Sunday, 19 July 2009

Neither ‘Deify’nor ‘Slight’ leaders nor martyrs in the name of ‘Democracy’

Neither ‘Deify’nor ‘Slight’ leaders nor martyrs in the name of ‘Democracy’


  Birinder Pal Singh in his piece ‘Why Deify leaders in a democracy’ in ‘open page’ of ‘The Hindu’ dated 25th January, 2009 has tried to show that Bhagat Singh was made out to be ‘divine’ being during his first birth centenary in 2007. He has advised ‘the intellectuals’ ‘to not make mortal beings super human’. Do his arguments stand the test of objectivity? I am afraid not, because facts do not support the arguments and in absence of facts, arguments become just subjective impressions, which most of the time are reflective of the prejudices of an uncritical mind. Some of the facts in this regard are as followed by:
  This is a fact that Bhagat Singh became the icon of youth, patriotism and revolution shortly after his execution along with Sukhdev and Rajguru on 23rd March, 1931 at Lahore at the hands of British colonialism. Interesting part of his popularity among Indian masses is that even after 75 years of his execution, he attracted the positive response of Indian masses. This include ‘The Hindu’ survey which had 64% approval rate along with Dr. Ambedkar and recent ‘India Today’ survey which gave him highest approval rate of 37 or 38%, leaving Gandhi,Nehru etc. way behind. Only Subhash Chander Bose came distant second to Bhagat Singh.But one should know the masses covered by these surveys are not fully aware of Bhagat Singh’s personality or his ideas. They are more impressed by his brave act of avenging the killing of nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai at the hands of colonial rulers by killing Saunders and upholding the voice of freedom struggle by throwing bombs in central assembly ‘to make the deaf hear’ and not kill anyone. This is also a fact that from left to right, all shades of political opinion tried to color him in their own political interests. RSS like organizations tried to appropriate him as staunch Hindu nationalist without bothering about his declared ideas. This has recently been done with Subhash Chander Bose as well, angrily reacted to by Netaji’s own established party-Forward Bloc.
  Birth centenary of Bhagat Singh was celebrated at two levels-Government of India was rather forced by left pressure to declare it at official level, otherwise it was celebrated mostly at people’s level in most parts of the country and abroad –Pakistan, Canada, England, USA, Australia etc. The taste of official functions can be gauged by the spending of nearly four crore rupees by Punjab Govt. in sheer wasteful extravagant. Out of these central funds only fifty thousand rupees each was given to Punjabi University Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar for holding seminars, which they held in great hurry without much preparation. Punjab University Chandigarh held a three day national seminar sponsored by ICHR and first ever three day national seminar on Bhagat Singh was held at Mumbai University in March 2007 without any agency or Govt. support. By far that is the best seminar held on Bhagat Singh in the country so far. At best five-ten more seminars would have been held in Indian academic institutions at official level during the centenary years. In most of these seminars most historians had tried to look at Bhagat Singh from a Gandhian perspective, without bothering to discuss Bhagat Singh’s own writings and tried to find fault with his kind of revolutionary transformational approach, which suits the establishment. Very few scholars had tried to project Bhagat Singh in his own declared ideological perspective, i.e. revolutionary socialist perspective. This much limited and objective characterization of Bhagat Sinhg has pained scholars like Birinder Pal Singh, who look in it Bhagat Singh being lifted to ‘divine’, ’special’ status’ and ‘super human’. The fact of the matter is that Bhagat Singh represented one of the three major currents of national freedom struggle. The most effective was led by Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the second was led by RSS and Muslim League like sectarian and communal forces. Bhagat Singh, EV Ramasamy Naicker Periyar, Dr. Ambedkar and Netaji Subhash Bose like leaders represented the third current—to transform Indian society on socialist ideas with some differences on approach. Periyar was the first among those who eulogized Bhagat Singh in his editorial on 29th March 1931 in his journal ‘Kudai Aarsu’, he also got his essay ‘Why I am an Atheist’ translated in Tamil for Com. P.Jivanandam and published it in 1933.This is the first and earliest translation Bhagat Singh’s seminal essay in any Indian language. Bhagat Singh held no special status than Sukhdev and Rajguru or Chandershekhar Azad like revolutionaries. He was given a central figure role as he represent the whole revolutionary current of freedom struggle, being its ideological and organizational leader, like Gandhi in Congress.
  One should also know that first ever Bhagat Singh chair in any Indian University has only been established in JNU New Delhi after a protracted campaign. Following this now programme implementation committee of Govt. of India on national anniversaries has sanctioned chairs in the name of Kartar Singh Sarabha, Chandershekhar Azad, Kunwar Singh and Bahadurshah Zafar like revolutionary figures. In contrast how many Universities and chairs are established in the country in the name of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehry, Sardar Patel, Dr. Ambedkar, Subhash Chander Bose, Maulana Azad and so many other national figures? Hundreds of books on other national leaders have been published by Govt. of India, whereas documents of Bhagat Singh have been published by it for the first time in 2007, full 76 years after his martyrdom. Ten-twenty seminar attended by 50-60 odd scholars have disturbed Birinder Pal Singh, but he was not bothered by hundreds and hundreds of such seminars on Gandhi, Nehru and other national leaders.
  Birinder Pal Singh says that he does not wish to slight Bhagat Singh,but by his narrow and colored understanding of freedom struggle, he has done precisely the same.

  The writer of this rejoinder to 'The Hindu'(Published on 1st February,2009) is author/editor of seven books on Bhagat Singh in Hindi, Punjabi&English, which include Govt. of India’s publication and also leftword published English book—‘Jail Notebook&Other Writings’ of Bhagat Singh with this writer’s introduction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

last few days our class held a similar discussion on this subject and you point out something we have not covered yet, appreciate that.

- Laura