Friday, 9 August 2019
Madan Lal Dhingra March, 1928 ‘Kirti’ (Original Punjabi)
(Madan Lal Dhingra-Shaheed Bhagat Singh wrote a series called ‘Azadi ki bheint Shahaadatein’ (‘Sacrifices for Liberty’) in Kirti from March 1928 to October 1928. While the people of Punjab were acquainted with Indian martyrs through these essays, at the same time, these essays help one gauge the questions arising in the minds of Bhagat Singh and his friends. The series of essays were written under the author name as ‘Vidrohi’ (‘Rebel’). In August 1928 the aim of this series of essays was described in these words: “Our aim is to write a chronological narrative of the agitations by the leaders even while publishing their biographies so that our readers can understand how consciousness was born in Punjab, and how the was work carried on and to what purpose, and what was the ideology for which those martyrs gave up their lives.” A summarized version of this essay was published in ‘Chand’ in the ‘Phansi’ issue (November 1928)
There is no need to reiterate the fact that no other state made as many sacrifices for the freedom of the country as did the state of Punjab. As the twentieth century dawned, a new wave of unrest spread through India which manifested itself in the form of agitation for ‘Swadeshi’. Even then it was Punjab that was able to match Bengal. When the pain of watching the chains of slavery tighten day by day grew too intense, then a large number of young men, inflamed with a passion for patriotism, were no longer satisfied with mere lectures and proposals; and some ardent souls launched a movement to change the epoch. This agitation succeeded in attracting patriotic young men and these moths hovering around the flame of liberty even gave up their lives; and by showing fearlessness towards death, revived memories of their elders.
In his poem ‘Vidrohi’ (‘The Rebel’), Bengal’s revolutionary poet, Nazrul Islam describes how unique such epoch-changing or rebels are. He has painted a wonderful picture of the hearts, minds, temperaments, and desires of these rebellious braves who go hand in hand with death, helpers of the poor, soldiers of freedom, enemies of slavery, foes of tyrants, oppressors and willful rulers. At the very beginning he says –
Speak up, warrior! Say – My head is held high,
The Himalayan peak bows its head
As it gazes at my head held high!
Then he has described his firmness and gentleness. At places, he dances with death, at times, he is bent upon destroying the entire world in one blow. He crackles like lightning. He is sweet as music. He weeps in the midst of widows, slaves, the destitute, poor, hungry and the wretched. While describing the wondrous greatness of such wondrous lives, he makes the rebel say at the end –
I, the rebel, am now weary of battle; I shall find peace
Only the day the cries of the oppressed don’t rend the sky,
When the tyrant’s terrible sword no longer slices the battleground,
That is the day I shall find peace.
Such great rebels, who take on the entire world and throw themselves into the fire, forget all personal comfort and ease, they enhance the beauty of the world and adorn it further; and it is with their sacrifice that the world becomes a better place. Such brave souls are present in every country in every age. Even in Hindustan/India these gods who deserve to be worshipped have always taken birth, are being born and will continue to do so. In Hindustan/India, it has been Punjab that has produced a greater number of such gems, and the first such martyr of the twentieth century was Shri Madan Lal Ji Dhingra.
He was not such a leader that his biography would be published while he was alive and distributed and sold for a couple of annas. He was not an avatar either, one whose ‘greatness’ was predicted. So many of the events in his life are not even known to us; so that we are able to shout, ‘Talented ones show some early signs’.
He was a poor and unfortunate rebel. His father refused to recognize him as his son. Patriots and sycophants alike, even the popular leader in those days, Bipin Chandra Pal, abused him roundly in the newspapers. Then tell me, how in those circumstances, can one be successful in stringing together any facts regarding his life?
We have sat down to write his life-story in such difficult circumstances. Over a period of time we might even forget their names; that is why we are presenting this narrative with the few facts that are available.
He was perhaps a resident of Amritsar. He belonged to a good family. He went to England for further studies after his graduation. It is said that there he indulged in pleasures of life. This cannot be stated with certainty, but it is not inconceivable either. He was of a very romantic and sensitive temperament; that we do find evidence of. A famous detective of Scotland Yard in England, Mr. E.T. Woodhall, published his diary in the weekly newspaper, Union Jack. In the March 1925 issue, he wrote about Mr. Madan Lal Dhingra. This detective had been assigned to watch him. He writes –
“Dhingra was an extraordinary man. Dhingra’s passion for flowers was remarkable.” (Originally in English)
He further writes that Dhingra would go and sit in a beautiful corner in a garden and gaze like a poet at a flower for hours and sometimes a very keen glint would flash in his eyes. Noticing this, E.T. Woodhall writes –
“There is a man to keep an eye on. He will do something desperate someday.” (Originally in English)
We mentioned earlier that he might have got trapped in the pleasures of life. The story ahead is that the impact of the Swadeshi movement reached England and as soon as Mr. Savarkar reached there, he started an organization by the name of India House. Madan Lal also became a member of that.
