H C Singh

Shahid Bhagat Singh’s Courage and Patriotism-Little Known Facts

Bhagat Singh and his two associates Raj Guru and Sukhdev were executed on March 23, 1931 in Lahore jail in India. Particularly in Punjab anniversary of these patriots and freedom fighters was celebrated as they had taken up arms and had founded first revolutionary Army called Hindustan Socialist Republic Army. Bhagat Singh and Dutt were sentenced to life imprisonment on May 19, 1929 for throwing a bomb in Assembly. Earlier Bhagat Singh and his two associates murdered two British police officers Saunders and Scot in Lahore in December 1928, for killing Lala Lajpat Rai, a renowned freedom fighter who hailed from Punjab. After killing these two Britishers to avenge the assassination of Lala Lajpat Rai they put up a ‘Notice’ on many public places in Lahore. This notice was hand written by Bhagat Singh.

Notice: By Hindustan Socialist Republic Army Bureaucracy Beware. With the death of JP. Saunders the assassination of Lala Lajpat Rai has been avenged.” It is detailed poster of a full page and ends with “Long Live Revolution.”

                 The complete text of this “notice” to British and many other important documents like Jinnah’s historic speech in central Assembly in defence of Bhagat Singh, Gandhi’s discussions with Viceroy Halifax and his secretary Emerson and Bhagat Singh’s last letter to Governor of Punjab and many other document’s are found in noted writer and Lawyer AG Nooranis book “The Trial of Bhagat Singh- Politics of Justice.” These appendix reveal the little known facts as elucidated in brief.

Ghandhi on Bhagat Singh

Gandhi and Congress were facing unprecedented problem because a day before the scheduled Congress session in Karachi Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were executed. Gandhi had been negotiating with Viceroy of India and his Home Secretary Emerson for quite long for postponement of execution or commutations of death sentence to life imprisonment of these three freedom fighters but to no result, as Gandhi did not appear assertive enough. Few days before the execution of Bhagat Singh and his two associates Gandhi-Irwin Pact or “Delhi Pact” reached between Gandhi and Viceroy of India. After the news of execution of Bhagat Singh a day before the opening day of Karachi session of Congress, there were demonstrations against the government the ‘Pact’ and Gandhi. Following extracts from negotiations between Viceroy and Gandhi as well as between Gandhi and Emerson, Home Member, demonstrate Gandhi’s half hearted efforts for getting commuted the death sentence into life imprisonment.

              On 20th March there was a crucial meeting between Gandhi and Emerson. After the meeting Emerson informed the Viceroy in writing that “Gandhi did not seem to me to be particularly concerned in the matter I told him that we would be lucky if we got through without disorder and I asked all that he could do to prevent meetings being held in Delhi during next few days and to restrain violent speeches. He promised to do all he could.” (File No 33(1) 1931 Home Dept Political Branch, National Archives) To this Gandhi wrote a letter to Emerson in reply to his letter of March 20, 1931.

My Dear Emerson,

Thank you for your letter just received. I know of the meeting you refer to. I have taken every precaution possible and hope that nothing untward will happen. I suggest that there should be no display of police force and to interference in the meeting. Irritation is likely to be there. It will be better to allow it find vent through meetings

Yours Sincerely

Sd M.K. Gandhi

(F4/2/1931 Home Dept Political Branch, National Archives)

One can read from above correspondence Gandhi’s ‘dual role’ during the period of civil disobedience Movement launched in 1930. On one side he was negotiating, to get commuted Bhagat Singh’s death sentence to life imprisonment and on the other side he was helping British colonialist power how to deal with likely disturbances after Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev’s execution.

 Bhagat Singh’s Defence by Jinnah

First of all Jinnah criticized the Government of Punjab for maltreatment of Bhagat Singh and his associates who went on hunger strike because they were not getting proper food like other prisoners. Jinnah boldly said in Legislative Assembly in his long speech on Sept 12 and 14 1928: “As far as Punjab Government are concerned, the government do not merely bring these men to trial and get them convicted by a Judicial tribunal but government go to war against these men. The man who goes on hunger strike has a soul. He is moved by the soul and he believes justice of his cause. He is not an ordinary criminal who is guilty of cold blooded, sordid, wicked crime.” To elucidate Jinnah added, “It is the system, the damnable system of government which is resented by people….. What happened to Congrave, the Prime Minister of Ireland? He was under sentence of death a fortnight before he got invitation from His Majesty’s government to go and settle terms!” Jinnah concluded his long and logical speech with these memorable words: “And the last word, I wish to address the government are; try and concentrate your mind on root cause and the more you concentrate on the root cause the less difficulties and inconveniences there will be for you to face, and thank Heaven that the money of the tax payer will not be wasted in prosecuting men, nay citizens, who are fighting and struggling for freedom of their country.

It is clear that from above quoted extracts that Jinnah considered Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, as freedom fighters. He asserted that they were not ordinary criminals. He compared Bhagat Singh with Irish PM, who, too had been sentenced to death but was called by British Government for negotiations. But British government of India behaved with Indian freedom fighters as if they were enemies and were at war.

The way he defended Bhagat Singh and simultaneously condemned the ‘damnable’ colonial administration in the Indian Legislature , shows that till then Jinnah was a strong Indian Nationalist. It is a different episode that after a couple of years he became President of Muslim League and with the connivance of Churchill and British started demanding partition of India and Muslim State of Pakistan. To achieve his object of Pakistan he went even so far as instigate September 1946 Bengal riots and also communal riots in Punjab in April 1947 and thereafter Partition riots.

 Courage and Patriotism of Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh when he was sentenced to death did not ask for mercy but wanted to be shot by army instead of being hanged. Following are extracts from Bhagat Singh’s last letter, “petition” to Punjab Governor: “We know that the maxim ‘might is right’ serves as your guiding motto. The whole of our trial was just a proof of that, we wanted to point out that according to the verdict we had waged war and therefore were war prisoners. We claim to be treated as such .i.e. we claim to be shot dead instead of to be hanged …….. we request and hope that you will very kindly order the military department to send its detachment to perform our execution.”

Bhagat Singh was first great Freedom Fighter who took up arms against the British tyranny to teach them a lesson that Indians will not sit idle but take up arms to fight for Freedom of their country. Thus Bhagat Singh was forerunner and inspiration to many young Indians who fought for India’s freedom from British rule in India. Socialist Republic Army which called for an “armed revolution”, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, was inspired by Bhagat Singh. He fought for India’s Independence as Supreme Commander of INA to bring an end to British rule in India.

Shahid Bhagat Singh was just 23 years old when he was executed by hanging in Lahore Jail. During 5 years of his youth he showed unlimited patriotism courage and knowledge through his letters. His patriotism and Revolutionary actions inspired many young men who fought for India’s independence and laid down their lives from 1931 to 1947. Thus Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary young patriot is honoured by celebration of his martyrdom all over India, particularly in Punjab.

April 1, 2010 Posted by | Indian History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments