Sunday, 25 April 2010

A fantastic report on Bhagat Singh from Pakistan-courtesy-Tehlka

A common hero
Bhagat Singh's legacy of liberty and social justice is being invoked by Pakistani civil society to fight for their rights.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
On March 23, there was a commemorative event in Lahore that ran contrary to the "official" discourse of the country's history -- or rather, it was disowned altogether. Nevertheless, it cuts through Pakistan's admixture of religiosity and nationalism.

Some 30 defiant demonstrators stood for hours in the middle of Shadman Chowk, an affluent neighbourhood in old Lahore, through the afternoon, braving the scorching sun. The demonstrators comprised students from various universities of Lahore, civil society activists, factory workers, communists and even little children.

It was at the same spot 79 years ago that Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were executed by the British government on March 23. The gallows of the nearby camp jail were housed here at the time. What remains now is a small roundabout with a fountain.

Holding placards and chanting such slogans as 'Zinda hai, Bhagat zinda hai' (Bhagat is still alive), 'We salute Bhagat Singh', 'Har zulm ka ek jawab, inquilab inquilab' (Revolution is the answer to all oppression), they demanded that the Chowk be renamed Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk and declared a national heritage site. The protesters even installed a red signboard that read "Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk". The organisers of the event said they decided to install the signboard themselves after requests to the local Nazim (mayor) and the government to do so went unheeded for years. The protesters remained there till sunset and departed after a candlelight vigil.

"Reviving Bhagat Singh's ideals is a necessity in Pakistan, where masses live in abject poverty and suffer from religious intolerance and imperialism," says Sonya Qadir, a student activist and participant. "His legacy is a reminder that we are all human and deserve to be free from all oppression."

This was no isolated event. The figure of Bhagat Singh, despite being ignored in all mainstream textbooks, has long been regarded as a symbol of resistance by a variety of groups across Pakistan. On March 23 last year, at a seminar on the subject of missing persons in Lahore, Punjab University student Amir Jalal walked up to the dais and delivered an impromptu lecture on Bhagat Singh's execution and sacrifice. As he finished, the audience observed a moment's silence in his memory.

"Bhagat too is a missing person and we need to find him in order to find ourselves," says Jalal, a PhD student. "I felt compelled to speak out about him." Jalal used to be the convener of the now defunct University Students' Federation (USF), formed in 2008 to oppose the Islami-Jamiat-e-Tulba (IJT), the student wing of the Islamic hardline group, Jamaat-e-Islami. Punjab University has been an IJT stronghold since it was installed during President Zia-ul-Haq's dictatorship to suppress progressive, left-leaning and peace-loving student organisations. The USF brought this to the attention of the government and media, forcing the government to take action. Jalal adds: "The USF endorsed the values of secularism, pluralism and democracy. We drew our inspiration from the ideals of Bhagat Singh, among others. We often discussed him during our study circles."

In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a vibrant student movement represents the aspirations of thousands of Kashmiri youngsters. It is called the Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (JKNSF) and is a vocal opponent of jihadi camps in the region. The outfit never finds a mention in the mainstream Pakistani media. Many of its activists have allegedly been abducted by agencies in the past.

JKNSF posters featuring pictures of Bhagat Singh and Che Guevara are a common sight at most rallies. Danish Khan, a Kashmiri student, says: "For most outsiders this is a unique phenomenon, but for the youth of Kashmir the life and struggle of Bhagat Singh is a source of inspiration and motivation. They see Pakistan as an occupying force just as Bhagat saw the British."

In Balochistan, five military operations have been carried out against the nationalists. Thousands of Baloch activists have been picked up and remain missing. This year, some members of the Baloch Students Organisation gathered at Shadman Chowk to pay homage to Bhagat Singh, who is a source of inspiration to them too.

Students and Leftist organizations aren't the only ones endorsing Bhagat Singh' ideals. Throughout the lawyers' movement (2007-2009), responsible for the ouster of President Pervez Musharraf and politicisation of a large cross-section of Pakistani society, Bhagat Singh's slogans and the poems he would often recite -- such as Ram Prasad Bismil's Sarfaroshi ki Tammana -- were often heard during the rallies.

Umer Chaudhry, a young lawyer from Lahore who was at the forefront of the protests, says: "In our part of the subcontinent, we conveniently forget the role played by non-Muslims in the struggle against British colonialism. The same fate befell Bhagat Singh. That he was supported by [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah is never mentioned in the textbooks. It is not surprising though. Bhagat Singh, a symbol of resistance, could never be the hero of a government that doesn't represent its people."

In the search for an identity, many have gone outside the decadent ideologies manufactured by the status quo. One such search -- for an ethos of peace and an end to religious intolerance and liberty from oppression -- manifests itself in the adoption of Bhagat Singh's ideals and the revisiting of his legacy by many Pakistanis. It won't come as a surprise if in the coming years more Pakistanis discover Bhagat Singh and begin to question the social order of things. If that happens, then we might even succeed in rescuing these valuable figures from obscurity and make their ideals a reality.