In the meantime, in India the epoch-changing people had established secret societies because open revolt was being crushed. So much so that in 1908, a case was filed as the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy. Mr. Kanhai and Mr. Satyendra Nath were given death by hanging. Dhirendra and Ulhaskar were also sentenced to death by hanging at that time. These items of news reached England and these hot-blooded young men were inflamed. It is said that Shri Savarkar and Madan Lal Dhingra discussed these issues till very late into the night. To test his courage to give up even his life for the country, Savarkar asked Madan Lal to place his hand on the ground and stabbed his palm with a poker, but this Punjabi brave did not even let out the slightest squeal. The poker was pulled out. The eyes of both of them filled with tears. They embraced each other. Ah! What a beautiful time that was! How invaluable and rare were those tears! How beautiful a union! What greatness! How would we mere mortals know, we who are afraid of even the idea of death, how can we understand how noble, pure and heroic are those who sacrifice their lives for the sake of their country and community!
From the next day Dhingra did not go to India House or Savarkar’s organization, and went and joined the Indian students’ organization, run by Sir Curzon Wyllie, who organized both the Indian students and a special secret police to crush the puny efforts of the Indians to attain liberty. This Sir Wyllie was also the aide-de-camp of the Secretary of State for India. This incited the men in the India House and they began to call them traitors, conspirators, but Savarkar managed to pacify their anger by saying that after all was said and done, they had made great efforts to run their organization as well, so they should thank them. Anyway, some time passed without much happening.
There was a meeting in the Jahangir Hall of the Imperial Institute on the 1st of July, 1909. Sir Curzon Wyllie was also attending it. He was talking to a couple of people when suddenly Dhingra whipped out a pistol and aimed it at his head. Curzon Sahib let out a scream in fear, but before anything could be done, Madan Lal pumped two bullets straight into his heart and put him to eternal sleep. He was caught after a struggle. And this was a sensational act in the eyes of the entire world. Everyone began to curse and abuse him. His father sent a telegram from Punjab saying that he refused to recognize such a traitor, rebel and killer as his son. Indians held many meetings. Tall speeches were given. Many resolutions were passed; all of them against Dhingra. But even at that time there was a brave man, Savarkar, who supported him unreservedly. First he did not allow the resolution against him to be passed saying that the case was sub-judice and that they could not blame him in the existing circumstances. Finally they began to vote on this resolution, and when the President, Shri Bipin Chandra Pal asked if it could be taken as passed unanimously, Savarkar Sahib stood up and began his oration. Just then an Englishman punched him in the face and said – “Look! How straight the English fist goes.” He had barely finished speaking when an Indian youth struck him a blow with a club on the Englishman’s head and said – “Look! How straight the Indian club goes.” There was a furore. The meeting was suspended. The resolution could not be passed. Anyway!
The case was in the court. Madan Lal was very pleased. He seemed very much at peace. He was smiling in the face of death. He was fearless. Ah! He was a brave rebel. The speech that he gave at the end is proof of his goodness, patriotism and ability. We present it in his words. It was published in the Daily News dated the 12th of August.
“I admit the other day; I attempted to shed blood as a humble revenge for the inhuman hangings and deportation of patriotic Indian youth. In the attempt I have consulted none but my own conscience; I have conspired with none but my duty.”
“I believe that a nation held down by foreign bayonet is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to disarmed races, I attacked by surprise, since guns were denied to me I drew forth my pistol and fired.”
“As a Hindu, I felt that wrong to my country is insult to God. Her cause is the cause of Shri Rama; her service is the service of Shri Krishna. Poor in wealth and intellect, a son like me has nothing else to offer but his own blood, and so I have sacrificed the same on her altar.”
“The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die, and the only way to reach is by dying ourselves. Therefore I die and I glory in my martyrdom.”
My only prayer to God is – “May I be reborn of the same mother and May I redie in the same sacred cause, till the cause is successful, and she stands free for the good of humanity and to the glory of God – Bande Matram.” (Originally in English)
History shall remember the 16th of August, 1909. That day, the brave Dhingra, the one that made the voice of the Indian epoch-changing party in England resound, walked blithely to the gallows. Mrs. Agnes Smedley mentions this incident and writes – “He walked to the scaffold with his head high and shook off the hands of those who offered to support him, saying that he was not afraid of death.” (Originally in English)
Ah! He shrugged off the hands of those trying to offer him support and said, “I am not afraid of death.” Ah! Glory be to the immortal victory over death!”
“As he stood on the scaffold he was asked if he had a last word to say. He answered – “Bande Matram.” (Originally in English)
Such love for his mother! As he stood on the gallows, he was asked – ‘Do you wish to say anything?’ And the answer given was “Bande Matram! Mother India, I salute you.” The brave warrior went to the gallows; his corpse was buried inside itself and the Indians were not given permission to cremate his body and perform the last rites. Glory to his memory is blessed. Many salutes to the priceless diamond of a dead country!
(From The Bhagat Singh Reader published by HarperCollins)
Wednesday, 17 July 2019
(BHAGAT SINGH WROTE THE ESSAY VISHAV PREM (UNIVERSAL LOVE UNDER THE ALIAS OF BALWANT SINGH, AND IT WAS PUBLISHED IN TWO ISSUES OF CALCUTTA’S WEEKLY, ‘MATWALA’ YEAR: 2 ISSUE NO. 13-14. CHRONOLOGICALLY THE DATES OF THESE ISSUES ARE: 15TH OF NOVEMBER, 1924 AND 22ND OF NOVEMBER, 1924.)
