Friday, 19 August 2016

Savarkar, Bhagat Singh and .....



Savarkar, Bhagat Singh and .....

Chaman Lal

Frontier in its June 5-11, 2016 issue has published three articles related to Bhagat Singh. First is comparison of two petitions sent by Veer Savarkar in 1913 and other by Bhagat Singh on 20th March 1931, to British colonial authorities. These petitions have been quite viral on social media also and an online journal published it earlier.
In second article I M Sharma, a well-known author/editor of many books on Indian revolutionaries and movements, has protested over denigration of Savarkar by way of this comparison.
In third article taken from Veer Savarkar website, Bhagat Singh has been shown as publisher of one of editions of Savarkar's book—'First war of Indian Independence'.
While I M Sharma has every right to hold his views on Savarkar, however as a matter of interpretation of history, historic events and historical personalities, others also have the right to view Savarkar, as they think him to be, of course with the evidence of facts and documents. Everywhere in the world, there have been many personalities, who were revolutionaries in early phase. Veer Savarkar in his earlier phase, when he wrote 'First War of Independence' in Marathi in 1907 to mark 50lh anniversary of 1857, was secular and he acknowledged the role of last emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar despite his old age and other Muslim warriors of the struggle. In 1909, Savarkar also encouraged and patronized Madan Lal Dhingra to kill Curzon Wylie in London, which he did and got hanged on 17th August 1909. Mahatma Gandhi in fact wrote 'Hind Swaraj' in response to Dhingra's killing of Wylie and he framed his ideas of non-violence as against revolutionary violence to achieve Indian freedom. However after his return to India and arrest with long incarceration in Andaman's jail, Savarkar changed his views and turned communal in his outlook. He never took part in hunger strikes done by other revolutionaries in Andaman's jail in which many revolutionaries sacrificed their lives like Mahavir Singh, an associate of Bhagat Singh, Ramrakha, a Ghadarite revolutionary, many Bengali revolutionaries, in whose memory 'Shaheed Park' is created just in front of Andaman jail. Surprisingly, the earlier NDA Govt. put even Savarkar's statue in this park along with the real martyrs of Andaman jail. Only NDA/BJP/RSS can explain that how Savarkar, who died a normal death after independence, being remained an accused in Mahatma Gandhi assassination case and acquitted only due to 'lack of clinching evidence', hence remained 'suspect', was made out to be a 'martyr' with other real martyrs of Andaman!
Savarkar's later role as corumunalist and his role in Gandhi assassination, despite not being convicted, has certainly degraded his status as 'revolutionary' and people have right to condemn him for that role. His abject apologies to British colonial regimes, not once, but many times and his willingness to be part of colonial policy of 'Divide and Rule', by helping colonialists with his communal agenda of dividing Indian society, certainly cannot add to his status as 'Revolutionary', which I M Sharma has tried to defend, without any substance.
Savarkar website claims that Bhagat Singh published his book is again devoid of fact/truth. Bhagat Singh was born only in 1907, first edition of book came out around the time. Book was banned in India but was available to Indian revolutionaries, if Lal Hardyal has published its edition that could have reached India as well and could be in possession of revolutionaries. Bhagat Singh and his fellow revolutionaries certainly eulogised this book and must have distributed, but there is no record to show in the form of printed book found anywhere to support the claim that he published it. Bhagat Singh translated and published Irish revolutionary Dan Breed's autobiography in Hindi which was published by Pratap Press Kanpur in 1926 at the cost of one anna only. He also probably translated Sachindernath Sanyal's classic book-Bandi Jivan in Punjabi, whose advertisements are found in Punjabi journal Kirti, with which Bhagat Singh was associated in editorial staff and wrote for it also till 1928.
RSS as per its habit of rumour/lie making has also claimed that Bhagat Singh visited its Nagpur office to meet its supreme K B Hedegwar, has never been confirmed from any reliable source, from his own writings or memoirs of his co-fighters.
There is nothing on record to show that either RSS/Hedgewar or Veer Savarkar expressed any anguish on the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in March 1931, no resolution published in any of their publications or other Indian papers, whereas from Mahatma Gandhi to Periyar-Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Subhas Bose, Madan Mohan Malviya and so many other Congress men are on record through their statements in many Indian journals, of expressing their anguish and disapproval/condemnation of British colonial regime on their execution. With what face RSS tries to appropriate Bhagat Singh or other revolutionaries' legacy by cooked up stories!
I M Sharma has also mentioned 'Bhagat Singh's death wish' and Gandhi fulfilling it by not pressing upon British colonial authorities, for commutation of his sentence. Here again, I M Sharma has very poor understanding of Bhagat Singh's insistence on not getting his execution waived. He reluctantly signed petition to Privy Council for review of his death sentence, only on the understanding that it will earn revolutionaries time to become more popular among Indian masses and they will rise to demand their release and they did rise. But Bhagat Singh told his close associate Bejoy Kumar Sinha in Lahore jail—'Dekho Bhai fansi rukni nahin chahiye'—Look brother execution must not be waived and he desired them to be hanged when people's resistance reaches at peak and that is how it happened. Bhagat Singh knew that all paths for revolution were closed for them at that moment and he wanted to make people rise for Indian freedom struggle and he thought their execution will serve this purpose. He proved right in his assessment, it was not his 'death wish', but political assessment and tactic to make even his death to be costlier like 'a death heavier than mountains', for British colonialism. I M Sharma has done no justice to Bhagat Singh's martyrdom by his own volition to make Indian people rise up for freedom struggle, by using term 'death wish'. Che Guevara taunted his CIA hired killer to 'shoot me coward', when he was wavering in shooting him and had to be given a full bottle of alcohol to get him completely drunk in order to make him shoot Che. Was Che having 'death wish', when he shouted at his killer 'to shoot him'?!
Mahatma Gandhi was reluctant from the very beginning to intervene into the matter of Bhagat Singh and his execution, due to his so-called belief in 'non-violence' philosophy, but Gandhi failed even to be true to his own philosophy of non-violence, by not opposing 'death sentence' as principled position of his philosophy, if nothing else! Of course he was worried at Bhagat Singh's abnormal popularity among Indian masses, which could have threaten his own 'one man hegemony' in Indian Congress politics, had Bhagat Singh been allowed to live!
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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Why BJP & RSS don't want Bhagat Singh to be honoured

