Friday, 3 July 2009

12th student Gayatri Vishwanath's project essay on Bhagat Singh

International Baccalaureate Extended Essay

Subject: History

Name of the student: Gayatri Viswanath

Supervisor: Dr.Rakesha Chaturvedi

Date: 17th October

Topic: What Were The Other Aspects Of Bhagat Singh Apart

From Being A Revolutionary?


My essay discusses the other aspects of Bhagat Singh apart from being a revolutionary .On probing the common public about who Bhagat Singh was, some were clueless and majority f them gave an unanimous response, that he was a revolutionary leader who had embraced the gallows at the young age of 23, thus dying for the nation as Shaheed.Is that it? No, there are many other aspects to Bhagat Singh’s personality too and this essay aims to discover them. It explores Bhagat Singh’s thirst for knowledge, his views on religion, his idea of love and his differences with Gandhi.

For this, I first contacted Prof. Chaman Lal, editor of 'Complete Documents of Bhagat Singh' in Hindi 'Bhagat Sing Ke Sampooran Dastavej' and Bhagat Singh aur unke saathiyon ka Dastavej for helping me by providing information on Bhagat Singh from the Primary sources of Bhagat Singh. His effort in glorifying this great hero had encouraged me to do more research on Bhagat Singh. Also, many internet articles and internet sites along with few books guided me to write my extended essay in history.


  • Abstract………………………………………………………………………2
  • Contents………………………………………………………………………3
  • Extended Essay-The Main Body
    • Introduction……………………………………………………………4
    • Bhagat Singh and his family atmosphere……………………………...5
    • The Calcuttan Experience……………………………………………..6
    • His notion of love……………………………………………………..7
    • Atheism………………………………………………………………..7
    • Bhagat Singh and Gandhi……………………………………………...9
    • Informative Singh…………………………………………………….12
    • Bhagat Singh as a social reformer……………………………………16
  • Conclusion……………………………………………………………………18
  • Bibliography………………………………………………………………….19

What Are The Other Aspects Of Bhagat Singh Besides Being A Revolutionary Leader?


“Bhagat Singh” which, in Punjabi means, “the fortunate” is what a boy in the district of Layalpura, Punjab was named when the child’s father and uncle were freed from jail. They were revolutionaries who wanted freedom from the British at any cost. He was Shaheed Bhagat Singh, born on 28 September 1907, when ideas of revolution had spread all over India[1]. Bhagat Singh formed the ‘Naujavan Bharat Sabha’ to spread awareness on revolution in Punjab, murdered Saunders to take vengeance against Lala Lajpat Rai’s death in the Lathi charge and finally bombed the assembly along with Batukeshwar Datt[2].These were his revolutionary aspects. But, there are many other aspects to Bhagat Singh’s life, revealed but ignored.

This essay explores the other aspects of Bhagat Singh apart form being a revolutionary.It throws light on Bhagat Singh and the family atmoshere ,the boredom effect of congress, his differences with Gandhi ,his notion of love, his views on religion ,his interest in socialist doctrine and his thirst for knowledge and Bhagat Singh as a social reformer.

Bhagat Singh And His Family Atmosphere

Bhagat Singh was born in a very patriotic and revolutionary atmospere..His father Sardar Kishen Singh and his uncle , Ajith Singh were Ghadarites. On the 28 th of September, Sardar kishen singh was jailed at the Lahore central jail because he had agitated aginst the Colonisation bill and his uncle was jailed at Mandalay jail.It was a fortunate coincidence that both were released on the same day when a new member of the family had born[3].Hence , Bhagat singh was so named because he brought luck to his family since his very birth.The ghadar movement and its famous revolutionart, Kartar Singh Sarabha created a feeling for the need to oust the britshers from India.Kartar Singh Sarabha had a very strong influence on Bhagat Singh’s political philosophy.In effect, when Bhagat Singh was arrested a photograph of Kartar Singh was found in his pocket.[4]The ancestors of Bhagat Singh were involved in anti british raj[5] activies for freeing the motherland.Thefore for Bhagat Singh , this was a natural instinct.[6]Being an active member of the ghadar party , there were other leaders of the party who would visit Kishen Singh’s house for discussions on their political and revolutionary activities.These meetings were of great interest to little Bhagat.[7]So , one observes how family background influences the mind of Bhagat Singh just like the family values programmed in the brain of the Shaheed.