-- Younas Chowdhry

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Rememebering Bhagat Singh and Dr. Ambedkar in Begu sarai-Bihar

If one travels around India, one would find many such libraries, which were established during freedom struggle to spread consciousness of national movement against British colonialism Not only libraries, many national schools and colleges were established to provide alternative education with stress on national heritage. Dwarka Dass Library and National college Lahore were some such institutions established during 1920's. Kashi Vidyapeeth Benaras and another in Ahmedabad were also such. In my own town Rampura Phul in Bathinda district of Punjab, Public Library was established by people active in national movement.If any one institution can be given credit my my mental liberation from traditional yokes of thought, I will name Public Library Rampura Phul, though later in life, I have got the chance to know some of the best libraries of the world like Nehru Memorial Museum and Library to Indian Institute of Advanced Study Library Shimla. Marwari Library in Delhi and many more are shining examples of library movement in India.
This time I visited Begusarai district of Bihar to deliver lectures on Bhagat Singh and Dr. Ambedkar on 13th and 14th April,These were hot days, but pleasant part of the whole trip was to visit two libraries established by democratic movement. One Viplav Pustkalaya, Godhargaon near Begusarai and another comrade Chandershekhar smark pustkalaya Beehat village near Brauni town, close to Begusarai.While Viplav Pustkalaya(Rebellious Library) in Godhargaon was established in 1986 by Communist Party of India(CPI), so was Com. Chandershekhar memorial library in Beehat recently. On my way back to Patna, saw one such library in Fatuha town established in 1944.
Libraries play a major role in spreading consciousness among people in small towns and villages for changing the society.Knowledge is the most effective tool to prepare people for change and libraries provide space for that.For leftist movement in any Asian country, perhaps elsewhere too, establishing libraries and providing good books and infra structure there, is the task of democratic movement.Ghadar party activists established Desh Bhagat yadgar Hall and library in Jalandhar in 1960's. Shiv Verma, close comrade of Bhagat Singh and life convict in that case established Shaheed Smark library in Lucknow in a college and school run by Durga Bhabhi. Thakur Ram Singh another revolutionary comrade of that movement, who passed away at the age of 104 years at Agra recently, established Bhagat Singh memorial library in Agra. Even some good intentioned Police officers established Paash Library in police lines Karnal in Haryana in memory of slain policemen by Khalistanis.
At Beehat village in Bhagat Singh memorial function I spoke about Jallianawala Bagh's Khooni Baisakhi(Bloody Baisakhi of 1919), along with talking about Bhagat singh's philosophy of national liberation. I announced there that I am committing my royalty on 10 plus books on revolutionary freedom movement in Hindi, Punjabi and English to these 6-7 libraries established in memory of revolutionaries. It was a simple gathering of five hundred plus ordinary working people of the area, including some women, who listened to me for more than one hour in pin drop silence.They later expressed the desire that they wanted to listen me more. It was my 41st lecture in memory of Bhagat Singh, starting from 2006, 75th martyrdom anniversary of Bhagat Singh. It seems that kind of narrative style I had developed during this period, goes well with the audience in villages, towns and big cities as well.
Next day in the same place, I spoke on Dr. Ambedkar memorial function organized by same Student Club of Beehat ,under influence of CPI.Here I spoke on the need of inter caste and inter religious marriages at wide level as task of democratic movement to weed out the poison of casteism and communalism from society, which was the advise of Dr. Ambedkar as well Chandereshwari Singh, President of Bihar AITUC was the spirit behind these functions.Though with CPI, he seems to be quite radical. Photographs of Che Guvera were on display along with Indian revolutionaries photos and he spoke also about Che Guvera feelingly. Shatrughan Prasad, two times CPI member Parliament from the area was also present and in fact, he took me to Viplav Library Godargaon later. He had earlier invited me to Patna in year 2007 or 08 in a big function attended by Com A.B.Bardhan, Gen. Secretary of CPI.
In Viplav Library Godhargaon, statue of Bhagat Singh welcomes you at the entry. At the square towards library, a huge full size statue of Chandershekhar Azad has come up recently.In adjoining building, statue of Prem Chand and poet Meera Bai is there.Collection of books and pictures of writers is fantastic in the library. Many eminent personalities have visited this library if far flung area of Bihar. Bihar has better reading habits than all other states of North India and among Hindi or Urdu speaking states.
I shall attach some photographs of libraries later to this note or in a separate album.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Rememebering Khooni Baisakhi of Jallianwala Bagh Amritsar-13th April 1919