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HUMANITY TO DESCRIBE THE GREATNESS OF THE KING OF POETRY WHO ENVISIONED THE INVALUABLE IDEA OF “VASUDEV KUTUMBAKAM!”(THE WHOLE EARTH IS A FAMILY); IT IS THE ASPIRATION OF ONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED SUCH UNIVERSAL LOVE.
“WORLD FRATERNITY!” I TAKE IT TO MEAN EQUALITY IN THE WORLD (COMMUNISM, WORLD WIDE EQUALITY IN THE TRUE SENSE*) (*THE WORDS ‘WORLD WIDE EQUALITY IN THE TRUE SENSE’ ARE ORIGINALLY IN ENGLISH)
HOW NOBLE IS THIS IDEAL! LET EVERYONE BE ONE’S OWN. NO ONE SHOULD BE A STRANGER. HOW BEAUTIFUL WOULD THAT TIME BE WHEN ALIENATION IN THE WORLD IS FOREVER DESTROYED; THE DAY THIS IDEAL IS BROUGHT INTO PRACTICE – THAT DAY ONE CAN CLAIM THAT THE WORLD HAS REACHED ITS ZENITH. HOW WILL THE DAY LOOK LIKE WHEN EACH INDIVIDUAL IS ABLE TO INTERNALIZE THIS IDEAL IN HIS HEART? JUST IMAGINE!
THAT DAY THERE WILL BE SO MUCH STRENGTH THAT EVEN SHOUTING ‘PEACE! PEACE!’ WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BREAK THE PEACE. THAT DAY NO HUNGRY SOUL WILL NEED TO SCREAM FOR FOOD. TRADE WILL BE AT THE ZENITH OF PROGRESS, BUT FRANCE AND GERMANY WILL NO LONGER GO TO HORRIBLE WAR IN THE NAME OF TRADE. BOTH AMERICA AND JAPAN WILL BE THERE, BUT THERE WILL BE NO EAST, NO WEST. BLACK AND WHITE RACES WILL BE THERE, BUT THE AMERICANS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BURN THE NATIVE BLACK PEOPLE* (RED INDIANS*) ALIVE. THERE WILL BE PEACE BUT NO NEED FOR THE PENAL CODE. THERE WILL BE THE BRITISH AND THE INDIANS, BUT THERE WILL BE NO DIVISION INTO MASTER AND SLAVE. THAT DAY MAHATMA TOLSTOY’S PRINCIPLE OF ‘RESIST NOT THE EVIL’* (*THE WORDS ‘RESIST NOT THE EVIL’ ARE ORIGINALLY IN ENGLISH) WILL NOT NEED TO BE SHOUTED FROM THE ROOF-TOPS, BUT THERE WILL BE NO EVIL IN THE WORLD. THAT IS WHEN WE SHALL HAVE COMPLETE FREEDOM. WHAT WILL SUCH A TIME BE LIKE? JUST IMAGINE!
LOOKING AT THE PRESENT SITUATION, WHO CAN BELIEVE THAT SUCH A DAY WILL DAWN WHEN NO ONE WILL BE AFRAID OF ANYONE; IN FACT, PEOPLE WILL DESIST FROM COMMITTING SINS BECAUSE OF THE VOICE OF THEIR OWN CONSCIENCE. IF EVEN ON SUCH A DAY WE YEARN FOR SOME IMAGINARY HEAVEN, THEN WE SHALL SAY THAT SUCH A HEAVEN DOES NOT EXIST. CAN SUCH A DAY DAWN? THIS IS A PROBLEM – A BIG PROBLEM. IT IS NOT EASY. BUT WHAT I WISH TO KNOW IS IF PEOPLE ARE REALLY INTERESTED IN BRINGING ABOUT SUCH A DAY. ARE THE PEOPLE WHO TALK SO STRIDENTLY ABOUT ‘UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD’* OR ‘COSMOPOLITANISM’*, (*BOTH WORDS ORIGINALLY IN ENGLISH) REALLY CONCERNED ABOUT THIS? IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO SAY ‘YES’. THIS IS NOT THE PROPOSAL THAT CONGRESS HAS. THIS ISSUE NEEDS SERIOUS CONSIDERATION. ARE PEOPLE PREPARED TO OFFER A SACRIFICE FOR IT? FOR SUCH AN IMAGINED FUTURE, WE WILL HAVE TO HAVE AN EXTREME PRESENT. FOR SUCH IMAGINED PEACE, WE WILL HAVE TO SPREAD DISCORD. WE WILL HAVE TO SACRIFICE EVERYTHING FOR SUCH CASTLES IN THE AIR. WE WILL HAVE TO SPREAD TOTAL ANARCHY TO ESTABLISH SUCH A PEACEFUL RULE. TO DRAW THAT BLISSFUL WORLD TOWARDS US, WE WILL HAVE TO INFLICT TYRANNY. FOR THAT HAPPY TIME; NO, NO, FOR THE MERE HOPE OF IT, WE WILL HAVE TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES. ARE PEOPLE PREPARED FOR THAT?
WE WILL HAVE TO SPREAD THE WORD OF EQUALITY AND EGALITARIANISM. WE WILL HAVE TO INFLICT OPPRESSION ON THOSE WHO OPPOSE THIS. WE WILL HAVE TO SPREAD ANARCHY IN THOSE PLACES WHERE RULES AND EMPIRES HAVE BEEN BLINDED BY POWER AND ARE CAUSING MISERY TO CRORES OF PEOPLE. ARE PEOPLE PREPARED FOR THAT?
