union, says, “We relate to Bhagat Singh because his writings, his ideology has always spoken of justice for labourers and poor, who are always suppressed by the ruling class. If a 23-year-old young man could foresee all this then and express in his writings, we could imagine the depth of his intellectualism and love for his country. For him what mattered was kranti of ideas.”
And giving an idea of his India that he dreamt of, which should have the youths who should lead revolutions, question the governments and should not accept everything blindly, Bhagat Singh in an introduction he wrote for Lala Ram Saran Das’s book ‘Introduction to Dreams’ wrote, ‘…Imperialist designs shall no more actuate our dreamland people to wage wars. There shall be no more war trophies. The revolutionary armies shall march to bring rulers down from their thrones and stop their blood-sucking exploitation and thus to liberate the toiling masses….I strongly recommend this book to young men in particular, but with a warning. Please do not read it to follow blindly and take for granted what is written in it. Read it, criticise it, think over it, try to formulate your own ideas.”
During the ongoing protests by farmers, activists are carrying placards with Punjabi version of his writing.. ‘Akkhan band karke na padho, eh na samjho ki jo pustak vich likheya oh sahi hai.. padho, vicharo, aalochna karo….”
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