Monday, 29 March 2010

In Bhagat Singh's Memory-Haroon Khalid- Courtesy Dr.Khatau Mal-Karachi Share

In Bhagat Singh's memory

After making this demand for years, the citizens of Lahore have
finally changed the name of Shadman Chowk to Bhaghat Singh Chowk on
his 79th death anniversary

By Haroon Khalid

There are few people who have challenged the status of Gandhi as the
most famous leader of the Indian Freedom Movement. Bhagat Singh at the
age of 23 was able to do that. This name has received immense coverage
in the recent years, courtesy the Indian cinema. Had it not been due
to the recent popular Indian movies, not many people in Pakistan would
have been aware of this young revolutionary, who shook the foundations
of the British Imperial Empire and gave a new impetus to the freedom
struggle. His methods and methodology was a marked departure from the
popular modus operandi of the Congress Party. Initially, Bhagat Singh
supported Gandhi's cause but after sudden end to the non-cooperation
movement following the Chauri Chaura incident, he was disillusioned by
the non-violence of Gandhi, preferring to do things his own way.
Bhagat Singh says in his writings that when the deaf can't hear, their
ears need to be pulled up; 'to make the deaf hear'. His bombing of the
Delhi Assembly was to achieve this purpose. The aim was not to kill
anyone as a low intensity bomb was used, and it was thrown at a vacant
location where it could do minimum damage. It was thrown only with the
purpose of making their voice reach the rulers. Gandhi rejected the
'cowardly' act; however, both Jinnah and Nehru developed a romantic
association with this young patriot and tried till the end to stop the
hanging of Bhagat Singh.

Much has been brought in front of the public about the life and
thoughts of the young revolutionaries by the movies; however, what
many people in Pakistan do not know is that this part of India, which
later became Pakistan, played a prominent role in the life of Bhagat
Singh. He was born in a small village in the out-skirts of Faisalabad,
where his ancestral house and primary school still stand. It is told
that one of his Muslim friends from early days, still lives in the

Bhagat Singh got his education from Lahore, and this is where he
became a revolutionary in the true sense of the word. He also formed
his Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Lahore, whereas the office of the Party
was in a small room in the precincts of Mozang. It is said that the
room, where the office once was, still exists.

Bhagat Singh was kept in Lahore Jail which exists near Ichhra today.
However, at that time the jail was much bigger than what it is today,
covering most of the area of Shadman, right up to the Hata Mul Chand

Near the Main Market of Shadman, there is a roundabout with a
fountain, called the Shadman Chowk or Faware wala Chowk. It is said
that the gallows of the jail were around this area, and this is where
Bhagat Singh, along with his compatriots, Sukhdev and Rajguru, were
hanged on March 23, 1931.

The state of history in Pakistan is pitiable. Instead of being taught
as a subject to illumine the mind of the pupil, it is used as a
political weapon to mould the thoughts of the young. The results
achieved so far have been more than satisfactory. It is bizarre how
even the elitist schools in the country would begin teaching history
from Indus valley, talk about Gandhara civilization and jump straight
to the Mughals, leaving a void of more than a thousand years. The
legacy of Bhagat Singh has also escaped history books even though he
is so closely associated with Lahore; not many people are able to make
that connection. Despite receiving recognition from the founder of
Pakistan, Bhagat Singh has failed to make an impact on the policy
makers of the country, which sadly is not Bhagat Singh's loss but our
own. The reason seems to be the non-Muslim credentials of the martyr.
Hopefully one day, we would be able to look outside the pale of
religious boundaries and admire and own people by their actions and
thoughts and not by their dogmatic parameters.

There are nonetheless a few organisations and individuals in the
country who seem to admire the history of our land, and make an effort
to own and disperse it amongst the people. On the 23rd of March this
year, when most of the Pakistanis were enjoying the 'Pakistan Day'
holiday with their families and friends, there were a handful of
people who were protesting at the Shadman Chowk. These people, who
belong to the various communist and socialist groups of the city, have
been gathering here on this particular day, exhorting the government
to change the name of this Chowk from Shadman Chowk to Shaheed Bhagat
Singh Chowk, in memory of the youth of Lahore who sacrificed his life
for the desolate people of India, irrespective of their colour, creed
or religion.

Over the years this particular group has been able to get recognition
from local politicians and the media. Some years ago, the then
Governor Punjab Lt. General (Retd) Khalid Maqbool conceded to their
demand verbally. However, since this issue is for the local government
and not for the governor, the order could not be implemented.
Therefore, the struggle goes on. This year when the group met at a
preliminary meeting at Diep Saeeda's house, it was suggested by Iqbal
Qaiser that instead of asking the officials to change the name, they
should rather put up a board next to the Chowk, declaring it Shaheed
Bhagat Singh Chowk, just like somebody decided to call it Chaudary
Rehmat Ali Chowk a few years ago. The former board that sprang up over
night may likely counter the demand of this group. On March 23, they
completely covered the existing board with spray paint, and wrote
Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk on it. Even though the local inspector
objected to their action, he did nothing. Salman Rashid pointed out a
few weeks ago, how various crossings are named after local traders,
etc. Let us see if this crossing would be able to retain its new name
given to it by this group.

There is another interesting story related to this area. The British
rule at that time demanded presence of a magistrate by the gallows at
the hour of persecution. However, such was the support of these three
people that no magistrate in whole of India wanted to take the risk.
The British in desperation turned to Nawab Muhammad Ahmad, who was an
honorary judge from Kasur. He was present at the time of their
hanging, from where their bodies were taken to the bank of River
Sutlej where they were cremated in his presence. Later on, people
built samadhis to mark the area. These are present on the Indian side
of the border, and are visible from Ganda Singh, Pakistan.

The irony is that later, during Bhutto's tenure, Nawab Muhammad Khan
was killed at this place (Shadman). His son Ahmad Raza Khan Kasuri
launched an FIR against Z.A. Bhutto at the Ichhra police station for
the murder of his father. Later, Zia-ul-Haq hanged Bhutto for the
death of Nawab Muhammad Ahmad. He is buried in Kasur near Bulleh
Shah's tomb. On one side of Sutlej is the grave of this magistrate and
on the other are the Smadhs of the Shaheeds.

Being a historical location and closely associated with Bhagat Singh,
it is a reasonable demand on the part of the citizens of Lahore to
rename this Chowk after Shaheed Bhagat Singh. After years of futility,
they have finally taken the action themselves. In a city where anybody
can name a Chowk on his/her name, it would indeed be a pity if the
name of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk is not accepted by the authorities,
and the populace.

1 comment:

Saira Zia said...

It was very helpful for my paper as well as fascinating that how Bhagat Singh was actually related to Lahore.
This is so careless on our part that the road that we cross everyday holds so much history and we are unaware of its glory. Its just Bhagat singh we discovered today and after 79 years we just named a "Chowk" after the great leader no wonder we have Zardari as our leader now.
We as a Nation basically are confused about our identity. I am sure there would be still a lot to discover about our roots.