WE WILL HAVE TO PREPARE THE ENTIRE WORLD TO BE READY TO WELCOME THIS IDEAL. TO REAP SUCH A PROMISING HARVEST, WE SHALL HAVE TO WEED OUT EVERYTHING FROM THE FIELDS. THE THORNY BUSHES WILL HAVE TO BE CONSIGNED TO THE PYRE OF PEACE. STONES, PEBBLES WILL HAVE TO BE CRUSHED. WE WILL HAVE TO TOIL VERY HARD. WE WILL HAVE TO HELP THE POOR TO RISE. THE CRUSHED WILL NEED TO BE SHOWN THE PATH OF PROGRESS. THESE FALSE POWERS WILL HAVE TO BE DRAGGED AND COMPELLED TO STAND WITH US. THE ARROGANCE OF THE ARROGANT WILL HAVE TO BE CRUSHED AND THEY WILL HAVE TO BE TAUGHT THE LESSON OF HUMILITY. WE WILL HAVE TO GIVE STRENGTH TO THE WEAK, FREEDOM TO THE SLAVES, EDUCATION TO THE ILLITERATE, A RAY OF HOPE TO THE DESPAIRING, FOOD TO THE HUNGRY, HOMES TO THE HOMELESS, FAITH TO THE UNBELIEVERS, VISION TO THE SUPERSTITIOUS. WILL PEOPLE BE WILLING TO DO ALL THIS? O VOTARIES OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD! ARE YOU PREPARED TO DO THIS? IF NOT, THEN STOP YOUR PRETENCE. WE WILL HAVE TO OFFER YOU AS SACRIFICE AT THE FEET OF THE GODDESS OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD, BECAUSE YOU ARE DECEIVERS. IF YOU ARE PREPARED, THEN STEP INTO THE ‘KARMKSHETRA’, THE FIELD OF ACTION, AND YOU SHALL BE TESTED. DON’T HIDE BEHIND THIS NOBLE PRINCIPLE SITTING AT HOME, CROUCHING IN CORNERS, TREMBLING AT THE MERE THOUGHT OF THE TERRIBLE IMAGES OF THE BATTLEFIELD, AVOIDING THE LIGHT OF THE TRUTH. IF YOU TRULY DESIRE TO BRING ABOUT THIS IMAGINED TIME, THEN COME FORWARD. THE FIRST TASK WILL BE TO RAISE THIS FALLEN BHARAT. THE SHACKLES OF SLAVERY WILL HAVE TO BE SHATTERED. TYRANNY WILL HAVE TO BE DESTROYED. LACK OF FREEDOM WILL HAVE TO BE TRAMPLED INTO THE DUST BECAUSE IT LURES HUMANITY THAT THE ALMIGHTY MOULDED IN HIS OWN IMAGE, AWAY FROM THE PATH OF JUSTICE BECAUSE OF ITS OWN WEAKNESS.
IF THE FEAR OF BEING JAILED OR HANGED STILL PREVENTS YOU FROM FOLLOWING THIS PATH DESPITE ACKNOWLEDGING THE TRUTH OF IT, THEN GIVE UP THIS PRETENCE HENCEFORTH.
IF THE FEAR THAT THIS REVOLUTION WILL LEAD TO GREAT ANARCHY AND GREAT BLOODSHED, AND TOTAL STRIFE PREVENTS YOU FROM TAKING THIS PATH, EVEN THEN YOU ARE CRAVEN, WEAK, AND COWARDLY. ABANDON THIS PRETENCE.
IF DISCORD SPREADS SO BE IT; AT LEAST THERE WON’T BE ANY SUBJUGATION. IF ANARCHY SPREADS SO BE IT, AT LEAST SLAVERY WILL BE ABOLISHED. AH! THIS CONFLICT WILL CRUSH THE WEAK. THE DAILY WHINING WILL COME TO AN END. NO WEAK SHALL REMAIN, THE MIGHTY WILL BECOME FRIENDS. THERE WILL BE AMITY AMONG THE STRONG PEOPLE. THEY WILL FEEL LOVE FOR EACH OTHER AND THE MESSAGE OF UNIVERSAL LOVE WILL BE CARRIED FORWARD.
YES! YES! THE WEAK WILL HAVE TO BE CRUSHED IN ONE BLOW. THEY ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO THE ENTIRE WORLD. THEY ARE THE ONES WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SPREAD OF CONFLICT. LET EVERYONE BE STRONG, OR ELSE THEY WILL BE GRINDED IN THE MILLSTONE.
OH! WHO IS THE TRUE SON OF THE SOIL WHO WANTS UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD WITH HIS WHOLE HEART? WHO IS WILLING TO GIVE UP HIS HAPPINESS FOR THE SAKE OF THE ENTIRE WORLD?