The Calcuttan Experience

Bhagat Singh’s Calcuttan experience adds a bit of comical touch to his life. One discovers the other side of Bhagt Singh.When Bhagat Singh ahd been to Calcutta, he changed his name to Hari and decided to present himself as a Bengali by wearing dhotis and a shawl.He attended the National Congress Session [8]. There he heard nothing about radical changes instead heard about the demand for the Dominion Status which gave the British empire the power.He found that much of the congress men were from the middle classes and wanted the rich to be in secure positions and ddi this by putting pressure on the government.The farmers and workers who were in millions were not considered.Bhagat Singh analysed this situation and came up with the result that the Congress did not want to strengthen up its base by accepting a mass into the party because they feared revolution.He got bored of this session and he went to a movie hall.The right movie was screened to kill Bhagat’s boredom- Uncle Tom’s Cabine. This revelas another aspect about him . He admired Abraham Lincoln, who did not allow the southern and northern states to divide.This takes us to another sphere which shows the fear in Bhagat Singh’s mind about Curzon’s policy of Divide And Rule policy.[9]

His Notion Of Love

One of the most interesting aspects is Bhat Singh’s idea of love.His idea of love is clearly explained in a letter written by him to Sukhdev.Sukhdev was one of his associates with whom he was hanged.he believed that love was helpful to man.He gave a reference to Mazzini(which reveals that he was informative ), the Italian Revolutionary ,who “ would have gone mad and committed suicide” if he had not received a letter from the girl he had loved.Mazzini ,after his failure in his first rising could not bear the outcome and repercussions -which were the haunting ideas of the dead comrades.[10]Bhagt Singh defines love as “ nothing but passion , not an animal instinct but a human one,and very sweet too.”[11] He says that love brings about a feeling of pride in man, provided love be love.He ridicules the stereotypical lovers in movies by saying, “ you cant call these girls-mad people,as we generally see in films-lovers.”[12]He also feels that love is a natual feeling and cannot be created.This letter reveals the romatic aspect of Bhagat Singh.


Bhagat Singh was an atheist.He believed that religion and God were “ products of man’s fear,ignorance and lack of self-confidence” .he justifies his views on atheism in one of his essays-Why Am I An Atheist?Throught the essay runs the idea for the need to be logical and scientific and not religious.He totally rejects the existence of an omniscient-God.But , in his childhood days, Bhagat Singh was channelised into a very religious mode.He was staunchly religious as his father was an Arya samaji.His father used to advice him to offer prayers to God.Though he grew agnostic during his college days, he yet grew his beard and his kais-the long hair, following the Sikh norms of Khalsa. Even during the times of his revolutionary actities , either his leadre were agnostic or staunch followers of religion like Sachindranath Sanyal.But, out of the blue, a desire to study aroused within him.He wrote in his essay, “ study more,more-said I to myself ” He studied Bakunin, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, all of them being atheists.It was afterall Karl Marx, the founder of the doctrine of socialism ,who said, “ Religion is the Opium of the masses” .Reading which was love for Bhagat Singh changed his view on religion.It was a book titled ‘ common sense’ by Nirlamaba Swami which turned Bhagat from an agnostic to an atheist.In this essay,by the use of effective figure of speech, rhetoric , Bhagat Singh mocks the religion and the existence of the supreme power-God.He refers to God as a myth. He started thinking in very pragmatic lines and as an indication to show that he was no longer religious , he shaved his beard and cut his hair,thus breaking the rules of khalsa. He did not want to be known as a Sikh freedom fighter. This showed his secular nature.[13]These were the times when the Britishers were trying their best to divide the Indians on the basis of religion.Thus , he drew attention by cutting his beard to tell that British Imperialism was their common enemy and not each other.[14]Also he believed that religion could not be mixed with politics.He was only in his teens when he started to analyse situations and making independent solutions.This reveals his level of thinking and questioning at such a young age.