Name game: Why BJP & RSS don't want  Bhagat Singh to be honoured

In September 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Chandigarh international airport, Akali Dal MP from Mohali area, Prem Singh Chandumajra, where the airport is actually located, publically reminded the PM about the airport being named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
Two governments involved in the construction of the airport - Punjab and Haryana - had agreed through unanimous resolutions in their respective assemblies to name the airport on Shaheed Bhagat Singh earlier in 2009-10, prior to the 2014 general elections.
The governments have had their differences but they were unanimous when it came to naming the airport on one of India's foremost freedom fighters and an idol of the Indian youth.

However after 2014 elections, when Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP Government took charge of Haryana, the new chief minister without even consulting his own cabinet, leave aside the Haryana Assembly, wrote to the civil aviation ministry to name the Chandigarh airport after RSS's unknown activist and former minister Mangal Sen's name.
He did not consult even his Punjab counterpart, where BJP forms part of the government as well.
This whole matter would have remained unknown to people, had Congress MP form Ludhiana, Ravinder Bittu, not asked a question in Parliament. After the minister's revelation it became a national issue.


There were dharnas, meetings, questions in Parliament and several protests. Dharnas were held in Chandigarh, and in January and February 2016 at Jantar Mantar New Delhi.
It was only after these spate of protests that the Haryana CM withdrew his recommendation and agreed to let the airport be named after Bhagat Singh and it was made public.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rebel MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi participated in all these dharnas. But to add weight to his protest, he even stood on his seat in Lok Sabha with a board demanding the airport be named after Bhagat Singh.
Later, led by Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary of CPM and Rajya Sabha member, all left MPs accompanied by Dharmavir Gandhi protested outside Parliament in front of Bhagat Singh's demanding that the issue be tackled in the last Parliament session.
Many other Parliamentarians like JD-U MP KC Tyagi came out to support the demand as well.


But then, the RSS cannot possibly let people think that they had insulted freedom fighters - then their whole agenda of chanting names of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad to fool its cadres - would have been exposed.
Instead, they came up with a clever tactic. They announced a policy of 'not naming' airports on personalities and just keeping the names of cities.
One could still understand this new policy if it was without mala fide intention and brought about after naming the Chandigrah airport on Bhagat Singh, as it had been decided by the two state governments.
But the main ploy was to suppress Bhagat Singh's name which RSS could not appropriate like Sardar Patel or Madan Mohan Malviya in their designed Hindutva code.
By making this clever move, the RSS put the issue of naming the Chandigarh airport into cold storage.