NO SLAVE RACE HAS THE RIGHT EVEN TO MENTION THIS NOBLE IDEAL. THESE WORDS LOSE THEIR SIGNIFICANCE THE MOMENT THEY ARE UTTERED BY THE LIPS OF A SLAVE. IF A DISGRACED MAN, A CRUSHED UNDER FEET, GROUNDED IN THE DUST, SAYS ‘I AM A FOLLOWER OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD, A BELIEVER IN THIS IDEAL, SO I DO NOT AVENGE THESE TYRANNIES’, WHAT VALUE CAN HIS WORDS HAVE? WHO WILL HEED HIS COWARDLY WORDS? YES – IF YOU HAVE STRENGTH, IF YOU HAVE ENERGY, IF YOU HAVE THE POWER TO TRAMPLE THE GREAT AND MIGHTY UNDERFOOT, IF YOU ARE ABLE TO LIFT A FINGER AND GRIND THE ARROGANCE OF PEOPLE TO DUST, CAN PUT TO SLEEP GREAT RULING POWERS, CAN CRUSH THEM INTO THE DUST, AND THEN YOU SAY, ‘WE BELIEVE IN UNIVERSAL LOVE SO PLEASE DON’T DO THIS’, THEN YOUR WORDS WILL HOLD WEIGHT – THEN EACH SENTENCE THAT YOU UTTER WILL HAVE VALUE. THEN THE WORDS ‘VASUDEV KUTUMBAKAM’ (THE WHOLE EARTH IS A FAMILY) WILL ALSO BECOME SIGNIFICANT.
TODAY YOU ARE ENSLAVED, UNDER FOREIGN RULE, NOT FREE, AND YOUR WORDS SEEM A SHAM, PRETENCE, RUBBISH. DO YOU WANT TO PROPAGATE THEM? IF YES, THEY YOU WILL HAVE TO FOLLOW THE ONE WHO SAID, – “HE WHO LOVETH HUMANITY LOVETH GOD”*, “GOD IS LOVE AND LOVE IS GOD”* (THESE WORDS ARE ORIGINALLY IN ENGLISH) – WHO EMBRACED THE GALLOWS UNDER CRIME OF SEDITION; ARE YOU PREPARED TO PROPAGATE UNIVERSAL LOVE AS COURAGEOUSLY AS HE DID? THE DAY YOU BECOME A TRUE PROPAGATOR OF THIS UNIQUE IDEAL, THEN YOU WILL HAVE TO STEP INTO THE BATTLEFIELD LIKE THE TRUE SON, GURU GOBIND SINGH. WHO LIKE A TRUE DEVOTEE OF UNIVERSAL LOVE; SAYING ‘ALL ARE THE SONS OF THE SAME FATHER’ LIKE THE GREAT SOUL WHO SACRIFICED ALL OF HIS FOUR BELOVED SONS FOR THE NATION, AND UPON BEING QUESTIONED BY THE MOTHER, REPLYING SIMPLY THIS; YOU WILL HAVE TO SHOW PATIENCE LIKE HIM. CAN YOU BEAR TO SEE SOMEONE SACRIFICE HIM OR HERSELF, OR ENDURE UNSPEAKABLE TORTURE, SOMEONE YOU HOLD THE DEAREST TO YOUR HEART, THINKING OF WHOM MAKES YOUR HEARTBEAT RACE, WHICH YOU WANT TO KEEP HIDDEN IN YOUR HEART? AND CAN YOU CLIMB ONTO A BURNING PYRE WITH A SMILE BEFORE SAME DEAR ONE, AND BE ABLE TO BID GOODBYE TO THE WORLD WITH A COMPASSIONATE LOOK? IF YES, THEN COME FORWARD FOR THE TEST; IT IS TIME. IF THERE IS THE SLIGHTEST HESITATION IN YOUR HEARTS, THEN FOR GOD’S SAKE, GIVE UP THIS PRETENCE.
HOW CAN UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD AND UNIVERSAL LOVE FLOURISH TILL THE TIME THIS VOCABULARY OF BLACK-WHITE, CIVILIZED-SAVAGE, RULER-RULED, RICH-POOR, HIGH CASTE-UNTOUCHABLE, ETC. CONTINUES TO BE USED? THIS MESSAGE CAN BE DELIVERED ONLY BY A FREE PEOPLE. AN ENSLAVED PEOPLE LIKE THE INDIANS CANNOT EVEN MENTION IT.
THEN HOW WILL THE MESSAGE SPREAD? YOU WILL HAVE TO MUSTER POWER. TO MUSTER POWER, YOU WILL HAVE TO SPEND ALL THE STRENGTH EARNED TILL NOW. YOU WILL HAVE TO ENDURE A LIFETIME OF OBSTACLES LIKE RANA PRATAP, ONLY THEN MAY YOU PASS THE EXAM. DON’T YOU SEE A TRUE PROPAGATOR OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD, MAZZINI, WHO STAYS INCARCERATED AT ONE PLACE ON HIS OWN FOR TWENTY YEARS? LENIN WAS HIS SUPPORTER; HE ENDURED UNTOLD HARDSHIPS. GEORGE WASHINGTON – THE GIVER OF FREEDOM TO AMERICA – WAS A BELIEVER IN UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD; THE REVOLUTIONARIES OF FRANCE WERE STAUNCH BELIEVERS – HOW MUCH BLOOD THEY SHED! THE IDEALISTIC BRUTUS WAS A FOLLOWER OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD, WHO EVEN ASSASSINATED HIS BELOVED CAESAR BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE FOR HIS MOTHERLAND AND COMMITTED SUICIDE AFTERWARDS. HAPPILY AND SKILLFULLY FIGHTING WARS WAS GARIBALDI, WHO CAN ALSO GET CREDIT FOR A BELIEF IN UNIVERSAL LOVE.
