On the Execution of Bhagat Singh,
Periyar, March 29, 1931

"The aim of life is no more to control the mind, but to develop it harmoniously: not to achieve salvation here after, but to make the best use of life here below; and not to realise truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life: social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity – of opportunity in the social, political and individual life."

[The following is the editorial Periyar E.V. Ramasami wrote in his Tamil Weekly Kudi Arasu dated 29th March 1931. Translation by Aasaan.

The editorial highlights the point that Bhagat Singh’s outspoken progressive views and supreme sacrifice have disabused the minds of the people and made them realise the retrograde nature of the ideals and methods of Mahatma Gandhi.]

Periyar’s Editorial dated 29th March, 1931:

There is no one who has not condoled the death of Mr. Bhagat Singh by hanging. There is none who has not condemned the government for hanging him. Besides, we now see several people known as patriots and national heroes scolding Mr. Gandhi for the happening of this event.

While this happens in one place, let us see what the same group of people do in another place. They congratulate Lord Irwin, the Vice-roy. They praise Mr. Gandhi for coming to an agreement with him. They are not only satisfied that the agreement has been reached without laying down the condition of not to hang Bhagat Singh, but also consider the signing of such an agreement as a great victory and celebrate the same. In addition, Mr. Gandhi says that Lord Irwin is a Mahatma (great soul), and has ordered the common people of the country to address the Vice-roy the same way. Lord Irwin publicises Mr. Gandhi among divinity.

The same people who have been hailing Mr. Gandhi as a great leader are now shouting ‘down with Gandhi’ and ‘down with congress.’ They show black flags wherever he goes, and disturb the meetings he addresses. These things have become common.

When we witness these things we are at a loss to find out either the opinion of the public or the principle they entertain regarding political affairs. We also doubt if they really adhere to any principle.

Whatever be the position of the public, even when Gandhi started the agitation of Salt Satyagraha, we explained elaborately that it would not only be of no use to the people, but also hostile to the progress of the country and to the liberation of the suffering class.

Even Gandhi has said clearly and openly admitting that the reason for starting the agitation had been to spoil and undo the work done by persons like Bhagat Singh.

To supplement (these things), the real socialists among the neighbours have been proclaiming loudly: "Mr. Gandhi bas betrayed the poor. He does these things to eradicate the socialist principles. Down with Gandhi, down with Congress." But our known national heroes and patriots never cared for these reactions. They did not realise the pros and cons of anything. Like those who fall into the well holding the lamp, like those who clash against the rock accepting the challenge, they were blindly and wildly enthusiastic (about the Salt Agitation). They went to prison and returned ‘triumphantly’. They accepted the honour connected with it. And now after finding Bhagat Singh hanged, they also shout, ‘Down with Gandhi’, ‘Down with Congress’. We do not understand what benefit will ensue due to such behaviour.

As far as we are concerned, let us tell the truth: There are idiots and fools in this land. They do not think of the pros and cons of a course of action, but selfishly seek their own honour. Had Bhagat Singh lived long, he would have to suffer of such people. Instead, it is good that Bhagat Singh is dead and has found ‘peace’. I am sad that I cannot get such a great rare chance (paeru).

The issue is whether a man has done his duty or not. The issue is not whether the action has borne fruit. Yet we agree that we should do our duty, taking into account the time and place. We are sure that time, place and the general trend are not hostile to the principle upheld by Bhagat Singh. Though it occurs to our mind that he has erred a little in choosing the means to translate his principle into practice, we will never at any time be emboldened to say that his principle is a flawed one. It alone will make peace prevail in this world.

If Bhagat Singh had came to the firm and sincere conclusion that all his principles were correct, and that the methods he had used were the just ones, then he should have definitely conducted himself only in the way he had done. If he had not so conducted himself, we could not say he was an honest person. So we now say that he is a true man. It is our strong view that only Bhagat Singh’s principle is needed to India.

As far as we know, Bhagat Singh’s principle represented socialism and communism. As an evidence in this view, we find the following lines in the letter he wrote to the governor of the province of the Punjab:

"Till Communist Party comes to power and people live without unequal status, our struggle will continue: It cannot be brought to an end by killing us: it will continue openly and secretly:"

Further, we think that Bhagat Singh had no faith in god and in divine dispensation, but was a man of self-confidence. Holding such views is not a crime under any law. Even if it is considered to be against any law, no one need to be afraid of it because, we are sure, that following those principles (that Bhagat Singh upheld) will not do any harm or cause any loss to the public. If by chance any harm or loss takes place, it will be unintentional. We endeavour to put the principle into practice wholeheartedly, without entertaining personal hatred towards individuals or towards communities or towards the people of any other land. We do our work without causing injury to any person, but we are ready to undergo extreme suffering for the cause we espouse. So we need not worry about or be afraid of anything.

The same philosophy that underlies our endeavour to eradicate untouchability also forms the basis of the efforts to remove poverty. To abolish untouchability we have to abolish the principle of upper and lower castes. In the same manner, to remove poverty we have to do away with the principle of capitalists and wage-earners. So socialism and communism are nothing but getting rid of these concepts and systems. These are the principles Bhagat Singh stood for. It is no wonder that those who consider them just and necessary call for the downfall of Gandhi and Congress. What is very strange is that those who advocate these principles hail Gandhi and Congress.

The day when Gandhi said that god alone guides him, that Varnashrama Dharma is a superior system fit to govern the affairs of the world, and that everything happens according to god’s will, we came to the conclusion that there is no difference between Gandhism and Brahmanism. We also concluded that unless the Congress Party that subscribes to such philosophy and principle is abolished, it will not be good to the country. But now this fact has been found out at least by some of the people. They have gained the wisdom and courage to call for the downfall of Gandhism. This is a great victory to our cause. If Bhagat Singh had not died by being hanged, there would not have been any chance for this victory to take place in such a popular manner. We even venture to say that Gandhism would have gained more ground if Bhagat Singh had not been hanged.

Bhagat Singh had not fallen sick, suffered and died as it normally happens with people. He gave his life for the noble cause of showing to India, nay to the world, the path of real equality and peace. He has reached a great height, a feat never achieved normally by any one else. We applaud and sing of his martyrdom from the depth of our heart. At the same time, we request those in our government to find out and hang four true persons like Bhagat Singh in each of the provinces.

The Modern Rationalist
November 2006

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