Bhagat Singh and Gandhi

On the 23 rd of March 1931 Bhagat Singh along with Sukhdev and Rajguru were martyred by the British Raj. Bhagat Singh was just 23 years young when he sacrificed his life for the nation. He was arrested on account of bombing the Central Legislative assembly at Lahore along with another revolutionary, Batukeshwar Dutt on April 8, 1929.Later on when the Britishers learnt that Bhagat Singh was responsible for the death of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, J P Saunders, Bhagat Singh was sentenced to death. The death of Bhagat Singh could have been avoided if Gandhi had made an attempt. Had Gandhi made a precondition that the death penalty of Bhagat, Rajguru and Sukhdev should be cancelled before the signing of the Gandhi-Irwin pact, then Bhagat Singh would have lived more .The congress had made a statement just after Bhagat Singh's execution that," the congress made many attempts to save the lives of Bhagat Singh and his two associates".Gandhi himself said this:

This is a false notion.Infact the historical records of the conversation between Gandhi and Lord Irwin does not include a word of Bhagat[15].During that time, i.e.1930s Bhagat Singh's popularity was at its peak , at a point where it could have been the toughest challenge to Gandhi's popularity. Bhagat Singh had started to capture the hearts and minds of all the Indians inspite of being in jail through the 63 days hunger strike and his true desire and passion for giving India Poorna Swaraj ,complete freedom. Later on Gandhi ,himself agreed that he did not make any attempts to save Bhagat Singh and his associates instead stressed that his death had to be executed before the Karachi session of his party. The fear of losing the father of the nation title restrained Gandhi from making a plea for Bhagat Singh's life. This was what Gandhi commented after Bhagat and his two associate’s execution:

“Bhagat Singh and his two associates have been hanged. The Congress made many

attempts to save their lives and the Government entertained many hopes of it, but all has been in a vain.

Bhagat Singh did not wish to live. He refused to apologize, or even file an appeal. Bhagat Singh was not a devotee of non-violence, but he did not subscribe to the religion of violence. He took to violence due to helplessness and to defend his homeland. In his last letter, Bhagat Singh wrote --" I have been arrested while waging a war. For me there can be no gallows. Put me into the mouth of cannon and blow me off." These heroes had conquered the fear of death. Let us bow to them a thousand times for their heroism.

But we should not imitate their act. In our land of millions of destitute and crippled people, if we take to the practice of seeking justice through murder, there will be a terrifying situation. Our poor people will become victims of our atrocities. By making a dharma of violence, we shall be reaping the fruit of our own actions.

Hence, though we praise the courage of these brave men, we should never countenance their activities. Our dharma is to swallow our anger, abide by the discipline of non-violence and carry out our duty. [16]

March 29, 1931”

The folly of Gandhi makes us think, What If Bhagat Singh Had Lived? [17], which keeps ringing in our minds.

Also the differences of ideologies which Bhagat Singh and Gandhi played are to be noted. When on one hand , Gandhi followed the policy of Non-Violence , Bhagat Singh followed the policy of violence and terrorism to oust the British. The revolutionaries were anti-imperialism and were very radical while Gandhi’s congress was extremely moderate and had very petty demands like the granting of Dominion status and Swaraj.[18]These were the two different ideologies but both had a common goal, freedom of India.

