Monday, 24 October 2016
Few days ago Indian and Pakistani youth celebrated Bhagat Singh’s 110th birth anniversary on 28th September and few days from now the whole world youth will be remembering Che Guevara on 9th October, completing 49 years of his martyrdom at the hands of US supported Bolivian reactionary regime in 1967.
While Che Guevara became symbol of resistance to US imperialism from early seventies in the height of Vietnam War and by the passing of time and with publication of his writings became more and more fascinating hero of the youth world over. Bhagat Singh phenomenon among Indian youth was there since his martyrdom in 1931, but it is only in digital times that his image as hero has travelled beyond India. Pakistan youth and liberal intelligentsia are now equally enamoured of him and claim him to be Pakistan’s hero. Left intelligentsia world over is now recognising Bhagat Singh also as much a hero, as Che Guevara is!
How both these youth icons have sustained and expanded as hero image among youth? Bhagat Singh lived between 1907 and 1931 for just twenty three years five months, whereas Che Guevara lived from 1928 to 1967 for 39 years. Bhagat Singh got seven years plus political life, whereas Che’s political life was started from the age of 23 years, when as a student of medicine, he travelled around South America on his motor cycle with a friend Alberto Grenado in 1951 for 8000 kilometres. Journey took Guevara through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Miami, Florida, for 20 days, before returning home to Buenos Aires. They spend nine months in this travel and spent some time in leper colony in Peru. The sight of crushing poverty, hunger in rural areas made him think of liberation of South America. Prior to this he took a solo journey in Northern Argentine for 4500 kilometres alone on an engine fitted bicycle in 1950. In 1953, he completed his medical studies and officially became Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara!
Ernesto Guevara was born in Argentine on 14th June 1928 in a well to do family. But he got enlightened atmosphere at home to grow intellectually. He got asthma from his childhood, which did not leave him till the end of his life, yet he excelled in swimming, football, golf and was untiring cyclist! Ernesto was born three years before Bhagat Singh was hanged by British colonialists.
Bhagat Singh also got political awareness from his family, whose grandfather, father and two uncles were part of freedom struggle of India and there were lot of books and journals at his home in many languages, which made him grow into a multi lingual personality. Bhagat Singh’s early life was also shaped by Punjab peasants suffering from debt, against which his Uncle Ajit Singh and Lala Lajpat Rai were organising resistance movement. Bhagat Singh became full blown political activist at the age of 16 years only when revolutionaries formed Hindustan Republican Association(HRA), which five years later turned into Hindustan Socialist Republican Association/Army(HSRA) due to ideological colour given to it by Bhagat Singh by his deep study of Marxism and Soviet revolution of 1917.
Che Guevara after 1951 motor cycle trip, started again on July 7, 1953, Guevara this time to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. On December 10, 1953, before leaving for Guatemala, Guevara sent an update to his Aunt Beatriz from San José, Costa Rica. In the letter Guevara speaks of traversing through the dominion of the United Fruit Company; a journey which convinced him that Company's capitalist system was a terrible one. In Guatemala he saw the overthrow of democratically elected President Arbenz’s government by American supported local right-wing forces in 1954. Guevara himself was eager to fight on behalf of Arbenz and joined an armed militia organized by the Communist Youth for that purpose, but frustrated with the group's inaction, he soon returned to medical duties. Following the coup, he again volunteered to fight, but soon after, Arbenz took refuge in the Mexican Embassy and told his foreign supporters to leave the country. Guevara's repeated calls to resist were noted by supporters of the coup, and he was marked for murder. He had to seek shelter in Argentine embassy, before he could get safe passage to Mexico. He worked as doctor in Mexico, where he met Castro brothers in 1955, who were trying to organise Cuban revolution from Mexico. Castro had attempted revolution in Cuba in July 26th 1953 movement by attacking military garrison in Moncada and were sentenced for long jail terms. They were released after two plus years and had come over to Mexico. Che Guevara joined with them here and they set out on leaking cruise Granma with 82 fighters for Cuba through sea on 25th November 1956. While reaching mountains of Sierra Maestra in Cuba, Cuban dictator Batista forces had killed most of them, only 22 remaining met after many days in mountains and Che Guevara was put in command second to Fidel Castro and within two years they made the world’s most amazing revolution and captured power on 1st January 1959. Batista and his supporters fled to Miami in US. Che himself liberated Santa Clara with just 400 hundred soldiers from ten times army of Batista! This is world’s only example of 82 men army throwing 80 thousand army of Batista regime in just two years time!