Magazine section of Punjabi Tribune today moved me so much that my eyes got moistened.Had my eyes shed tears literally also, I would not have felt ashamed, rather it would have given me the feeling that my sensitivities have not yet been turned into stone by the onslaught of crudest consumerist society being built in the name of new liberal economy by neo colonial and imperialist powers of the world.Since Varinder Walia became editor of 'Punjabi tribune' few months ago, he has brought radical and pleasant changes into the contents of this daily from Tribune group.Today's four page magazine section ifs focused on the most oppressive tragedy of British colonial regime of nearly 200 years(1757-1947) in India, also of Pakistan and Bangla Desh of today.
It was on 13th April, 1919,Baisakhi day that General Dyer has killed hundreds of people from Amritsar and surrounding areas,who have gathered to listen and protest against Rowlatt Act, an oppressive legislation being enacted by British colonial regime of that time.It all started from with the 'Sedition Committee' report prepared under Rowlatt itself and published in 1918, which listed the revolutionary(terrorist in British terms) nationalist movements of the country at that time.Starting from killing of cruel British officer Rand in Pune, after the outbreak of plague in 1897, the report has listed Bengal division and revolutionary activities of Anushilan and Jugantar in Bengal, Ghadar party in Punjab etc. and recommended strict laws,accordingly Rowlat act was prepared.Nationalist movement resisted throughout country and in Punjab, after strike of 30th March,when Mahatma Gandhi was not allowed to enter Punjab, situation became explosive.British deceitfully arrested Dr. Saifudin Kitchlew and Dr. Satya Pal on 10th April,invited to his office by then Deputy Commissioner for discussion,leaders of the movement. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, showing exemplary unity, drank water from same glasses and took food together and gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, adjoining Golden Temple on 13th April,1919.It has a narrow gate even today and area is congested residential area.When Hans raj, an activist was addressing, around 5 p.m. in the evening, Gen. Dyer, who has encircled the Bagh from all sides and closed the only exit gate ordered fire straight on the bodies of people.One can imagine the scene. British Government of the day with Punjab governor O'Dwyer at that time, itself first admitted of 291 deaths, later in Hunter commission inquiry in London admitted more than 300 killings.Despite hue and cry all over the world,Hunter Commission gave no punishment to Dyer, however he got afflicted with so many diseases that he did not survive beyond 1927 and died on 23rd July that year, as per his family, he died of 'heart break'.Nigel Collett, his biographer, gave the title of his biography-'The Butcher of Amritsar'-General Reginald Dyer,this was published in India by Rupa in 2005.
Congress party, which instituted its own enquiry committee on this ghastly massacre, could start functioning only in Novemebr 1919 and as per its voluminous report in two parts, republished by National Book Trust and Nehru memorial Museum and Library New Delhi, assesses more than one thousand deaths.Sewa samiti Amritsar of that time insisted that they had cremated more than 500 bodies, the substantial number of Muslims and Sikhs remained outside its count.Now Govt. of India has assigned ICHR to have the count of deaths.Punjab Govt and some others have got names of more than 400 persons on record.Raja Ram in his Punjab University Chandigarh publication has listed 381 names in 1969 first edition of his book. Ram Singh Majitha has listed 406 names of martyrs in his Punjabi language publication in 1988,this includes 200 plus Hindu names,80 plus Muslim names and 120 plus Sikh names, including two women.One can very well imagine that how Punjabi society in 1919 was integrated at religious level, later developments have made it disintegrate, leading to its tragic division, against the wishes of common people.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre was seen by Udham Singh, who was 15 or 16 years at that time and was in an orphanage in Amritsar, it is he, who avenged the massacre in 1940,full 21 years later in London, by shooting Micheal O'Dwyer, Governor of Punjab in 1919.The hated Dyer was already dead in 1927.Udham Singh was executed on 31st July 1940 in London.Jallianawala Bagh was also visited by 12 year old Bhagat Singh, who was a student at Lahore in those days and he brought the blood stained earth from the Bagh, which is still preserved in Bhagat Singh memorial museum at Nawanshehar, now called Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar in east Punjab.
In today's Punjabi tribune magazine, full booklet of long poem written by famous Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh at that time under the title-'Khooni Baisakhi' has been reproduced.This was perhaps first Punjabi publication, which was proscribed by British government at that time. I wish that 'Sanjh'. 'Pancham' or other Punjabi journals in Pakistan transliterate in Persian script and publish it there.It is really moving poem.
in a seminar on Dr.Ambedkar, held in Lahore by Sir Ganga Ram foundation on 13th April 2007, I had started my address by saying that ' as the earth of Lahore is pious for me or other Indians, because it has the executions of Bhagat Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha and so many other revolutionaries in its jail, now demolished, so is Amritsar pious for Pakistanis, as the blood of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs was shed together here on 13th April 1919'.Audience got so emotional that so many people hugged me after the programme was over.Now every incident of police brutality in India is called-'another Jallianawala bagh', such is the symbolic value of that place.India, Pakistan and Bangla desh should commemorate Jallianawala Bagh every year jointly, as it is part of their joint tradition of struggle for freedom, as was 1857 revolt, which unfortunately has been commemorated separately by all three in its 150th anniversary in 2007.
I am posting an album of Jallianwala Bagh separatel

Inqlab Zindabad-Long Live Revolution

Inqlab Zindabad

Tuesday, 23 March 2010 at 17:41 | Delete

It is 23rd March now on the clock-the most significant day for revolutionary movement of not only India,but for whole of South Asia, at least as important for Pakistan as for India.The greatest martyr of both India and Pakistan held the head of dignity of indian nation of 1931 and revolutionary movement of the whole world, high, with the resounding sounds of ‘Inqlab Zindabad’ and Down with Imperialism’.The event made the British colonialism hang its head in shame before the brave three-Bhagat singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev!