A LOVER OF UNIVERSAL LOVE IS THE BRAVE INDIVIDUAL WHOM WE HAVE NO HESITATION IN CALLING AN AWESOME REBEL, AN UNCOMPROMISING ANARCHIST – THE SAME VEER SAVARKAR, WHO PACING IN HIS LAWN THINKING ABOUT UNIVERSAL LOVE, WOULD STOP WALKING ON THE GRASS, LEST HE CRUSHED THE TENDER GRASS UNDER HIS FEET.
THE BRAVE MACSWINEY WHO PASSED AWAY AFTER 75 DAYS OF FASTING CAN TAKE THE CREDIT FOR TREADING THIS PATH; WHO USED TO SAY:
“IT IS THE LOVE OF THE COUNTRY THAT INSPIRES US AND NOT THE HATE OF THE ENEMY AND THE DESIRE FOR FULL SATISFACTION FOR THE PAST.” (ORIGINALLY IN ENGLISH)
A DEVOTEE OF THE GODDESS OF UNIVERSAL LOVE WAS THE AUTHOR OF ‘GITA RAHASYA’ (THE SECRET OF THE GITA), THE REVERED LOKMANYA TILAK. DO YOU WANT MORE? THAT THIN, SCRAWNY MAN IN THE LOINCLOTH (GANDHI) WHO COULD GIVE A DELIGHTED CHUCKLE UPON BEING SENTENCED AND SAY, ‘THE PUNISHMENT GIVEN TO ME IS TOO MILD AND I CANNOT HOPE FOR MORE COURTEOUS BEHAVIOUR THAT I HAVE MET WITH’, WHOSE POIGNANT TALE WILL HAVE NO EFFECT ON YOUR STONY HEARTS – A BELIEVER IN THE IDEAL, HE IS A MAHATMA.
AND LORD RAMA, WHO DESTROYED RAVAN AND BALI, DEMONSTRATED UNIVERSAL LOVE BY EATING THE BERRIES WHICH WERE FIRST TASTED BY THE BHIL WOMAN, DEMONSTRATED UNIVERSAL LOVE. THE ONE WHO BROUGHT COUSINS TO FIGHT A WAR WITH EACH OTHER, WHO COMPLETELY ERASED THE INJUSTICE FROM THE WORLD– LORD KRISHNA – DEMONSTRATED HIS UNIVERSAL LOVE BY GOBBLING UP THE UNCOOKED RICE THAT SUDAMA HAD BROUGHT FOR HIM.
DO YOU ALSO ASSERT UNIVERSAL LOVE? FIRST LEARN TO STAND ON YOUR FEET. DEVELOP THE CAPABILITY TO STAND WITH YOUR HEAD HELD HIGH WITH PRIDE AMONG THE PEOPLE OF THE FREE NATIONS. TILL THE TIME UNFORTUNATE INCIDENTS LIKE THE KAMAGATAMARU SHIP KEEP ON HAPPENING, TILL THE TIME YOU CONTINUE TO BE CALLED ‘DAMN BLACK MAN’, TILL THE JALLIANWALA BAGH LIKE HORRIBLE TRAGEDIES KEEP HAPPENING IN YOUR COUNTRY, TILL THE TIME YOU DON’T REACT TO BRAVE WOMEN BEING DISHONOURED, TILL THEN THIS PRETENCE HAS NO MEANING. WHAT PEACE, WHAT HAPPINESS AND WHAT KIND OF UNIVERSAL LOVE IS IT?
IF YOU TRULY DESIRE TO PROPAGATE THE IDEAL OF PEACE AND HAPPINESS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, THEN FIRST LEARN TO REACT TO THE INSULTS THROWN AT YOU. BE READY TO DIE IN ORDER TO CUT LOOSE THE SHACKLES OF YOUR MOTHERLAND. BE PREPARED TO SERVE A LIFE SENTENCE AT THE CELLULAR JAIL ACROSS THE BLACK SEAS, IF YOU WANT TO SET YOUR MOTHER FREE. BE READY TO DIE TO KEEP YOUR SOBBING MOTHER ALIVE. ONLY THEN OUR COUNTRY WILL BE FREE. WE SHALL BE STRONG. WE SHALL BE ABLE TO PROUDLY PROCLAIM THE IDEAL OF UNIVERSAL LOVE. WILL BE ABLE TO COMPEL THE WORLD TO FOLLOW THE PATH OF PEACE.
Monday, 15 July 2019
Friday, 24 May 2019
Azaadi for All
An exhaustive documentation of the intellectual legacy of Bhagat Singh
Written by S Irfan Habib |Published: May 18, 2019 2:40:57 am
The Bhagat Singh Reader
The Bhagat Singh Reader
Chaman Lal (ed)
Chaman Lal (ed)
Chaman Lal has spent many years documenting the history of revolutionary struggle, particularly the profile of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. He is one of the few who see Bhagat Singh as an ideologue, and not just a nationalist martyr. It is now more or less established that Bhagat Singh was a prolific writer, an insightful thinker and a sensitive young nationalist who left behind a rich intellectual legacy. In recent years, we have seen a good collection of his writings in Hindi, but a more exhaustive collection in English was awaited — a collection not only of his writings but also his letters to family and friends. Though many of the writings included here are available in other collections as well, quite a few letters and documents are accessible for the first time.