Che Guevara helped Cuban revolution succeed, he was one of senior minister in Castro cabinet, yet his heart was in revolution, he wished to make in whole of Latin America. Most of all he wished to make in his birth country Argentina, where one of his Cuban comrade went but lost life too soon. He was feeling restless and went to Congo and other African countries to help national liberation movements. Later in 1966, he decided to go to Bolivia and try Cuban like revolution, where a Communist party already existed, but which was divided in Moscow and Beijing camps and did not help Che. Che tried on his own to organise the guerrillas force, despite suffering from his asthma all the time, but failed due to heavy odds. US supported Bolivian dictator Barrientos got him killed brutally after he was captured on 8th October. One day Che was in captivity, he was tortured most cruelly, but he kept his head high all the time and it was his manner of facing death, that made him immortal and hero of the world youth. He wrote his own epitaph earlier-‘Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this our battle cry may have reached some receptive ear and another hand may be extended to wield our weapons.’
Che Guevara was true internationalist, born in Argentina, fought in Guatemala and Congo, made revolution in Cuba and died in Bolivia while making revolution.
Che Guevara in his sixteen years active life did so much, apart from making Cuban revolution and trying revolution in Congo, Africa and Bolivia, he wrote so much. His Motorcycle Diaries, Bolivian diaries, Guerrilla Warfare, Congo Diary, Cuba and the road to Socialism, Che Guevara Reader-which included number of his speeches, letters and interviews, Global Justice, n Marx and Engels and many more writings show the remarkable mind of Che. Five of his children survived him, some of them are now known figures in Cuba. Che’s personal collection of books included books by Jawaharlal Nehru as well, whom he met during a visit to Indian and Pakistan. He was probably not aware of Bhagat Singh’s writings, whom he would had loved like he loved Castro!
Jail Notebook of Bhagat Singh from 12th September 1929 to undated time before 23rd March 1931 and Bolivian Diaries of Che Guevara from 7th November 1966 to 7th October 1967, just a day before his capture, though different make interesting reading. While Bhagat Singh was taking notes of world classic books on literature, history and political economy, Che was taking critical notes of his revolutionary activities. Both were voracious readers and would be found reading in most odd conditions of underground life. Both faced death in a most honourable manner. Bhagat Singh writing to Lieutenant Governor of Punjab to shoot them being ‘war prisoners’ and Che exhorting the killer to tell-‘shoot coward…’! Both were warm hearted and friendly personalities. Memoirs of comrades and friends of both have narrated number of incidents of their warmth.
Both were the best sons of humanity produced so far-that is why both still inspire love and respect among youth!
*Chaman Lal is retired Professor of JNU, New Delhi and author of few books on Bhagat Singh. He can be reached at email@example.com
H. no 2690, Urban Estate, Phase-2, Patiala(Punjab)-147002
Monday, 26 September 2016
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
The Last of the Rebels: Ananda and his Masterda, bilingual (English and Bengali), Piyul Mukherjee and and Nivedita Patnaik, pages 142(English)+, price 399/Rupees, ed.2016, Bushfire Publishers Mumbai and Kolkata.