Bhagat Singh birth place in Chak No. 105,Bange Faislabad

Bhagat singh Primary School in Chak No. 105

Bradlaugh Hall,including National College Lahore,where Bhagat singh studied

SSP office Lahore,here Saundres was killed on 17 December 1928

DAV College Kanpur hostel, here Bhagat Singh stayed with Shiv Verma and Rajguru

Chhaju Ram haveli in Calcutta, where Bhagat Singh stayed in Dec. 1928 Congress session

In Arya Samaj Mandir Calcutta, near College street,Bhagat Singh stayed in this room,though it was tinshed in 1928

Ancestral house of Bhagat Singh family in Khatkar Kalan village near Banga in Nawan Shehar now Shaheed Bhagat singh Nagar

Phansighat, now Shadman Chowk Lahore, where on 23rd March,1931,Bhagat Singh,rajguru and Sukhdev were executed.Here today Diep saeeda and her comrades are gathering to pay tributes to martyrs

Four real pictures of Bhagat Singh

Yesterday amarjit chandan sent a link of Aajkal Urdu daily from Lahore with the question that ‘whether Bhagat Singh came to my dreams ever?’ Since I went to bed only after it struck 23rd March and put a small note for the day on facebook and blog,I kept on thinking to update the note with photographs, so I am doing it now,have posted some rare photographs on facebook.

I am trying to imagine the three days of March 1931.On 20th March Bhagat Singh wrote to Governor of Punjab, daring him to send firing squad in order to shoot them, as they were ‘war prisoners’, since the war was on between Indian nation and British colonialism.On 22nd March Bhagat singh wrote a letter to his Comrades, exhorting them to continue the struggle, though they will face immense hardships,more than dyeing; living and struggling will be much difficult…And what on 23rd itself,I presume they all three slept well in the night, after singing revolutionary songs.They knew only about 24th March as the day of execution.At the time of meetings, Pran Nath Mehta their friend and advocate brought the book on or by Lenin as sought by Bhagat singh , a day earlier.In all likelihood Pran Nath Mehta must have informed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev that all their families have refused to avail the last meeting with them, though all three families were present in Lahore that day for the last meeting. Rajguru’s poor mother traveled all the way from Maharshtra to be with his son.Sukhdev’s mother was there with Sukhdev’s uncle Lala Achint Ram Thapar, who was like a father to Sukhdev after the death of his father earlier.Jail authorities refused permission to Lala Achint Ram to accompany them for the last meeting, due to ‘not being blood relation’.To protest against this, the all three families refused to avail the meeting.I was trying to gauge the pain of three mothers, particulary of Rajguru’s poor mother, who came all the way from a village near Pune in Maharashtra,who has not got many chances to meet her son during the trial, being far away.At least Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev families had many chances to meet them,being in Punjab.Bhagat singh was worried that at last meeting his mother may not cry, so he advised her not to come,she did come,but now showing examplary courage bear pain, refused to see their sons for last time, exposing British colonial regime’s cruelty in its worst form.

Bhagat Singh could understood everything,when Bogha, dalit jail worker came ,Bhagat singh asked him to cook lunch for them.In 1931, Bogha cried,he can’t commit this ’sin’ to cook for ‘high caste’,but bhagat singh told him that before going to gallows, he has to eat from the hands of ‘Bebe’, they used to call Bogha, bebe(mother), since like mother he cleansed their shit.Bhagat singh had his way and got his last food from ‘Bebe’.Then he started reading Lenin and around four jail warder Chatar Singh requested them to take bath,could not explain anything except crying.Bhagat singh understood ‘time is up’. they got ready for the ‘last and final journey’.Bhagat singh again continued reading lenin book, when around six, the jail staff came to fetch them,Bhagat singh smiled and said-’wait for a while’, ‘let me finish this page-a revolutionary is meeting another revolutionary, don’t spoil the beauty of their meeting’ .they waited.

All three arms in arms, singing started moving towards gallows.bhagat singh’s weight has increased by ten pounds, with the expectation of execution, mind ‘exepectation and not apprehension’, as he was so happy and excited to sacrifice his life for the country and people, in order to awaken them.i sometime wonder whether we shall celebrate 23 March with happiness or express sorrow as many people do.Bhagat singh would have said-Celebrate your struggles on this day, don’t spread gloom, be cheerul and strong.

At 7.p.m or around, they were at gallows,Bhagat singh refused to wear the black cloth on his face and told British officer-you are lucky to see how happily Indians go to gallows for the nation.Saddam hussain was not the first to go to gallows with uncovered face, Bhagat singh was the first one.

