BHAGAT SINGH

Bhagat singh was born on 28th september1907, to Vidhyavati and Kishan Singh of village Banga of Layalpur district of Punjab (now in Pakistan). At an early age, Bhagat Singh started dreaming of uprooting the British Empire. Never afraid of fighting during his childhood, he thought of "growing guns in the fields" so that he could fight against the British.His family stood for patriotism, reform and freedom of the country. His grandfather Arjun Singh was drawn to Arya Samaj, a reformist movement of Hinduism, and took keen interest in proceedings of the Indian National Congress. Bhagat Singh's father Kishan Singh and Uncle Ajit Singh was member of Gadar Party founded in America in the early years of this century to root out British rule. Both were jailed for alleged anti-British activities. Ajit Singh had 22 cases against him. Bhagat Singh grew up in a patriotic atmosphere.

Bhagat was a lovely child. His smile was charming. People used to say that he would become very famous. From his childhood he was highly interested in studies and was ahead of the others. Very much liked by his class- mates, he was their leader. Big boys used to carry Bhagat Singh on their shoulders to the school and back home. His childhood indicated he would become a leader of revolutionaries later.

Bhagat was friendly even to cartmen and coolies, and the very men who swept the streets. Bhagat Singh had two uncles. Of them, Swaran Singh had been sent to prison by the British. He fell ill and die after his release. The second Uncle, Ajit Singh left the country after he came out of the jail. Bhagat Singh's aunts would often recall their husbands' misery, and lament over it. Seeing this, Bhagat Singh would bravely say, "Don't weep, aunt. When I grow up, I will drive out the British and bring back my uncle. I will take revenge upon the British who are the cause of my uncle's illness." On hearing the heroic words of the little boy, the weeping women would burst into laughter. At least for the moment they would forget their sorrow.

When he was in the fourth class, Bhagat Singh asked his classmates, "What do you wish to become when you grow up?" Each boy gave a different answer But Bhagat Singh remarked, "is marriage a big achievement? Anybody can marry. On the other hand, I will drive the British out of India."

Thus patriotism flowed in his veins from the days of his childhood.

By the time he completed his secondary education, the desire to fight for the country's freedom grew strong in him. It was the year 1919 when British soldiers opened fire on a gathering in Jallianwala Bagh, and there was no way of escape for the people. Countless persons -grown-up men, women and little children -fell down dead. Blood flowed like a stream. The event caused terror and anger in the minds of people all over the country. Bhagat Singh was then twelve years old; his mind was deeply disturbed by this event. The next day he did not return home after the school hours. His people at home waited and waited and grew anxious. Instead of going to school, Bhagat Singh went straight to the place of the tragedy. He collected a bottle of mud wet with blood of Indians and returned home. Seeing him late, his younger sister said, "Where were you all this time? Mother has been waiting to give you something to eat." But Bhagat Singh was not at all thinking of food. Showing the bottle in his hand, he said, "Look here. This is the blood of our people killed by the British. Salute this." Then he put the bottle in a niche and worshipped it with flowers.

Even before entering ninth class, Bhagat Singh decided to take up the work of awakening people. Bhagat Singh left the school and joined the movement. At that time, there was a powerful anti- foreign cloth movement in the country. Bhagat Singh took part in this movement with zeal. Right from his early days, he used to wear only Khadi. Every week he would collect foreign clothes, heap them up and burn them.

In 1922, the Congress organized a procession in the town of Chauri chaura in Gorakhpur District. Then some rogues locked up twenty-two policemen together in a house, and burnt them alive. Before this, similar acts of violence had occurred even in Bombay and Madras. Mahatma Gandhi felt very sad at all this. He asked people to call off the non-cooperation movement.

Calling off the movement was a great disappointment to young Bhagat Singh. Should an important movement be given up, just because 22 policemen died? Before that, the British Government had hanged a nineteen-year-old revolutionary named Kartar Singh. Then none of these supporters of non-violence raised any objection. How could non-violence become so important now? Such thoughts weakened Bhagat Singh's faith in non-violence and non-cooperation movements. He went on firmly believing that armed revolution was the only practical way of winning freedom.