A Teenager’s eye witness account of Chittagong uprising 1930: Armed Rebellion and Indian freedom struggle
Chittagong revolt of 1930 has been one of most important revolutionary movement during freedom struggle. It exploded on 18th April 1930 and by 1934 it has given many martyrs for the country, the last one being the leader of the movement Master Surya Sen, who was executed in January 1934. But scores of the revolutionaries lived around and had long lives as the Ghadarite Babas of 1915. Incidentally both got together in Andaman’s and other jails for long incarcerations and both movements survivors joined Communist mostly and few Congress party, but none joined so called ‘nationalist’ RSS!
Many survivors of the movement wrote their memoirs and helping historians to analyse the movement with authentic documentation. Anant Singh, Kalpana Dutt and few more had memoirs, though some remained untranslated from Bengali, such as Anant Singh’s memoirs, but some like Kalpana Dutt memoirs got into English and in some other languages further. Two films ‘Chittagong’ and ‘Khelenge Ji Jaan Se’ were made on the basis of these memoirs and other books.
Ananda Gupta’s memoir are latest addition to memoirs on Chittagong. Ananda Gupta who joined the movement as teenager like many more, had lived abroad mostly in UK to get treatment for the illness given by prolonged jail term had spoken to his family members, who gave these memoirs a shape in bilingual book-English and Bengali in one volume-a rarity in publication world. Again, though there is certain publication house name, but it looks like self-publication of 2016. It is co-authored by mother-daughter duo of Nivedita Patnaik and Piyul Mukhrejee. Mother doing Bengali text and daughter-the trained sociologist Dr. Piyul Mukhrejee doing the English text and editing job.
Foreword of this memoir is written by Subrata Bose, nephew of Netaji Subhas Bose, who carried forward Netaji ideas of Forward Bloc as part of it and remained member Parliament from the party. Subrato Bose’s father Sarat Chander Bose as an eminent lawyer and socialist to the core, had rendered all help to Chittagong revolutionary movement and its prisoners in jail later. Subrata Bose in his brief foreword has quoted British Secretary of State for India between 1931-35 Sir Samuel Hoare-‘In the battle for India’s freedom, the Chittagong uprising of 1930 turned the tide, and brought in its wake a rising and a clamour for immediate independence.’
Subrata Bose has appreciated Chittagong revolutionaries as ‘ youthful revolutionaries, who in their love for the freedom of their nation, allowed their own lives to be put at stake, facing the most vindictive torture imaginable without complaint. Their sacrifice has just no parallel anywhere. They are the unvanquished children of Mother India.”(Foreword)
Subrata Bose appreciated the bilingual publication of the book as to reach more readers.
Subrata Bose wrote perhaps the last public text of his life in this forward, as after writing this on 11th January 2016, he passed away on 20th January after just nine days.
In the Preface to English part of the book (this reader can’t read Bengali), one of the authors Piyul Mukherjee has introduced Ananda Gupta as one of ‘clutch of teenagers’, who participated the Chittagong armoury raid in 1930. Chittagong is called Chattogram in Bengali and is now in Bangladesh. Ananda Gupta was caught in an action after few months of outbreak in French territory of Chandannagar by notorious police commissioner Charles Tegart with the mature leaders of the movement Ganesh Ghosh and Loknath Bal, while one of their youngest comrade and Anand’s closest friend Jeebon Ghoshal lost his life to British bullets. Ananda was sentenced to transportations for life to Andamans after two years in 1932, though he was not even adult then. Anand Gupta spent total of sixteen years in jail and was released just a year prior to independence in 1946. His body was wrecked inside jail by asthma. He has to go to England for treatment as Indian doctors were unable to treat him. Ananda had no money and was supported by his wife and author Piyul’s aunty (Meshi), sister of her mother and co-author of the book Nivedita. She had laboured hard in England to get treatment for her husband, who also joined to work after he recovered from his serious ailments.
Ananda Gupta was born on 26th September 1916 and was just fourteen years of age when he joined with many more of his age lads to Masterda Surjyo Sen’s army for Indian freedom, he passed away in December 2005. This volume has been brought out as Ananda Gupta’s birth centenary year dedication to him. Kolkata’s Shaheed Surjya Sen Bhavan and Biplab Teertha Chattogram Smriti Sansthan has been associated with the publication of this volume. The book originally is in Bengali and Nivedita Patnaik has reproduced Ananda Gupt’s memoirs of Chittagong days faithfully told in Bengali language. Piyul Mukherjee has done its English version. The book is dedicated to Banimashi Sunada Gupta, Ananda Gupta’s wife. Anjan Gupta the only child of Ananda Gupta has also remained involved with the book as told by Piyul in her introduction.
Book is divided into ten chapters including Preface and afterword added by six appendices. In introductions authors give brief account of Chittagong revolt as ‘A Forgotten Chapter’ and describe Ananda Gupta as disciple of Masterda, as he was lovably called-Surya Sen or Surjyo Sen in Bengali. Introduction also refers to Anada Gupta’s journey to Andamans in 1997, fifty years after the independence at the invitation of then President K R Narayanan, only second time in his life-first as prisoner and now as ‘honoured prisoner’! Authors tell about the reminiscence of their beloved Ananda Gupta.
Chapter one begins with Ananda Gupta’s memoirs in his own words and first one is his meeting with Master da. He was interviewed by Surya Sen after his recruitment to revolutionary group in 1929, at the age of 13 years! Surya Sen explained the ‘jubok biplobi’-young rebel the world vision of revolution, inspired by Irish nationalists and Easter uprising.
In second chapter recounts the details of 18th April 1930, the day of Chittagong armoury raid. Ananda was assigned he job of driving revolutionaries to the target.They destroyed the telegraph machine led by Ambikada. Ganesh Ghosh was designated as ‘Field Marshal’. Four days later was the famous Jalalabad battle. Both were historic in Masterda’s life. Most touching is the description of young revolutionaries martyrdom, falling first was Hargopal(Tegra) Bal, then the youngest martyr Nirmal Lala, his young voice calling Vande Matram before falling. Many more fell.
In third chapter ‘Feni Encounter ‘ is recounted and how Ganesh Ghosh escaped by posing rural folk –‘dehati log’ from police, who was asking for Ganesh Ghosh and Anant Singh!
Fourth chapter is description of savage killings at Chandernagar, where Ananda and others had taken refuge in French territory, though close to Calcutta. These four-Ganesh Ghosh, Ananda, Lokenath Bal and Jeebon Ghoshal, the last fell to bullets, while three were arrested on 1st September 1930 by Charles Tegart in illegal attack in foreign territory. Fifth Chapter describes the life in incarceration, how Ganesh Ghosh and Anant Singh and others went through brutal tortures, but did not break in spirits. How at such young age Ananda refused to eat good food given by authorities in jail, unless all other prisoners were having the same has been described both by Ananda in his memoirs and Anant Singh in his own memoirs. He narrates the corruption inside jails as well. Ananda Gupta gives break up of his jail incarcerations as-Five years in Andamans, Two years during trial at Chittagong, six years in various other jails-Hooghly, Lal Bazar, Dhaka, Chittagong, Midnapore and Alipore, three years under ‘house arrest’ at Siuri-a total of 16 years. Andamans cell of jail was 13”into7” feet in size with a small window at ten feet height. Due to rigorous imprisonment, they were made to do hard labour-from morning till evening, they were served a tasteless coarse meal. In this long chapter Ananda mentions 1933 hunger strike of prisoners, (in which many like Mahavir Prasad, Bhagat Singh’s comrade died-not mentioned by Ananda), conditions changed for better. How Karl Marx’s The Capital reached inside jail that is also narrated in humorous mood. The shocking news of Masterda hanging in 1934, making them stunned with sadness. The humanist behaviour of Irish doctor Colonel Fischer is also underlined, same doctor sent him to England after his release, as he had set up private practice in Calcutta after he left Andamans.