And what did the British after the executions were over. Scared of people’s anger, gathered at jail gate, the news spread fast.They mutiliated the bodies by cutting these into pieces, put into stacks and took from back gate towards hussainiwala, had burnt the bodies with kerosene oil with some Pandit/Granthi around from Kasur. Large number of people walking bby foot collected the half burnt body pieces,brought to Lahore and a lakh people joined in funeral march to Ravi bank in Lahore on 24th March evening.Thus ended the saga of one of bravest men and patriot of history at the age of 23 years and five months plus.

Today i had to decline many invitations on Bhagat singh memorial programmes from Allahabad, Nagpur, delhi, Patiala, Chandigarh,begusarai and from Jhunjhunu in Rajsthan ,where a statue of Bhagat Singh is being inaugurated.My heart though is at Phansighat Lahore, where at, many activists are gathering to pay homage to the great martyrs of both India and Pakistan. My greetings to all revolutionary people anywhere in the world on this great day and best tribute to Bhagat Singh and Che Guvera is to shout with them-Inqlab Zindabad’, Down with Imperialism(Neo colonialism)’ and Socialist movement revival zindabad.Long Live revolution and Long Live Socialism.
Inqlab Zindabad-Part-II

Writing Inqlab Zindabad on 23rd March, I wrote that I would write part two of it, so now trying to jot it down.I wish to share here that what brought me closer to Bhagat Singh in my life.After passing Matriculation in my home town Rampura Phul in rather low marks, I was almost lost in wilderness. there was no college in those days in town and father was not in a position to support my college education in nearby towns-Bathinda or Barnala at equal distance of thirty kilometers on opposite sides, where the colleges were located.My father, a petty trader, always under some debt,did not join as School teacher,being middle pass in his days, due to 'little pay', had no such sensitivity to educate his children by all means.Under the circumstances, Public Library Rampura Phul took me out of the morose by opening a whole new world of literary creativity before me. Started with Munshi Prem Chand's 'Godan', I could never settle for lower level of literary creation, that's why Punjabi novels did not bind me as much, as Hindi ones and translations of Indian and world classics in Hindi.After a while, became member of Hind Pocket Books Delhi's scheme of 'Readers Club', getting nine rupees worth books in eight rupees, with postage free.And one book in one rupee by Manmath Nath Gupt-'Bharat Ke Krantikari' having 16 or 18 sketches, including of Bhagat Singh brought my first encounter with revolutionary freedom fighters. Manmath Nath Gupt, who was himself part of Kakori conspiracy case and got life conviction, though being just fifteen years or so at that time.I was so impressed that I started translating the book in my mother tongue Punjabi. By that time I had done JBT-teachers training course and passed Prabhakar(Hons. in Hindi) examination as private candidate, securing first position in Punjab.This got me a job of Hindi Teacher in a Government High School in Poohla village of Bathinda district.These sketches were serialized in 'Desh Bhagat Yaadan', fortnightly brought out by legendary Ghadarite Baba Gurmukh Singh Lalton from Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall Jalandhar. Some of the pieces were published in 'Preetlari' and 'Aarsee' like respected literary journals also.Till that time I could read and understood books in Hindi and Punjabi only, English was a far dream yet.So I read many books in these languages on revolutionary heroes and got particularly enchanted with Bhagat Singh.Perhaps first meeting on Bhagat Singh I attended on 23rd March 1969 in Public Library Bathinda on his martyrdom day, which was addressed by well known Punjabi short story writer and joint editor of 'Preetlari' Navtej Singh, with his father Gurbux Singh Preetlari at that time.
But I had to struggle a lot,while doing job, passed graduation privately and even M.A. part I too privately. I joined Panjab University Chandigarh to complete M.A. part-II of Hindi.This opened new paths of life for me.Though continued with my school job, even after completing my M.A., my teachers union activity and doing M.A. Punjabi again privately,kept me close to study about revolutionaries as well as studying lot of creative Indian and world literature.Though registered for PhD in Hindi with Prof. Romesh Kuntal Megh, could not proceed much.In this period became quite active in Punjabi cultural movement and with some writings and translations to credit, became known as Chaman Lal 'Prabhakar' in literary circles.Kumar Vikal, Mohan Bhandari and Bhushan known as Dhianpuri at that time became part of circle and by organizing Punjabi Sahit Sabha at Rampura Phul;, came into contact with stalwarts of Punjabi literature as well-Prof. Mohan Singh, Sant Singh Sekhon, Gurdial Singh etc. Pash, Waryam sandhu, Surinder Hemjyoti, Ajmer Aulakh,Amarjit Chandan,Harbhajan Halwarvi, Attarjeet, Sant Ram Udasi,Lal singh Dil etc. were all part of same stream at that time. We worked together in ;'Panjabi Sahit Sabhiachar Manch',with guidance from Nagi Reddy group of ML movement in Punjab at that time.In 1975 Emergency spent seven months in Bathinda and Patiala jails.