To continue his studies, Bhagat Singh joined the National College Lahore. Great patriots like Lala Lajpat Roy had started this college. Though he had not been to school for some years, Bhagat Singh had a good knowledge of history and politics. The Principal was astonished and permitted him to join the college straight away. During the day he would listen to the lessons in the class. In the evening he would collect several friends and discuss the coming revolution. This became his daily routine. At college, Bhagat Singh took part in several plays. A teacher who saw him in the leading roles in 'Rana Pratap', 'Samrat Chandragupta' and 'Bharata-durdasha' remarked, "This boy will become a great man."

He made a deep study of the lives of the revolutionaries of Ireland, Italy and Russia. The more he read, the deeper grew his belief that war alone could bring freedom. So thinking, Bhagat Singh began to organize the youth. He established contact with the Revolutionary Party of the province. The leader of the party was Sachindranath Sanyal. Every member of the party had to accept one condition. At the call of its leader, he had to be ready to revolution. Bhagat Singh left home and went to Lahore. For sometime thereafter, nobody knew where he went.

Before leaving home, Bhagat Singh wrote a letter; he said, "The aim of my life is to fight for India's freedom. I don't wish for worldly pleasures. At the time of my Upanayan (the initiation ceremony among the Hindus), my uncle had taken a sacred promise from me; I promised to sacrifice myself for the sake of the country. Accordingly I am now giving up my own happiness and going out to serve the country."

Bhagat Singh reached Kanpur. First he earned his bread there by selling newspapers. Then he came to know a revolutionary by name Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. He got a job in the office of his periodical 'The Pratap'. And he also learnt his first lessons as a revolutionary. Revolutionaries generally change their names so that people may not know them. Bhagat Singh became Balawant Singh.

Village of Bhagat was too small for his activities. He went to Lahore. There a union of revolutionaries by name 'Naujavan Bharat Sabha' was founded. Bhagat Singh became the Secretary. Like the Kranti Dal in Bengal, the new union started teaching lessons of revolution to the people of Punjab. Outwardly its objects were to spread Indian culture, to make the youth strong and fight.

Within few days, 'the Sabha' started its branches in different places. The celebration of the birthdays of revolutionaries became an important part of the program of the union. The members would take out pictures of revolutionaries, decorated with Khadi and garlands. They would cut their fingers and put a mark of blood on the foreheads of the heroes in the pictures. They would lecture about them. It was in these days that Bhagat Singh gained good practice in public speaking. He spread the message of revolution everywhere. By this time, Bhagat Singh had caught the eye of the police. Spies carefully watched his movements.

Once, as he was just leaving a train at Amritsar, the spies followed Bhagat Singh. Trying to escape from them, he began to run. But whereever he went he could not escape. At last he rushed into a lawyer's house and escaped from the police. Then he travelled to Lahore. When the train reached Lahore, he was caught by the police and pushed into the Lahore Fort Jail.

Bhagat Singh did not know why he was arrested. A few days earlier some one had thrown a bomb on procession during the Dusehara Festival. To find out the secrets of other revolutionaries, they tortured him in many ways. They flogged him with a knot and gored with a spear. But Bhagat Singh did not open his mouth. Finally, a Magistrate decided that Bhagat Singh could be released only on a bail of sixty thousand rupees.Who would be prepared to bear such a responsibility? Yet, out of sheer affection for Bhagat Singh, two rich persons came forward. They were Duneechand and Daulatram. On their surety, Bhagat Singh was set free.

If Bhagat Singh participated in revolutionary activities during the period of bail, the two wealthy men would have to pay sixty thousand rupees to the Government. Bhagat Singh did not wish that others should be troubled on his account. That was why he decided to keep quiet during the period of bail. At this time his father built a cowshed in his native place, so that Bhagat Singh could run a small diary. Bhagat Singh took up that work in earnest. Whatever he undertook Bhagat Singh did a good job.The entire day he was busy with his dairy, but the night brought thoughts of revolution. He joined his friends for discussions. At the same time, he got into touch with the newspapers, 'Kirtee' and 'Akalee'. He wrote articles for them. A journal brought out a special issue to honour fighters who had been hanged; Bhagat Singh himself introduced some of the revolutionaries. After attending a meeting of revolutionaries in Delhi in 1928, he never returned home.

In Delhi, Chandrasekhar Azad, a young revolutionary, was introduced to Bhagat Singh. It was as if fire and wind were united. The activities of the revolutionaries gained new strength. Bhagat Singh removed his beard, so that the police might not recognize him. All these days he had been a hero of the Sikhs; he now became a national hero.

There was a revolutionary party called the 'Hindustan Prajatantra Sangha' (The Indian Republic Party). The name was changed to 'Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha' (The Indian Socialist Republican Party). Its aim was to establish a republic in India by means of an armed revolution. Bhagat Singh went to Calcutta to learn to make bombs. There he bought as many bombs as he needed. He also learnt from Jatindranath Das, a revolutionary, how to make bombs.

The revolutionaries set up a factory secretly at Agra to make bombs. But how could they get the money they needed? Sometimes for three days together they lived only on a cup of tea. They did not have beds or rugs though it was biting cold. They were starving. And all the while the thought of the police plagued them. In the midst of all this they went on with their sacred work. And, for money they would sometimes loot government offices. At last they could make bombs. The bombs were tested at Jhansi Fort. The test was a success.

In February 1928, the Simon Commission from England visited India. The purpose of its visit was to decide how much freedom and responsibility could be given to the people of India. But there was no Indian on the committee. Naturally Indians were very angry. They decided to make it impossible for the Commission to work. They decided to drive it back to England. Wherever the committee went, people protested with black flags, shouting "Simon, go back."

When the Simon Commission reached Lahore in October, it had to face a big procession opposed to it. 'Naujavan Bharat Sabha' arranged the procession. Thousands of people took part in it. Its leader was the elderly patriot, Lala Lajpat Rai. Trouble started near the railway station itself. The revolutionaries did not allow the Simon Commission to proceed. The police could not protect the members. By that time, the Police Superintendent, one Scott by name, ordered a lathicharge. Lala Lajpat 'Rai died of a powerful blow. The police began to beat people with heavy sticks. People started running. But Lajpat Rai and his companions did not move. A police officer by name Saunders rushed forward and hit Lajpat Rai on the chest. It was a powerful blow. Lajpat Rai was old and ill. The blow brought his death. He suffered for a month and died.

In his death, the revolutionaries suffered a heavy loss. They decided that they should take revenge and that they should kill Scott who ordered the lath-charge. They thought of a plan. A revolutionary by name Jayagopal was to observe Scott's movements. Bhagat Singh and Rajguru were to shoot him. They had to plan carefully their escape. But in the beginning itself, a small mistake was committed. Jayagopal mistook Saunders for Scott.

The appointed day came. That evening Saunders came out of the police station and got on his motor bicycle. Jayagopal who was behind made a sign. Bhagat Singh and Rajguru were waiting on the way. As the motor bicycle neared Rajguru shot at Saunders from his pistol. At once Bhagat Singh also fired. Saunders fell down dead. Bhagat Singh and Rajguru ran away. Next day posters appeared on the walls in all the streets of Lahore. They declared, "Lala Lajpat Rai's death is avenged. Saunders has been murdered." Besides, there were some words of caution addressed to the Government. The posters also contained the name of The Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sena (The Indian Socialist Republican Army) in red letters. So every one could know who were behind the murder of Saunders, The people's respect for the Kranti Dal grew. Saunders' murder shook the British Government.

Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Chandra sekhara Azad all three escaped from Lahore. Bhagat Singh dressed himself as a foreign youth and wore a hat. Durga Bhabhi, the wife of a revolutionary Bhagavaticharan, and their child followed Bhagat Singh, so that people would think they were Bhagat Singh's wife and child. These three traveled by train in a first class compartment. Rajguru left the place disguised as an ordinary worker. Azad traveled as a pundit (scholar). The railway station was filled with eagle-eyed spies; but all the three went away. The police searched and searched for Bhagat Singh and Rajguru, but could not find them. Three months passed.

In April 1929, the Central Legislative Assembly met in Delhi. The British Government wanted to place before the Assembly two bills which were likely to harm the country's interests. Even if the Assembly rejected them, the Viceroy could use his special powers and approve them, and they would become laws. The Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sena (The Indian Socialist Republican Army) decided to resist the move. The revolutionaries must oppose the British and court arrest. They must see that the objects of the Prajatantra Sena were explained to the people all over the country. With this object in view, the Sena resolved to send Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt to Delhi. Both of them were to go there, throw a bomb in the Legislative Assembly and, get arrested. For this purpose two harmless bombs were made.

