Bhagat Singh was a brave son, a true patriot, and a free citizen of a country in the grips of slavery. He preferred his motherland over his own life and embraced death at the young age of 23. Singh was highly inspired by Kartar Singh Sarabha and followed Marxist ideology. He was one of the most powerful freedom fighters in the history of India, born on 28 September 1907, in the house of Sardar Kishen Singh. His family was politically renowned and belonged to the Sandhu Jat community in the village of Jaranwala, district Lyallpur. While his family followed Sikhism, the male members were politically associated with the Ghadar Party. Singh did not study in a traditional Khalsa School, but instead, he received his early education from Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School. After passing matriculation, he joined National College for further studies and took an active part in extra-curricular activities.
At the young age of 12, Bhagat Singh visited Jallianwala Bagh, where General Dyer ruthlessly murdered innocent people. When he was 14, he fully participated in the Non-Cooperation movement. His zeal for his homeland brought him closer to a revolutionary organization, and he joined the Hindustan Republican Association while he was in college. At that time, Chandra Shekhar Azad was leading the HRA. In 1925, the Kakori train dacoity took place, which was done by the HRA. As a result, the top leadership of HRA was arrested, except Azad, providing an opportunity for Bhagat and other young members to lead the party from the front. A meeting was called, inviting all the revolutionaries across India, and on Bhagat Singh’s proposal, HRA’s name was changed to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). However, a year later, his family pressured him to get married, and to avoid this, Singh left his home and moved to Cawnpore.
Bhagat Singh wrote a letter to his father in which he stated, “My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore, there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now.”
As a young revolutionary, Bhagat Singh began writing articles for Urdu and Punjabi newspapers and even started his own journal for Kirti, where he propagated the idea of Hindu-Muslim unity and wrote about freedom fighters. His writing inspired and influenced the masses, especially the youth and farmers, which caused concern for the government.
Unfortunately, Singh was falsely accused of being involved in a bomb attack and arrested. However, he was released on bail after five weeks.
In 1928, the Simon Commission arrived in India, which was opposed by all major political forces and the public. When the Commission arrived in Lahore on 30th October, a peaceful protest led by Lala Lajpat Rai was met with brutal police action. The police even beat Rai, causing him to pass away a few weeks later. This event shocked the political circle, and the HSRA decided to take revenge by planning to kill Scott, the in-charge of the police in Lahore. However, the plan failed, and instead, they murdered Sanders, which served as an eye-opener for the government.
To evade arrest, Azad, Singh, and other revolutionaries changed their appearances and escaped Lahore.
During the time when the viceroy was trying to pass the Trade Dispute Bill from the assembly using his special powers, an unprecedented incident occurred on the morning of April 8th, 1928, in the capital of India. Two members of HSRA, Bhagat Singh and Batakeswar Dutt, entered the assembly and threw bombs towards the empty benches. Their motive was not to harm anyone but to stop the viceroy from passing the bill. After this, the assembly was filled with slogans like “Long live revolution” and “Down with imperialism.” Both of them handed themselves over to the police. Mr. Gandhi and other prominent leaders condemned this action with harsh words. Two charges were brought against them, one for attempted murder and the other for keeping an illegal weapon. Bhagat Singh defended himself, and they used the court as their propaganda office. Singh and Dutt were convicted, and later a bomb factory was discovered, leading to the arrest of other HSRA members except Azad.
Imprisonment followed for Singh, during which he observed discrimination against the prisoners. So, he decided it was time for a hunger strike to fight for equal rights. His friend joined him in the hunger strike, and they demanded access to food, clothes, books, and newspapers. The hunger strike continued for more than 100 days, which was an unprecedented event in human history. The strike gained the sympathy of the masses, and other comrades joined in as well. The officials tried their best to break the strike, but all efforts were in vain. Sadly, the strike ended with a tragic incident when Jatin Das, one of Singh’s comrades, lost his life.
Jawaharlal Nehru met Bhagat Singh and said:
“I was very much pained to see the distress of the heroes. They have staked their lives in this struggle. They want that political prisoners should be treated as political prisoners. I am quite hopeful that their sacrifice would be crowned with success.”
As for Muhammad Ali Jinnah, he said about the young freedom-fighter:
“The man who goes on hunger strike has a soul. He is moved by that soul, and he believes in the justice of his cause … however much you deplore them, and however much you say they are misguided, it is the system, this damnable system of governance, which is resented by the people.”
During the hunger strike, the Lahore Conspiracy Case was reopened, and two members of HSRA became prosecution witnesses, identifying Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev as accused. The number of accused in different cases was 28. In response, one accused threw a slipper towards the witness, leading the magistrate to order the handcuffing of all of them. Bhagat and his friends refused to obey the order, and the police responded with brutality. This led to all comrades refusing to attend the court proceedings. Lord Irwin declared an emergency, and the trial continued, resulting in the conviction of Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru and their sentencing to capital punishment. Bhagat Singh was hanged on 23rd March 1931.
The Communist party’s reaction was:
“The history of this case, of which we do not come across any example in relation to the political cases, reflects the symptoms of callousness and cruelty, which is the outcome of bloated desire of the imperialist government of Britain so that fear can be instilled in the hearts of the repressed people.”
A group of scholars may criticise Singh’s approach, but no one can deny his sacrifice for the country. It’s a coincidence of history that Nawab Ahmad Kausuri, the person who signed Singh’s death warrant, was killed in the same area where Singh was hanged, 40 years later. While the physical body may leave the world, ideas are immortal, and the same is true for this legend. Though he is no longer with us, people still remember his words:
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai
Dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-qaatil mein hai