In 1977, I joined JNU for research and left school job.Five years in JNU as student had been the best period of my life so far.While after doing Hindi Officer job for sometime in Bombay, I had a short stint in JNU again, before getting long time job at Punjabi University Patiala as academician.Before leaving for Patiala, I completed editing 'Bhagat Singh aur Unke sathiyon Ke dastavez' with Jagmohan Singh for Rajkamal Publishers Delhi, which got published in 1986, to become all time best sellers till now.From 1985 to 2002,I remained confined to literature and has many publications in Hindi, Punjabi and English-books as well as articles in journals/newspapers.
Again after 2002,my interest returned to Bhagat Singh and this time I collected documents of Bhagat Singh alone with the title-'Bhagat Singh ke Sampuran Dastavez'(Complete Documents of Bhagat Singh).Preface of the book was written by Kultar Singh, younger brother of Bhagat Singh and book was released during World Book fair in Delhi in February 2004.This also became as much a hit as was early collection.In the meantime National Book Trust Chairman Prof. Bipan Chandra assigned me to write a monograph on Kartar Singh Sarabha, which I completed only after joining JNU as Professor in Hindi translation in 2005.By this time I got Central Hindi directorate award for translating Surjit Patar's poetry in Hindi, Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize for translating Pash's poetry in Hindi in 2002 and Punjab Govt.'s Shiromani Hindi Sahitkar award for 2003.
By the time I joined JNU I had enough publications on Hindi and Punjabi literature, including that of criticism and translation, which were getting published every year.However from 2006,my whole interest seemed to got concentrated on Bhagat Singh and other revolutionary heroes during 75th martyrdom centenary(2006) and in 2007 birth centenary of Bhagat singh. I became an active campaigner and writer on Bhagat Singh in this period, more at non official level,but some at official level also. By impressing upon left parliamentary parties, which were supporting UPA Govt. in those days, I got Bhagat Singh centenaries included in official functions also, which resulted in publication fo Bhagat Singh's documents from publication division for the first time in 60 years,This was edited by me as 'Shaheed Bhagat Singh:Dastavezon ke Aaine Mein'. Also got 'Jail Notebook and other writings' with my introduction, published from Left Word Delhi, which has got many reprints in paper back till now. NBT also got 'Bhagat Singh ke Rajnitik Dastavez' edited from me. On my own I prepared a book in Punjabi, my mother tongue-'Bhagat Singh:Vicharvan Inqlabi', published by Navyug Press Delhi, best in Punjabi language publications. My own writings in Hindi on Bhagat Singh were published in 2009 under the title-'Bhagat Singh' by Medha books Delhi.Another collection of my writings on Bhagat Singh, including some in EPW and Monthly Review is under publication as 'Understanding Bhagat Singh' from English and Foreign Languages University Hyderabad.Hindi literary monthly 'Gyanoudey' also got column on Indian revolutionaries from me during year 2007, which is now ready to be published in book form any time. In Punjabi my book appeared as 'Inqlabi Itihas De Sunehari Panne in 2006 by Tarak Bharti publishers Barnala.During 2006-2010,I delivered forty plus lectures on Bhagat Singh in different parts of the country and abroad.My NBT collection of Bhagat Singh documents has recently come out in Urdu translation also,which I wish to see that it reaches Pakistan.
Why I got so much involved with this theme? As part of left and democratic movement I realized that one needs to have heroes from one's own tradition to have emotional appeal among masses.Bhagat Singh is one such hero, who has mass appeal,and who has the best enlightened leftist ideas during freedom movement.Bhagat Singh like Che Guvera is an ideal hero for not only India,but for whole South Asia as a whole, as Che is for whole of Latin America and both together for the whole world.Other reason was to place Bhagat Singh in proper ideological perspective, he was just projected as brave ,fearless patriot,but despite his writings available, he was not projected as clear socialist revolutionary thinker, to some extent deliberately.Prof. Bipan Chandra brought his ideological position clearly in 1970's,I took the task further by bringing into light his writings into focus, so that people could know him directly from his writings.I have lot more material to focus upon him, like official documents from National Archives including intelligence reports, which I want to use in a book-'Bhagat Singh:Through Colonial and Nationalist eyes'.I have a desire to get complete set of articles published in 'Mainstream' journal, in a book form,which could prove to be the best collection of articles on Bhagat Singh.'I am working now on "Bhagat Singh Reader', assigned to me by Penguin India for international edition,may be completed in this year.This will bring Bhagat Singh's complete documents in English at international level.This would provide me greatest satisfaction of my life, as and when it comes out.Ameen! "Inqlab Zindabad'(Long Live Revolution)

Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Untouchable-Bhagat Singh-courtesy-Malwinderjit Singh Waraich

The Untouchable
(Published in ‘Kirti’ (Punjabi) June 1929)

