Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Kuldeep Kumar on Krantiveer Bhagat Singh

The man and his message

It is time to understand Bhagat Singh in right perspective through seminal books on his ideology

As the nation celebrated the 110th birth anniversary of the legendary revolutionary Bhagat Singh on September 28 last month, news came that even eight years after the foundation stone of a state-of-the-art museum was laid to keep Bhagat Singh’s and his comrades’ memory alive, all that has been achieved on the 10.62 acres acquired for the project outside Khatkar Kalan – Bhagat Singh’s ancestral village in the Punjab district named after him – is the empty shell of a building. Paucity of funds is being cited for the delay.
Ruling parties of various hues may have forgotten Bhagat Singh but his admirers have not. Chaman Lal, who retired as professor of Hindi from the Jawaharlal Nehru University some years ago, has devoted his life to unearth documents connected with the life of the great revolutionary.
He has edited comprehensively annotated volumes of Bhagat Singh’s writings as well as material on him in Punjabi, Hindi and English, and has played an important role in spreading his message and preserving his revolutionary legacy in the Hindi-speaking region. When Bhagat Singh was hanged by the British colonial regime on March 23, 1931, he was not even 24.
Revered in sub continent
In India and Pakistan, he continues to be revered as one of the greatest revolutionaries and freedom fighters, and efforts are still on to name a square in Lahore after him. Prominent Pakistani Urdu poet Fahmida Riaz has penned a beautiful poem titled Bhagat Singh Ki Moorat (Statue of Bhagat Singh) on him.
A few months ago, Lokbharti Prakashan brought out the second edition ofKrantiveer Bhagat Singh: Abhyudaya Aur Bhavishya, whose first edition, edited and annotated by Chaman Lal, was published in 2012. The voluminous book contains rare material culled mainly from two Hindi journals – Abhyudaya andBhavishya – that used to carry news and articles on Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries. Abhyudaya began in 1907 and ran till 1948.
It was founded by Krishna Kant Malaviya who was the nephew of Madan Mohan Malaviya, a stalwart of the freedom struggle. After Krishna Kant Malaviya’s death, his son Padma Kant Malaviya took over as editor and publisher of the journal. It brought out a special number on May 8, 1931 on Bhagat Singh and the British colonial regime promptly slapped a ban on it and confiscated all its copies.
Rare documents
Bhavishya was started by Ramrakh Sahgal, a member of the United Provinces Congress Working Committee, on October 2, 1930. Chaman Lal informs us in the introduction that from its very first issue, this journal became a sensation as it started publishing articles about Bhagat Singh and his comrades.
Chaman Lal has made great efforts to collect rare documents from not onlyAbhyudaya and Bhavishya but also from Chand magazine’s special number titledPhansi Ank , journal Karmayogi and a short biography, also titled Krantiveer Bhagat Singh of the legendary revolutionary, written by Satyabhakt in 1981.
Not many people would remember Satyabhakt today although he was the one who had founded the first Communist Party in India in Kanpur in 1925. Bhagat Singh was in contact with communist leaders of the 1920s and had himself acquired the Marxist world view towards the end of his life.
His pamphlet Why I am an Atheist makes his ideological standpoint very clear. The book also contains excerpts from a short biographical sketch written by Master K.L. Gupta. It was published in Agra in 1932 and was promptly proscribed. An interview of top Hindi writer Sachchidanand Hiranand Vatsyayan ‘Agyeya’, done by famous Hindi poet Raghuvir Sahay, focusses on the Delhi Conspiracy Case. Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and other revolutionaries are also a significant find of this volume. Readers of this nearly 600-page book will be able to read the obituary statements of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malaviya and many others about Bhagat Singh.
They are enough to counter the propaganda that Gandhi and Nehru were not favourably inclined towards him. The book contains so many rare photographs, newspaper clippings and personal letters written by Bhagat Singh and his comrades that it becomes a veritable treasure trove for those who are keenly interested in the history of our freedom struggle and the selfless sacrifices and contributions made towards its success by countless patriots.
This volume reminded me of another book that was written by Bhagat Singh’s close associate Shiv Verma. Titled Samsmritiyan (Memoirs), it was first brought out by Samajwadi Sahitya Sadan, Kanpur in 1969 and a second edition too was published in 1974. The first memoir was about Bhagat Singh while the rest dealt with Chandra Shekhar Azad, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Mahabir Singh and Yatindra Nath Das.
At the end of the book, Bhagat Singh’s historic statement before the court that tried him for the Delhi Assembly Bomb Case, the pamphlet distributed after the murder of Sanders in Lahore, Bhagat Singh’s letter to the British government shortly before he was hanged, the introduction to Dreamland, written by Bhagat Singh, and Mahatma Gandhi’s letter to Sukhdev were some of the documents that were included as appendices.
This book was later re-published by National Book Trust in 2008 but, curiously, these appendices were not included in the NBT edition.

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