The Bhagat Singh Reader displays the extensive and diverse writings of Bhagat Singh within a short active life of just seven years. He wrote in four languages — Urdu, Hindi, English and Punjabi — but was most proficient in Urdu and English. Chaman Lal also says that Bhagat Singh understood Bengali very well, and could recite Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore fluently in Bengali. He wrote more than 130 documents, including letters, pamphlets, articles, manifestos and court statements, which run into nearly 400 pages. No mean achievement for someone who spent most of his active life under police surveillance and the last two years in prison.
This volume reaffirms the fact that Bhagat Singh not only sacrificed his life, like many did before him and after him, but he also had a vision of independent India. During the past few years, it has almost become routine to appropriate Bhagat Singh as a nationalist icon, while not much is talked about his nationalist vision. This collection will reaffirm the fact that Bhagat Singh was one of those rare intellectuals who visualised an India where 98 per cent would rule instead of an elite 2 per cent. His azaadi was not limited to the expulsion of the British. Rather, he desired azaadi from poverty, untouchability, communal strife and other forms of discrimination and exploitation.
Bhagat Singh wrote with passion against untouchability, the caste system and communalism, the very issues which continue to rattle and shame us. All those who valorise him today for his nationalism and martyrdom need to grapple with his intellectual legacy. Like a few other researchers in India and elsewhere, Chaman Lal has diligently explored and documented his work to establish him as a revolutionary thinker, with a pluralist and egalitarian ethos.
In a hard-hitting article against untouchability and caste, Bhagat Singh held that ritualism had divided us into touchables and untouchables, and that narrow and divisive religions can’t unite the people. After the end of British colonialism, our complete freedom would imply living together happily, without caste and religious barriers. He needs to be invoked even today, to bring about the changes that he strove for in his short life. Expressing his anguish in an article, he held some of the political leaders and the press responsible for inciting communalism. Bhagat Singh believed that “there were a few sincere leaders, but their voice is easily swept away by the rising wave of communalism. In terms of political leadership, India had gone totally bankrupt”. Written in 1928, this sounds so contemporary.
Bhagat Singh matured as a thinker through extensive reading and writing during his two years in jail. His ‘Jail Notebook’, included in The Bhagat Singh Reader, reveals the trajectory of his political evolution. It shows his wide reading — Marx, Engels, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine, Upton Sinclair, VI Lenin, William Wordsworth, Tennyson, Rabindranath Tagore, Bukharin and Trotsky, among others. Chaman Lal also narrates the story behind the public appearance of the ‘Jail Notebook’ in the 1980s, when Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and the National Archives acquired copies. I was, perhaps, the first researcher to get hold of it as a typescript in 1977-78, and I used it for my research on Bhagat Singh’s intellectual development.
One of Bhagat Singh’s most profound articles, ‘Why I am an Atheist’, was also written in jail. A strong rebuttal of blind faith and a zealous defence of reason, it should not be seen merely as a harangue against God. Besides the ‘Jail Notebook’, ‘Letter to Young Political Workers’ and ‘Introduction to Dreamland’ are prison writings establishing his political and intellectual maturity.
Lal has included all the manifestos and court statements of Bhagat Singh, which shed light on his conception of revolution. His inquilab was not merely a political revolution. He wanted a social revolution to end age-old discriminatory practices. Inquilab zindabad was not merely an emotional battle cry but a lofty ideal which was explained by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, thus: “The Revolution will ring the death knell of capitalism and class distinction and privileges… It will give birth to a new state — a new social order.”
Bhagat Singh was even more definitive in his statement in court on June 6, 1929: “Revolution is not a culture of bomb and pistol. Our meaning of revolution is to change the present conditions, which are based on manifest injustice.”
I believe The Bhagat Singh Reader will make the going difficult for those who want to valorise him as a raw nationalist. It is an exhaustive collection of most of his writings in a short and eventful life, a very useful aid to future researchers on the subject, and a wonderful guide to a composite and pluralist India.
S Irfan Habib is a Delhi-based historian
Sunday, 28 April 2019
Fulfilment of a mission in life
As The Bhagat Singh Reader appeared in print by 13th April 2019 from HarperCollins India, it gave me the greatest satisfaction in life, ironically at the age of 71+ years. Had this satisfaction come a few years before in 50+ age, perhaps I could have enjoyed this satisfaction a bit longer. Still, it is fine. Last year on 23rd March 2018, setting up of Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre in Delhi Archives, Delhi has also given me great satisfaction, though some irritation also, but with the publication of this volume and with archives functioning has completed my mission in life to promote the ideas of Bhagat Singh, which has now reached at a higher level!