The Informative Singh

It was his urge to study more which was responsible for turning him to an atheist. He started reading a lot of books of Marx and Russian revolution. He was thirsty for knowledge. Even though procuring certain books was a difficult task, Bhagat Singh read avidly especially books on the Soviet Union and the Russian revolution. He also made a lot of effort to implant this reading habit among his fellow comrades. He was attracted towards MARXISM. He believed that in a vast country like India ,socialism would be the only ideology which would survive. He liked this ideology which appealed to the masses. Since the working class was always oppresses by the rich and the powerful ,he worked for their betterment. HE said to them," You are the real proletariat, sleeping lions, arise and rebel against the oppressing old order". He appealed to the workers and peasants because the other sections of the Indian society like the capitalists , traders, princes and big landlords would give way to imperialism instead of POORNA SWARAJ by striking a deal with the British Raj. Bhagat Singh after reading Marx and Lenin learnt that only a revolution by the proletariats could save the land from the atrocities from the Britishers and the Indian loyalists of the British like the landlords and zamindars.What he visualised as a future utopian Indian land is very similar to the visual which Lenin would have imagined for Russia. His belief in Marxism is another influence on him as an atheist. He prepared revolutionary programmes for India like Marx in Russia. He also advised his fellow comrades to read MARX and LENIN. He wrote in his appeal To Young Political Workers,
" the party must begin its work by conducting propaganda among its masses…It is of paramount importance to get peasants and workers organised and to garner their sympathy. The Party may be called the Communist Party".Infact he was so inspired by these ideas that on Lenin's death anniversary, on January 21, 1930, a group of revolutionaries along with Bhagat Singh appeared in the court wearing red scarves (red is the communist colour).As soon as the magistrate entered the court, they raised slogans," long live socialist revolution"," long live people", "Lenin's name will never die", and "down with imperialism".Bhagat Singh read this telegram in the letter and also requested the magistrate to send it to the Third International. The telegram says," on Lenin day we send hearty greetings to all who are doing something for carrying forward the ideas of the great Lenin. We wish success to the great experiment Russia is carrying out. We join our voice to that of international working class movement. The proletariat will win. Capitalism will be defeated. Death to imperialism. These were his views on politics.”[19]

Also Lenin had such a strong influence on Bhagat Singh that on Lenin’s anniversary, Bhagat Singh had written a telegram. This is what the telegram says:

ON LENIN DAY WE SEND HEARTY GREETINGS TO ALL who are doing something for carrying forward the ideas of the great Lenin. We wish success to the great experiment Russia is carrying out. We join our voice to that of the international working class movement. The proletariat will win. Capitalism will be defeated. Death to Imperialism. [20]

It is from this Marxist point of view that he wanted to eliminate imperialism in India. When it comes to imperialism we have all heard of Che Guvera,but not to forget that Bhagat Singh too made an equal mark in fighting against imperialism.Bhagat Singh not only believed in providing freedom to India from the British but also to free the poor from their oppressors like the powerful rich people . "Bhagat Singh was searching for the ultimate ideology of human liberation from all kinds of yokes"-says Chaman Lal ,editor of Bhagat Singh documents .For Bhagat Singh the nationality of the oppressor did not matter, be it a Britisher or an Indian, he wanted them to be eliminated.Bhagat was an inspiration for all his comrades and a realization within them aroused them from their deep slumber and act for the cause of the nation. They were convinced of a need for a socialist policy and renamed their party from Hindustan Republican Association to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. A series of incidents like the Kakori Conspiracy case, Saunder's murder and the final Assembly Bombing brought Bhagat and his associated to jail. This was about his revolutionary activities, where we discover a rebel and intellectual planning in Bhagat Singh.