On the 8th of April 1929 the two men took the bombs and entered the Assembly Hall. They sat in the visitors' gallery. The session commenced. The Government placed the bills before the Assembly. The members rejected them. In the end, a member of the Government began an announcement that the Viceroy had exercised his special powers. At once, a bomb fell from above and exploded causing a fearful sound. Immediately another bomb fell. There were sounds of shooting, too. The entire hall was filled with smoke. People ran helter skelter. Some were so frightened that they fell down unconscious. By that time, red pamphlets fell from the visitors' gallery. In them, particulars of Prajatantra Sena (the Republican Army) were given and the Government was condemned. The Hall was filled with the slogan, Inqulab Zindabad (Long Live Revolution!)

The police rushed to the spot. Only Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt were there. They were holding pistols. Afraid of them, the police moved back. But both threw down their pistols and got them hand- cuffed. The bombs thrown into the Assembly Hall killed no one. Four or five persons received very minor injuries; that was all. It was not the revolutionaries' object to kill any body. The incident drew the attention of the entire world. The Kranti Dal's name became a household word. The British Government trembled.

-----Gandhiji in "young India" dated--29th march 1931 after the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh on 23rd march 1931. wrote

"Bhagat singh was not a devotee of non-violence, but he did not subscribe to the religion of violence. He took to violence due to helplessness and to defend his homeland. In his last letter Bhagat singh wrote---------"I have been arrested while waging a war, for me there can be no gallows, put me into the mouth of cannon and blow me off." These heroes had conquered the fear of death. Let us bow to them a thousand times for their heroism."

 

After the incident, the Government got scent of the factory at Lahore. The Government seized enough material to make seven thousand bombs. The Government too discovered another big factory at Shaharanpur. Within a few days, most of the leaders of the Kranti Dal were arrested. The Government filed a case against them, accusing them of executing the Lahore plot. Bhagat Singh and his companions were kept in prison in Lahore.

The trial of the accused commenced. In those days political prisoners were not treated properly in the jail. They were not given proper food. They were made to suffer in every possible way. Bhagat Singh and his companions decided to fight against the wretched condition. All the revolutionaries went on fast. Then the Government said it would consider their demands. Some gave up the fast. But Jatin Das did not. He did not listen to anybody. On the 64th day of his fast, he died. Bhagat Singh fasted for thirty-two days thereafter.

The trial of Bhagat Singh and his companions began; it drew the attention of the whole world. The police heavily guarded the court. No spectators were allowed inside the court. The prisoners were brought to the court in chains. They used to shout ' Inqulab Zindabad' and only then enter the court hall.

Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt stated, "If the deaf are to hear, the sound has to be very loud. When we dropped the bomb, it was not our intention to kill anybody. We have bombed the British Government. The British must quit India and make India free." They also explained the objects of their association. The whole world came to understand their aim and activities because of the press reports.

Finally judgment was given. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were to be hanged;

When the news spread, people all over the country were mad with rage. Thousands of appeals were sent to the Government, pleading that he should be saved. Several leaders of public life joined in the appeal. But all attempts failed. It was decided to hang them on the 24th of March 1931. Even the members of the prisoners' families were not allowed to meet them. Moreover, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged a day before the appointed day, that is, on March 23rd.

Even on the day of their hanging they were fearless. They were cheerful. They competed with one another to be hanged first. It was decided that first Sukhdev would be hanged and then Bhagat Singh and finally Rajguru. All the three climbed the platform. Kissing the rope, they themselves put it round their neck. They died with the name of Bharat Mata on their lips. Such was the end of the three champions of freedom.

That day no one in the jail touched food. Everyone was in tears. The next day, not knowing that the three prisoners had already been hanged, their relatives came to meet them. But it was all over with them. The dead bodies of the martyrs had been secretly burnt on the bank of the river Sutlej. Getting a clue thousands of people raced to the spot; but only the ashes remained. The people sobbed, with the ashes in their hands.

All over the country, tributes were paid to the heroes who fought for freedom and sacrificed their lives. Hundreds of songs were composed and sung about the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh. Even today, the heroic spirit of Bhagat Singh is an unfailing source of inspiration to the youth of the country. His courage, spirit of adventure and patriotism are an example to one and all.

In this modern age event after about seven decades of the supreme sacrifice of the revolutionary, their the principles and martyrdom continue to be relevant and the ideology of Shaheed Bhagat Singh is the need of the day.

 

GDB/RPSV/AL/VS/LB