Sixth chapter of the memoirs focuses upon ‘Shri Sarat Bose and His Patriotic Love-Overwhelming personality of Netaji Subhas Bose has somewhat overshadowed his elder brother Sarat Chander Bose’s role in freedom struggle, who was stronger than his younger brother in many respects and more committed socialist in ideas. It was Sarat Chander Bose who defended Chittagong revolutionaries in courts, not only he defended them, he helped them in various other ways, by liberally funding them, even offering to help in escape from prison etc. Sarat Chander Bose was member of Bengal legislative assembly at the time of partition and he stood for united Bengal along with then Chief minister of Bengal Suhrawardi, their resolution of United Bengal was defeated by Congress and Communist party at the time which voted for division of Bengal on communal lines, a most unfortunate division against the principles of language and culture based unity of people. In fact Jinnah was prepared to accept Bengal and Punjab as unified independent nations, as in Punjab assembly also then chief minister Khizr Hyat Khan Tiwana and Congress leader Gopi Chang Bhargav were in favour of United Punjab, as independent nation like as Bengal could have been. Had these two nations came into being at that time with big population, the whole political scene in South Asia would have been different! The massacre of one million people and cross migration of ten million people in Punjab and migration in Bengal would not have occurred and kind of communal cauldron South Asia is going through today, may not have occurred. The principle of language and culture based people’s unity could have been established which was thrown to wind on the basis of religious differences, which is still causing maximum damage to South Asian nations! Sarat Chander Bose was visionary and had Subhas Bose also been on political scene at that time, the history of Bengal would have been different!
Seventh chapter is focused on interesting meeting with Charlie Chaplin, who had met Gandhi in London and Ananda was so much impressed by him that he made a special meeting arrangement with Charlie during one of his journeys and the meeting proved to be pleasant and much longer than fixed five minutes, as Charlie Chaplin was keen to listen to Indian revolutionary!
Eighth chapter is description of release from jail and after life, in which Ananda joins Jyoti Basu and other in prisoner release movement. In afterword Ananda feels his wish fulfilled of visiting Andamans in 1997 at President Narayanan’s invitation. He was honoured by President on 30th December 1997 and passed away on 8th December 2005, after eight years. Masterda’s flame remained alight all his life and at the age of 81 years, he told, given the chance, he would do it again and never regretted despite failure of Chittagong movement.
In appendices, first focuses upon family members of Ananda, which begins with grandfather Rajeshwar Gupta, whose ‘Prasad Bhavan’ was on a hillock in Chittagong. Mother Manorma Devi had great impact on Ananda, his elder bother Debprasad Gupta-Debu was martyred in Chittagong uprising. Second appendix traces the history of Bengal through Timeline from 7th Century AD, focusing more on twentieth century and renaissance movement including Bipan Pal, Tagore family, Aurbinodo Ghosh, revolutionary youth like Khudiram Bose, Chittranjan Das like radical nationalists role in it. Third appendix is sketch written of Master Surya Sen by Ananda Gupta in 1993. Fourth focuses upon American war of independence and Irish rebellion, which had impacted Chittagong revolutionaries. Fifth underlines differences between Gandhi and Tagore on social issues and sixth is Tagore’s concern about revolutionaries.
English part of the book concludes with bibliography of important publications on Chittagong uprising. These include-Memoirs of Anant Singh in Bengali-Chattogram Jubo Bidroho-two parts. Others include Manoshi Bhattacharya’s 2012 book Chittagong Summer of 1930 and Manini Chatterjee’s Do and Die of 1999.
Nivedita Patnaik and her daughter Piyul Mukherjee have done a commendable job to preserve the memories of their close kin Ananda Gupta, which are much important to understand the participation of teenagers in revolutionary movements of India and it continues in post-independence period also.
Friday, 19 August 2016
- See more at: http://www.frontierweekly.com/articles/vol-49/49-6/49-6-Savarkar.html#sthash.0huxrfRP.dpuf
Savarkar, Bhagat Singh and .....
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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Vol. 49, No.6, Aug 14 - 20, 2016
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
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.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE SPECTRE OF BHAGAT SINGH
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