Bhagat Singh was a polyglot. He was fluent in Urdu, Hindi, Gurmukhi, English and Sanskrit. He got into the process of enriching his brain with more and more knowledge. He can be best described as a "Waiting Vessel"[21].Even during his last years in jail, Bhagat Singh read a number of books inspite of knowing that he would be hanged to death. Minutes before his execution, he was reading Lenin. When visitors went to visit him in jail, he requested them to send him books on Marxism, history, economics and literature from the Dwaraka Dass Library in Lahore. On the 24th of July,1930, Bhagat Singh had sent a letter to a close friend,Jaidev Gupta for 11 books, some of which include, Militarism by Karl Liebknecht ,Why Men Fight by Bertrand Russell , Leftwing Communism by Lenin etc.Statistics from his jail notebooks indicate that he has written excerpts from one hundred and eighty authors and forty-three books! This reflects the clarity of thoughts when he lectured on communism and socialism .He had visioned an Utopian India with the ideas borrowed from the texts he read.

Few extracts from his Jail Notebook reveal his influence of Russian history and interest in communism.

Czarist Regime & the Bolshevik Regime

Fraigier Hunt tells that in the first fourteen months of their rule, the Bolsheviks executed 4500 men , mostly for stealing and speculation.

After the 1905 revolution,Stolypin , minister of Czar caused the execution of 32773 men within twelve months.[22]

Illegal work

“In a country where the bourgeoisie , or the counter-revolutionary Social Democracy is in power, the Communist party must learn to coordinate its illegal work with legal work and the legal work must always be under the effective control of the illegal party”


Bhagat Singh As A Social Reformer

The most important and amazing untold story about Bhagat Singh is that Bhagat was a social reformer! His feelings for the common exploited masses is very well expresses in the statement he made along with Batukeshwar Dutt on 6 th June 1929.He said," To change the system, we need revolution. Is it not a constructed injustice that the labours and producers , despite being the mainstream , are a victim of exploitation and have been denied basic human rights? Farmers, who produce die of hunger. The weaver who weaves clothes for others cannot do so for his own family or children.Meson,carpenters ,ironsmiths build huge palaces die of living in huts and slums. On the other side, capitalists , anti-social elements spend crores of rupees on their fashion and enjoyment. Those who enjoy at the cost of hardworking and hungry people should understand that they are sitting on such a volcano that is about to erupt". These words is an alerting message to the capitalists that they would soon be in trouble. When he was in Calcutta he was depressed to see the men pulling rickshaws which signalled him the economic exploitation of the down trodden[23]. It also reflects his feelings towards the working class.Vidya Bhushan Rawat, a human activist says that, "Bhagat Singh narrated the plight of the Dalits who he called as working class , which is remarkable for a young man who was in his twenties . It is rare for a person of that age to understand the class prejudices and its dynamics not in terms of social and cultural terms but on economical basis". he questions the Brahminical dominance over the other sections of the society in his essay, 'The Question Of The Untouchable". The ancient Indian society was divided into four categories called the Varna system. The sect which dominated all the other sects was the Brahmin sect, followed by the warrior clan of Kshtriya, this one followed by the Vaishya clan and finally the Shudras, the untouchables. Bhagat Singh took the class struggle as one of his primary goals. He wanted to eradicate the class-system , especially hurt by the cruel attitude of the Brahmins towards the lower strata people[24]. The Dalits also consider Bhagat Singh as their hero like B. R . Ambedkar.Prof. Chaman Lal mentions stresses that there is a need to introduce writings of Bhagat Singh against communalism and untouchability.It reflects the feeling of humanity in Bhagat Singh, once titled as a Terrorist.


All these aspects of Bhagat Singh are very interesting and reaveal a lot about how these were the major influences of his revolutionary activities.Questioning on how relevant Bhagt Singh is today, he had very pragmatic and scientific ideas convinves the youth.The rebel within him to act against injustice acts as a magnet in attracting masses.In effect, many appreciate Bhagat Singh for his determined and aggressive nature.A strong testimony to show the extent to which the youth have accepted Bhagt Singh’s ideals is the encouragement of movies like Rang De Basanti.