India has more than 135 domestic, international and other types of airports. Out of which nearly twenty or so are named on historic personalities of the nation and the state concerned, honouring people's love and respects for those personalities.
Incidentally, none of the airports are named after Mahatma Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru. Let us see how the major airports in the country are named.
West Bengal
The state's most important airport - the one in Kolkata - is called Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. Another airport in West Bengal at Asansol-Durgapur is also named appropriately as Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport.
Uttar Pradesh
Moving to the largest state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi airport in the PM's constituency is justifiably named Lal Bahadur Airport and the international airport of in the capital city of Lucknow is called Chaudhary Charan Singh International airport.
In Bihar, Patna airport is called Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport.
Madhya Pradesh
In Madhya Pradesh they have the Raja Bhoj International Airport at Bhopal, while at Indore airport is called Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport.
The airport in Rajasthan's Udaipur is called Maharana Pratap Airport.
Maharashtra has its two big airports named after great historic personalities. Mumbai airport is called Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and the Nagpur one is called Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Airport. Both are rather appropriately named.
Moving to Gujarat, the Ahmedabad airport is called the Sardar Patel International Airport.
The Ranchi airport is appropriately called Birsa Munda Airport.
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana
The airport in Bengaluru is called Kempegowda International Airport and the Hyderabad airport, now in Telangana, is called Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.
In Andhra Pradesh at Puttaparthi, the airport is named after Satya Sai.
New Delhi
The New Delhi airport is called Indira Gandhi International Airport. That makes two major airports in the country being named after members from the famous family, but strangely, there isn't a single airport yet that is named after Jawaharlal Nehru.
Had the rulers been wiser they would named Delhi airport - Jawaharlal Nehru International Airport.
Any airport in the world should be named after the best personality of the country, like in America where the New York airport is named after JF Kennedy.
No one has better credentials than the first and longest serving prime minister, freedom fighter and the leader of the Non-Alignment movement Jawaharlal Nehru.The airport in the country capital should not have been named after anyone other than him.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Andaman's and Nicobar's Port Blair is named expectedly as Veer Savarkar Airport.
Chhattisgarh capital Raipur airport is called Swami Vivekananda airport.
Jammu & Kashmir
In Jammu and Kashmir, the Leh airport is called Kushak Bakula International Airport.
Assam's Guwahati airport is called Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport.
The airport in Bhubaneshwar is named - Biju Patnaik International Airport.
In Punjab, the Amritsar international airport is called Sree Guru Ramdasji International Airport honouring the Guru as the founder of the city. Wikipedia, however, shows the Chandigarh airport to be named - Shaheed S Bhagat Singh International Airport.
Clearly, wrong information based on the Punjab and Haryana governments' earlier decision has made it to the Wikipedia page.
The Central government has not released a formal notification yet and is playing spoil sport at the behest of RSS, who does not want socialist Bhagat Singh to get any national recognition as a freedom fighter.


Not a single university, out of the 250 plus government ones and nearly 500 private ones, is named after Bhagat Singh despite him being the most popular youth icon.
Such is the hypocrisy of Indian political parties, who keep on chanting Bhagat Singh's name day and night, but just to deceive people.
One can see from all major states have their airports named after their local, but nationally known, heroes. Only Tamil Nadu and Kerala do not have airports named after heir heroes like Periyar, C N Annadurai or Kamraj or Sree Narayana Guru or even EMS Namboodripad.
In most of the Hindi speaking states - UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan etc - have airports named after their local/national heroes.
But can one accept that Raja Bhoj, Ahilya Devi Holkar, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Kushak Bakula or Gopinath Bordoloi in Assam, Biju Patnaik in Odisha, Kempegowda in Karnataka are better known nationally than Bhagat Singh?
Maharashtra and West Bengal have named their airports after national heroes - Subhas Bose, Nazrul Islam, Shivaji and Dr Ambedkar, so has Jharkhand on Birsa Munda, Bihar on JP, Gujarat on Sardar Patel and Chhattisgarh on Swami Vivekananda, even though he was not their nationally known state hero.
In the Andamans there were many martyrs in the Cellular Jail or as it is better known - Kala Pani - but its airport was not named on any of them.
Let Indian Parliament members and citizens speak up if they think that Bhagat Singh is not in the league of national heroes like Subhas Bose, Dr Ambedkar, Birsa Munda, JP, Sardar Patel or Swami Vivekananda.
If different airports in the country can be named after such national personalities - then why is Bhagat Singh's name being degraded and insulted by not naming the Chandigarh airport after him?
Had Punjab and Haryana in 2009-2010 not decided to name the Chandigarh airport after Bhagat Singh - it would not have been an issue for the Punjabis in particular and Indians in general.
But after the decision was taken, it was not implemented just because the Haryana government, along with the Central one, decided to push the RSS agenda that did not want Bhagat Singh to be given honour and respect.
Not implementing the decision is nothing but an insult to Punjab and to the Indian youth who love Bhagat Singh.
Chaman Lal is retired Professor from JNU, New Delhi and is known for his books on Bhagat Singh in many languages, the latest being Understanding Bhagat Singh
Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Sunday, 3 July 2016