When Rajkamal Prakashan brought out Bhagat Singh aur Unke Sathiyon ke Dastavez in 1986, 33 years ago, and at the beginning of my academic career in Punjabi University Patiala, I did not think that I will make it a mission in my life to work further on collecting Bhagat Singh’s writings and finally bringing out it in from some reputed international publisher in English. In 2004, I came out with Bhagat Singh ke Sampuran Dastavez from Aadhar Prakashan Panchkula, while still serving Punjabi University Patiala at that time. But there was no such excitement at that publication and after joining JNU in the year 2005 beginning, I took to pay more attention towards collecting more material and documents of, and on Bhagat Singh, it led to the publication of complete documents from Publication division of Govt. of India, during Bhagat Singh birth centenary in 2007 in Hindi, still I was not excited so much. Though by that time I had signed an agreement with Penguins India to bring out The Bhagat Singh Reader by 2009 in English. Despite being happy and excited with this, somehow, I did not pay much attention and remained engaged in JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA) activities as its President in the year 2007 and remained occupied being Chairperson of Centre of Indian Languages (CIL) during 2008-10. Then got an offer of being Visiting Professor in the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, I thought that I would complete the task during this period. But the temptation to visit countries around took priority and on return in 2012 beginning, did start paying attention to Bhagat Singh Reader. In the meantime, Penguins management changed and it started cancelling long pending contracts. Wendy Doniger book was pulped by Penguins in this period. Still, a further rise of Modi even before coming to power started changing the scene of the publishing world. I finally submitted the manuscript by September 2013, but it did not find favour with the publisher and they cancelled the contract. It was greatly disappointing. I was so upset that I wrote to many friends in anguish about it, then Oxford University Press took an interest, but they dragged feet. Finally, V K Karthika, who was the first to accept it for Penguins, again came forward from HarperCollins India and by the time she could assign an editor for it, she joined Westland! But HarperCollins new editor Udyan Mitra and Shantanu Gupta formalized and Prema Govindan was appointed an editor to deal with the manuscript and the target for 23rd March 2019 was decided. The contract was signed even on better terms from Penguins and again felt excited and started working on manuscript once again. This time I tried to remove the earlier flaws and made the mss compact, though it became larger too. Though in delayed publication, the more and more newly found documents could be added, one document was added in March 2019 itself. The number of documents has reached 130, whereas in 2007 Publication division edition, it was only 100. The publisher was ready to publish a larger volume. The first three months of the year 2019 were mostly devoted to editing the mss from editors and myself helping in the process, as the matter was huge and from editing point of view, quite complicated.
The title was made and the book was announced around 23rd March in media, the date was given 28th March. But there were many errors still and I took to correct these, still one or two minor errors did go in the print edition, which is promised to be corrected in the next edition. Checked on amazon.uk, I found UK edition of the book has been announced for March 2020 and its advance sale is already on. Though Kindle edition has been made available world over and its priced much lower than any other book of this size, nearly 700 pages. In fact, print price is also kept much lower as I wished from the publisher and it is being sold even at nearly 50% discount. Amazon.us is also offering the book at about 31 dollar price in print and 6 dollars for kindle edition. I wished maximum readers could buy this book, especially the youth and students, throughout the world. Book date was given 25th April later, but it came on 13th April eve, the hundredth anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh tragedy-a right occasion. I got the first copy in Delhi on 16th April from the publisher and did some reading from it on the same day at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts along with Kishwar Desai, who read from her book on Jallianwala Bagh. Book has been brought out beautifully, I wished to have its release function, but the publisher wants it after the elections.
Incidentally around same time Publication Division also wished to bring out its 2007 documents edition in collaboration with Sasta Sahitya Mandal and I suggested to make it in three volumes and they accepted my proposal. I completed editing Hindi edition as well, which they thought they can bring out by 23rd March. It may now come bit late; I have to go through the final typed manuscript to check errors. In the meantime, Publication Division updated Hindi edition in its Urdu edition in 2014, taking the documents to near completion so was its Marathi translation in 2016 edition. So, now the complete writings editions in English and Hindi both in the same year are a source of great satisfaction and joy. As Amarjit Chandan said it is ‘fulfilment of life’-Janam Safla Bhayia-
Now what more I need to do? Even if nothing more is added in terms of publications, I can remain now satisfied with life. Yet I have a few more plans, if achieved, would add to my satisfaction with life.
1. Editing of articles from Mainstream weekly on Bhagat Singh with Sumit Chakravarti, about which I had spoken to him a few times. The best articles on Bhagat Singh have been published in Mainstream and that can become the most authentic evaluation of Bhagat Singh.
2. Another documentation-Bhagat Singh: Through Colonial and Nationalist Perspective. Documents from National Archives and NMML from colonial records and Indian leaders’ views can be put in contrast.
3. Another volume on young revolutionaries-They Died Young for the Nation/Country-which can have sketches of Kartar Singh Sarabha, Khudiram Bose like young revolutionaries.
4. My two books on Hindi literature and two volumes on Punjabi literature are pending publication. Now these may be taken up
5. More importantly after setting up Bhagat Singh archives and securing long life for rare books and documents of freedom struggle, I do wish to gift my literature and other collection of books to some library. The first priority is my home town Public Library Rampura Phul, which created consciousness of literature and knowledge in me from my childhood, but they may not have space and utility. Second preference could be Central University of Punjab (CUP), Bathinda, where I taught for a year in post-retirement year 2014, and had earlier gifted books nearly 2000, which is my home district. Third preference could be my alumnus institutions either PU Chandigarh or JNU, New Delhi. Punjabi University Patiala could be another option, where I taught for nearly two decades before joining JNU in the last phase of my academic job. This task also must be completed in the next two years or so. But I need to have assurance from any of these institutions, accepting my gift, of proper care, space and my association with the institution for my lifetime.