In conclusion, I would like to describe Bhagat Singh in the words of a journalist, Reeta Sharma,

An enigma, obsessed with passion for his country's freedom, he had achieved rare clarity of thought, sharpened his intelligence and conquered the fear of death in his teens. And that death was inflicted upon him at the age of 23, for he was fighting for you and me, to enable us to live with dignity in a free homeland.

Word Count: 3478


Jail notebook of Bhagat Singh(

Telegram on Lenin’s anniversary(

A handwritten leaflet. Beware , ye Bureaucracy (

Why Am I an Atheist?, an essay written by Bhagat Singh in 1930,

Letter to Sukhdev ; April 5, 1929,

Gandhi on Bhagat Singh,

Article by Vidya Bhushan Rawat, a human rights activist, writer and a film maker, A Tribute To Bhagat Singh(

Article by Vidya Bhushan Rawat , Khairlanji’s Dalit Victims Want Justice With Dignity(

Article by Reeta Sharma( a journalist of tribune) , What If Bhagat Singh had lived?(

Article by Rajesh Ramasubramanian, A Saga Called Bhagat Singh(

Article by Chaman Lal, editor of 'Complete Documents of Bhagat Singh' in Hindi 'Bhagat Sing Ke Sampooran Dastavej' , Martyr Bhagat Singh Anniversaries(

Article by Bipan Chandra, Bhagat Singh and Atheism(

Article by A.K. Roy , Ideas of Bhagat Singh May help Fight communal Menace(

Article from tribune by V.N. Datta , Understanding Bhagat Singh(

Article by Niraja Rao, Bhagat Singh And The Revolutionary Movement (

The Martyr:Bhagat Singh-Experiments In Revolution,Kuldip Nayar, Har-Anand Publications,2000

# Gandhi on Bhagat Singh,

Article of magazine FEATURE


Encyclopaedia of political parties , O P Ralhan, Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd, 2002



[3] pg.352,Encyclopaedia of political parties , O P Ralhan, Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd, 2002

[4] pg,354,Ibid

[5] raj is the Hindi word for ‘rule’

[6] pg 352,Encyclopaedia of political parties , O P Ralhan, Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd, 2002

[7] Ibid

[8] pg.49,The Martyr:Bhagat Singh-Experiments In Revolution,Kuldip Nayar, Har-Anand Publications,2000

[9] pg.50,Ibid

[10] Letter To Sukhdev,april5,1929,Bhagat Singh ,( on MIA, 2006.

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid


[14] Ibid

[15] Article of magazine FEATURE

[16] Gandhi on Bhagat Singh,

[17] Article by Reeta Sharma( a journalist of tribune) , What If Bhagat Singh had lived?(


[19] Document-To Young Political Workers, February 2,1931, Bhagat Singh , Published on MIA, source: (

[20] Telegram on Lenins anniversary(,January 21,1930,Shaheed Bhagat Singh

[21] words used for the protagonist of the novel , Siddhartha ,Herman Heasse , to indicate the thirst for knowledge

[22] page 36 o his jail notebook,Jail notebook of Bhagat Singh(

[23] The Martyr:Bhagat Singh-Experiments In Revolution,Kuldip Nayar, Har-Anand Publications,2000

[24] Article by Vidya Bhushan Rawat, a human rights activist, writer and a film maker, A Tribute To Bhagat Singh(


sureshkumar.a.v. said...

very informative& well studied.u did a great job.what about his affection towards his 2wards his classmates & collegues.pls say about his artistic paintings folk arts.

sureshkumar.a.v. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J.C. Popper said...

An excellent paper filled with important insights about one of the 20th century's great figures.
I wish much more was known about Bhagat Singh in my country (USA)and across the globe. He should be an inspiration to oppressed people everywhere!
J.C. Popper

Gayatri Viswanath said...

Please excuse me for the poor formatting, not running the essay 'properly' through a spell-check and of course, for the shoddy grammar.

Gayatri Viswanath