A short publication history of Bhagat Singh's Jail Notebook
Chaman Lal ( recently retired from the Centre for Indian Languages, School of Languages and Cultural Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
A biographer of Bhagat Singh and a chronicler of his works, writes about the publication history of Bhagat Singh’s “Jail Notebook”. This article is being published, when reports have talked about the possible release of the Notebook “for the first time” by the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. 
Almost anyone who is a serious admirer of the revolutionary Bhagat Singh would know about his “Jail Notebook” today; yet before 1981, hardly anyone other than Bhagat Singh’s closest family members knew about its existence. During the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Hindustan Socialist Republican Army activists Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in 1981, Singh’s brother Kulbir Singh allowed a microfilm of the book to be made by the National Archives of India (NAI) and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML). He did so on the condition that the Notebook should not be published. The Jail Notebook was put on exhibition at the National Archives of India along with other documents of the revolutionary movements. Both NAI and NMML then kept the Notebook for reference and consultation among their records.
Soon, a copy of the Notebook was provided to “Gurukul” in Inderprastha, Delhi by Kulbir Singh’s younger son Abhey Sandhu. This was the time when L V Mitrokhin, the Russian scholar on Indian history, visited Kulbir Singh many times and obtained either the whole or parts of Notebook, took it to Moscow and wrote about its significance. L V Mitrokhin’s writing on Bhagat Singh’s notebook soon enabled other Indian scholars to pay attention to it. This author had for the first time seen the Notebook in the NMML in 1984, took extensive notes from it, and started writing about it in newspapers and journals.
The Jail Notebook was part of a bagful of documents, which Bhagat Singh had handed over to Kumari Lajjawati, the secretary of the Bhagat Singh defence committee and later principal of a college in Jalandhar. She was instructed by Bhagat Singh to hand over this bag to his comrade Bejoy Kumar Sinha on his release from jail. Sinha was transported for life in the Lahore Conspiracy case and was released in 1938, when the Indian National Congress led governments came to power in many provinces. Lajjawati showed that bag to Lala Feroze Chand, editor of The People, and who himself was a committed socialist. Lala Feroze Chand published a few documents from those papers, including an abridged form of the “Letter To Young Political Workers” written in 2nd Februay 1931, the “Regarding Line of Defence In Hari Kishan's Case[1]” and “Why I am an Atheist” as part of the 27th September 1931 issue to commemorate Bhagat Singh’s first birth anniversary since his execution.
The last mentioned essay was lost during the Partition and many websites today are still carrying re-translated version of this essay from other Indian languages. I had reproduced The People’s first printed version of this essay in my latest book-Understanding Bhagat Singh which was released recently. The People in an editorial note had ascribed copyrights of the essay to S. Kishan Singh, father of Bhagat Singh. Bhagat Singh’s writings were being published from Bhagat Singh’s life time in many Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English papers, which were put into a volume for the first time by Virender Sandhu, the niece of Bhagat Singh and daughter of S. Kultar Singh, who was most close to Bhagat Singh’s heart. It was Virender Sandhu, who authored the most authoritative biography of Bhagat Singh’s whole family in 1968 in Hindi. Later Jagmohan Singh, another nephew of Bhagat Singh and son of Bibi Amar Kaur collected more documents and put them a volume in Punjabi titled Bhagat Singh ate Unna de saathiyhan de dastavez (Bhagat Singh and his comrades’ documents).
First Printed Version
Few years later, the monthly Indian Book Chronicle edited by Bhupinder Hooja in Jaipur started serialising the Jail Notebook of Bhagat Singh in 1992. Hooja had received its copy from his elder brother G B Kumar Hooja who had been the vice chancellor of Gurukul Kangri Haridwar (which must have obtained the Notebook’s copy from Gurukul Inderprastha). Bhupender Hooja, having reassured about the authenticity of the Notebook, then employed his resources with a lot of labour in annotating the sources of Bhagat Singh’s mentioned books, writers and quotations. The result was the release of the first printed edition of the Jail Notebook in 1994, which was released in the Jaipur Raj Bhavan by the then governor D P Chattopadhyaya[2]. The Jail Notebook got some good reviews in newspapers, but could not reach a mass readership as its publisher lacked a network of distribution and the book itself lacked enough aesthetic appeal. Yet its Hindi translation and other translations in Punjabi and other languages appeared after a few years, unfortunately without acknowledgment of Hooja’s work as the original editor and annotator.
After I joined the Jawaharlal Nehru University faculty in 2005, I convinced Leftword publications (based in New Delhi) to bring out a new edition of the Notebook and with Bhupinder Hooja’s permission, its new edition was brought out by Leftword in 2007. This was during the birth centenary of Bhagat Singh. The Notebook was supplemented with other essays (articles by Bhagat Singh and also articles on Bhagat  Singh such as by EV Ramasamy “Periyar”, and an introduction written by myself). Sudhanva Deshpande, the publisher of the book further improved the annotations, but the main credit of the book remained with Hooja.
The Marathi[3], (two) Bengali[4] and Urdu[5] translations of versions of the Notebook were published in 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2010 respectively. A scanned and printed edition of the Notebook, edited by Babar Singh (the son of Kulbir Singh) and K C Yadav was also published during the centenary year (priced at Rs 999) by Hope India Publications, Gurgaon.
 Abhey Sandhu, the younger son of Kulbir Singh, during the birth centenary year of Bhagat Singh, also got the Notebook published by both the Punjab and the Haryana government; in a scanned form by the former and in Punjabi and Hindi translations by the latter. These publications were not priced and were published by the public relations departments of both the governments for free distribution. When I was invited to address the Bhagat Singh youth awardees this year on 28th March at Mohali, I was pleasantly surprised to know that the awardees of the Punjab government were being gifted with a copy of the Jail Notebook. The government had pre-empted what I sought to suggest as part of my speech and I deeply appreciate this gesture.
I remember that there are multiple editions of the revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil’s autobiography in Hindi and I was pleasantly surprised to see Swami Agnivesh bringing out the edition of that autobiography at just Rs 5 per copy and which his organisation distributed to school students almost free of cost. The Notebook is now part of the Government of India’s publication division;  as Shaheed Bhagat Singh:Dastavezon ke Aiene Men, released by the veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar in presence of Abhey Sandhu and Kiranjit Sandhu, two nephews of Bhagat Singh, on 19th December 2007, an anniversary of the martyrdom of the revolutionaries Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqualla Khan.
I understand that some more editions of the Notebook have also been brought out by other publishers and individuals, including by Abhey Sandhu himself. There is no harm in multiple editions of such inspiring books. It is only when someone makes the false claim that the “Jail Notebook is being published for the first time” that one should rightfully take umbrage.