Our country is in a really bad shape; here strangest questions are asked, the foremost concerns the untouchables, who count 6 crores in population of 30 crores.
For instance :-
Would the contact with an untouchable mean defilement of an upper caste?
Would the gods in the temples, not get angry by the entry of untouchables there?
Would the drinking water of a well not get polluted if the untouchables drew their water from the same well?
That these questions are being asked in the twentieth century, is a matter which makes our heads hang in shame.
We Indian boast of our spiritualism, but then, we avoid accepting every human being as a fellow being just like ourselves. Western people on the other hand, who carry a reputation of being money minded, had unequivocally affirmed their faith in the principle of equality. This they did during the revolutions in America and France and above all in Russia,

these days which is committed to the extension of this principle to all aspects of life and to ending of discriminations in any form whatsoever, thereby fulfilling the ideals of May Day declaration. But we Indians on our part who never tire of boasting about our gods and godliness are, yet seriously debating whether to permit the untouchables to wear the sacred thread or the janeu and whether the untouchables be permitted to read Vedas / Shastras. We often complain about our maltreatment in other countries, and particularly when we are maltreated by the whites, do we have any moral right to voice such a protest?
In 1926, Sindhi Muslim gentleman, Mr. Nur Mohd member of Bombay Legislative Council aptly remarked:-
“If the Hindu society refuses to allow other human beings, fellow creatures at that, to attend public schools, and if …. The president of the local board representing so many lakh of people, in his house, refuses to allow his fellows

and brothers, the elementary human right of having water to drink, what right have they to ask for more rights from the bureaucracy? Before we accuse the people coming from other lands, we should see how people…