[1] Hari Kishan was tried and executed by the British for shooting at the Punjab governor Geoffrey De Montmorrency at a convocation ceremony of the Punjab University at Lahore on 23rd December 1930.
[2] Hooja acknowledged three of us who had written on Bhagat Singh’s works before – Kamlesh Mohan from Chandigarh, Shiv Verma, the communist leader who was a comrade of Bhagat Singh from his HSRA days and me. All three of us had written on Bhagat Singh’s ideology and his works.
[3] The Marathi version was a translated form of my Hindi book – Bhagat Singh ke Sampooran Dastavez (2004).
[4] One Bengali version was translated from the Leftword edition of the Notebook.
[5] Some parts of the Notebook were published in Urdu in the Urdu version of my book – Bhagat Singh ke Syaasi Dastavez (2010)

Since then more editions of Jail Notebook have come out. One in Kannada this very year-2016, one more by Yadwinder Sandhu, translated in Marathi as well. And the latest one edited by Harish Jain from Chandigarh, but none gave credit to late Sh. Bhupender Hooja except translated ones from mine compiled work by Leftword, in Hindi, Kannada and Bengali, where the credit, even agreement was signed with Bhupender Hooja, who is no more among us now. whose 1994 first publication of Jail Diary is pioneering work. 
  The original copy of Jail Notebook is still with Yadwinder Sandhu, grandson of Sh. Kulbir Singh, younger brother of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and grandfather of Abhitej Sandhu. Microfilmed copies are with National Archives and NMML and Supreme Court Musuem too has its digital copy.