how can we ask for grater political rights when (we ourselves) deny elementary rights of human beings.
How true! But since this had been said by a Muslim, Hindus lost no time in alleging that the Muslim’s real intention was to convert the untouchables to Islam and thus assimilate them into their own brotherhood. But then, it amounted to an open admission of the harsh truth--that if you (the Hindus) treat them worse than your cattle, they shall desert you, join to the fold of other religions where they hope to enjoy more rights, where they are treated as fellow beings.
Would it not then be pointless to blame the Christians and Muslims, that they were undermining Hinduism?
How fair and true! Yet the Hindus tremble in anger on hearing this plain truth. In any case, it had shaken Hindus from their complacency in the matter. Orthodox Brahimins too started re-thinking about it, also joined by some self-proclaimed reformers. At Patna a gala Hindu meet was held. Lala Lajpat Rai, known for his longstanding sympathy for the untouchables was presiding. A lot of hot arguments were exchanged as to whether the untouchables are eligible to wear sacred thread, the janeu? Could they read Vedas / Shastras? A number of social reformers lost their temper but Lala ji was able to persuade them to compromise on these two matters and thereby saved the prestige of Hindu religion; otherwise, what would have been the consequences?
Just imagine how shameful! Even a dog can sit in our lap, it can also move freely in kitchen but if a fellow human touches you, your dharma is endangered. So much so, even a reputed social reformer like Pandit Malviya ji, known for his soft corner for the untouchables, first agrees to be publicly garlanded by a sweeper, but then afterwards regards himself to be polluted till he bathes and washes those clothes. How ironical! In the temples meant for worshipping God, who lives in us all, once a poor man enters it, it gets defiled and God gets annoyed. When this is the state of affairs within the Hindu fold, does it behave us to quarrel and fight in the name of the Brotherhood? Above all, this kind of our approach to the question amounts of an ingratitude of the degree; those who provide us the comforts by doing menial jobs for us, we shun them. We could worship even animals, but would not tolerate fellow humans to sit beside us.
This is an issue of hot debate these days, the poor creatures getting special attention in this way. In the context of our advance towards national liberation, the problem of communal representation (seats in the legislatures allotted in proportion to Hindu/ Sikh/ Muslim population) may not have been beneficial in any other manner but atleast Hindu / Muslim / Sikhs are all striving hard to maximize their own respective quota of seats by attracting the maximum number of untouchables to their own respective folds. Accordingly Muslims started by providing them equal rights after converting them to Islam.
This naturally hurt the Hindus. Bitterness mounted, riots too broke out. By and by Sikhs, too woke up lest they be left behind in this race. They too started administering Amrit; tension mounted between Sikhs and Hindus over the removal of janeu or hair shaving. All in all, all the three are trying to out do the others, resulting in widespread disturbances. Christians sitting on the fence are quietly consolidating their hold.
Be as it may, this turmoil is certainly helping us to move towards the weakening of the hold of untouchability.
As for themselves, when they discovered that all this great turmoil was on their account and Hindus / Muslims / Sikhs, all were trying to profit at their cost, they have also started thinking, “Why should we not organize on our own?” No one is certain whether they are doing so as a result of official prompting or at their own but once this line of thinking had taken roots, certainly this trend is being fully backed up by official quarters. “Adi Dharam Mandal” and the like are the end result of this trend.
Here, the basic question arises, how precisely can we solve this tangle? The answer is quite obvious; above all, it needs to be settled for good, that all humans are equal without distinctions of birth or vocation. In other words since someone is born in a poor sweepers’ family, he shall continue cleaning toilets all his life and thus getting deprived of all chances of progress in life, all this nonsense. Historically speaking, when our Aryan ancestors nurtured these practices of discrimination towards these strata of society, shunning all human contact with them by labeling them as menials, and assigning all the degrading jobs to them, they also, naturally started worrying about a revolt against this system. All this is the result of your past sins; what can be done about it? Bear if silently! and with such kinds of sleeping pills, were they able to buy peace for quite some time. All the same they were guilty of a great sin on this account, since this amounted to the negation of core human values like self-esteem and self-reliance; a grossly cruel conduct by all means. Yet present is the moment of its atonement.
In a broader social perspective, untouchability had a pernicious side-effect; people in general got used to hating the jobs which were otherwise vital for life. We treated the weavers who provided us cloths as untouchable. In U.P. water carriers were also considered untouchables. All this caused tremendous damage to our progress by undermining the dignity of labour, especially manual labour. We have thus to accept it, once for all, that in order to move forward we have to give up either considering or calling them untouchables.
Everything else shall fall in place by itself.
In this regard strategy adopted by Naujwan Bharat Sabha and the Youth conference is, most apt--to seek forgiveness from those brethren, whom we have been calling untouchables by treating them as our fellow beings, without making them go through conversion ceremonies of Sikhism, Islam or Hinduism, by accepting food / water from their hands. On the other hand quarrelling among ourselves in the race to win them over, without restoring to them their human dignity is futile.
But the moment we went to villages with our message of human equality and brotherhood mentioned above, Government agents started inciting the Jat community saying that this would embolden these menials to refuse serving you. This was sufficient to provoke the jats, to oppose our efforts in the right direction.
But the upper castes should also realise that their own status in life cannot change for the better as long they persist in considering these people as inferiors, calling them menials, and keep them under their heals. It is argued, they are unclean. The harsh truth is that they are poor; remove their poverty and they shall be clean. Don’t we find that the poor even among the upper castes are no less unclean? Besides doing unclean jobs is no bad; for example mothers perform all the unclean duties for their children. Do they become unclean?
However, ultimately the problem can not be satisfactory solved unless and until untouchable communities themselves unite and organize. We regard their recent uniting to form their distinct identity, and also demanding representation equal to Muslims in legislatures, being equal to them in number, is a move in the right direction. Either reject communal representation altogether, else give these people too their due share! In principle, Councils, Assemblies are duty bound to ensure full and free access for all these communities to schools, colleges, wells and roads; that too not only on paper but by actually accompanying them to wells, schools and get them admitted there. But can these legislatures, where a lot of hue and cry is raised even over a bill to ban child marriages, on the grounds that it shall be a threat to their religion, dare to bring the untouchables to their own level on their own? No, never, that is why we plead that they must persist in pressing for their own distinct representation in legislatures in proportion to their numerical strength. We mince no words in proclaiming: Arise! So called untouchables, the real sustainers of life, awake and reflect over your past, you were the backbone of Guru Gobind Singh’s army. Shivaji was able to achieve all that with your participation which made him ever shining in history. Your sacrifices are worthy of being embedded in golden letters. The way in which you sustain us and add to our comforts ought to make us feel grateful to you. It is we who fail to appreciate. The land Alienation Act (banning transfer of land to non-agriculturist communities, defined as per caste) does not permit you to buy land ever if you manage the necessary amount of cost. The way you are being oppressed had prompted Miss Mayo of U.S.A. to label you “less then man.” As a matter of fact, without your own efforts, you shall not able to move ahead.
“Those who would be free must themselves strike the first blow.” It must be kept in mind that every one belonging to the privileged class, strives to enjoy his own rights, but would try his utmost to keep on oppressing those below him, and keeping the underprivileged under his heel. Thus might is held to be right. Then waste no time and unite to stand on your own feet and challenge the existing order of society. Let it then be seen as to who dares to deny to you your due. Do not be at the mercy of others and have no illusions about them. Be on guard so as not to fall in the trap of officialdom, because far from being your ally it seeks to make you dance on its own tunes. The capitalist bureaucratic combine is, truly speaking responsible for your oppression and poverty. Hence always shun it. Be on guard about its tricks. This is then the way out. You are the real working class. Workers unite – you have nothing to lose but your chains. Arise and rebel against the existing order. Gradualism and reformism shall be of no avail to you. Start a revolution from a social agitation and gird up your loins for political economic revolution. You and you alone are the pillars of the nations and its core strength. Awake, O sleeping lions! Rebel, raise the banner of revolt.

Pakistan image of Bhagat Singh

Lahore tribute to Bhagat Singh-23 March 2010

Manoj Kumar film on Bhagat Singh

Fizzu Saqi's poem on Bhagat singh

my poem "Bhagget Singh"
Saturday, 03 April 2010 at 17:17
Who took the sword of freedom in his hand
On! Onwards then with revolution's tide,
who fights with foe is fighting by the side
it matters not their colour or race,
Such a man was Bhagget Singh.
Martyr not just of India's fight
But a hero of all workers and oppressed
so let his name remain in our minds.
As he was Bhagget Singh who made us pride.

Fizzu Saqi created Bhagat Singh beautiful graphics