Tracking Bhagat Singh and Jawaharlal Nehru

Amar Kant


The contradictions between the national-revolutionaries and the national-reformists before the ‘independence’ of India are well-known. These were clearly demarcated in the resolution of the League against Imperialism in June 1931. In this there was a call for the expulsion of Nehru from the organisation for his having come out in labour of ‘Dominion Status’ for India and for having reneged on his understanding of complete independence for the country by supporting the agreement between the Viceroy and Gandhi. The Indian revolutionaries were further warned against the deceitful manoeuvres of Nehru, Subhas Bose and M.N. Roy. This same resolution lauded the memory of Bhagat Singh and his comrades who were heroic martyrs who had been murdered by British imperialism. At the same time the League Against Imperialism cautioned the national- revolutionaries that the national independence of India could not be won by the heroic acts of individual heroes but only by the conscious mass action of the workers, peasants and the revolutionary youth.1 This reflected the Marxist position on questions of terror which distinguished between individual terror and the terror exerted by the masses and wholly opposing the former. The international communist movement over decades has had to criticise the individual terrorism of the national-revolutionaries and the communists in the sub-continent.

In his letter to Johnson in 1926 Stalin pointed out:

I think that the Communist Party of India must wage a resolute struggle against individual terrorism practiced in some left circles of Swarajists. Communist Party must constantly explain that the tactic of individual terror is deeply contrary to party policy, aimed at winning the masses. Communist Party must constantly explain that the tactics of individual terrorism hinders the development of initiative of the masses, the masses develop passivity, develop a sense of fetishism in relation to individual heroes- terrorists and, therefore, it plays into the hands of the enemies of the revolutionary movement in India. I know that at first it will be difficult to carry out such a policy. But I also know that without a smuggle against the policy of terror there will be no opportunities to put the liberation movement in India into really revolutionary tracks.2

The question of the CPI and the question of terror came up during the course of the meetings of the leadership of the CPI with the CPSU (b) in 1951 in Moscow in which the programme and tactical line of the Indian communists was elaborated at the instance of the CPI. Here is what Stalin had to say on this:

If you ask us, the Russian comrades, about this, then we must say to you that amongst us the party is always trained in the spirit of negating individual terror. If our own people struggle against a landlord and he is killed in a skirmish we would not consider that to be individual terror in so far as the masses participated in the skirmish. If the party itself organises terrorist detachments in order to kill a landlord and this is done without the participation of the masses, then we always come out against this as we are against individual terror. Such active operations of individual terror when the masses are in a condition of passivity murders the spirit of the self-activity of the mass, trains the masses in the spirit of passiveness, and, moreover, the people judge matters in the following way – we cannot engage in activity, it is the heroes who will work on our behalf. Thus, there is a hero and on the other side is the crowd which is not participating in the struggle. From the point of view of the training and organisation of the activity of the masses such a view is very dangerous. In Russia there was such a party – the SRs – which had special detachments to terrorise the main ministers. We always came out against this party. This party lost any credit among the masses. We are against the theory of the hero and the crowd.3

And of course the practice of the CPI ML at its inception under the leadership of Charu Majumdar was associated with individual terrorism in the countryside and the towns. Indeed it is apparent that these traditions still continue.

Amar Kant analyses the distinctions between the national- revolutionaries and the national-reformists. At that time some of the national-revolutionaries openly described themselves as ‘terrorists’. The discussion between Chandra Shekhar Azad and Nehru are of interest as they reveal that the revolutionaries considered that terrorist methods had come to a dead end. As is known thereafter the national- revolutionaries began to orientate themselves towards the Communist Party of India.

Vijay Singh.

Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, as he is often and rightly called, had a short life of a little more than 23 years, having been born on September 27, 1907 and, martyred on March 23, 1931. He has been honoured with the title of “Shaheed-e-Azam” (the greatest martyr). It happened without any award ceremony at a Convocation Hall or ‘Bhawan’ and there is no ‘Sannad’ or a Degree. His grateful countrymen did so spontaneously and quietly residing in their villages, towns and cities alike with humility and pride.

Nevertheless, he is generally called and written simply ‘Bhagat Singh’. Whenever he is called or written so, thereby, shearing him of his title, we feel something missing and there is a feeling of guilt of showing him disrespect. Yet he continues to be often called and endearingly written shorn of his title. But when we do so, in our consciousness, sub-consciousness and even in our unconscious mind, he, for ever, is etched as ‘SHAHEED-E-AZAM’. It is an extraordinary and unique honorific, superior to and higher than any ‘Nobel Prize’ and ‘Bharat Ratna’.

He was born in a revolutionary family, in which the spirit of sacrifice ran in their blood and bones. It was natural for Bhagat Singh to imbibe the same while he was still in his teens. While he was yet in his early youth, his life was cut short by the cruel-hearted British imperialists and, thus, his political career too could not be long. In this short but meaningful life, every day of his few years was full of valour and daring actions confronting the vicious British rulers in various ways.

Bhagat Singh soon acquired the stature of an all-time iconic revolutionary, inspiring young and old of every generation. He was praised for his courage and bravery by one and all. Mahatma Gandhi felt privileged to listen to his story of patriotism calling his courage reckless and his daring unequalled. So did Pt. JawaharLal Nehru, Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and many others, soon after he and his two comrades were executed by the inhuman colonial rulers. Here, a thought comes to one’s mind and also a question?

How and why it is Bhagat Singh alone who has been highlighted with so much praise and admiration, while there have been hundreds and thousands others who had kissed the gallows as bravely and courageously as Bhagat Singh for the cause of country’s emancipation. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru felt amazed at his popularity and wondered how a mere chit of a boy had become a guide to others and why, he asked, with a tinge of regret, even the creed of non-violence had to pay the highest tribute to Bhagat Singh. The reason, Pt. Nehru went on, at the AICC Session at Karachi held at the end of March 1931, was, his sacrifice and bravery had reached the upper limit.

But so was the sacrifice and bravery of Chandra Shekhar Azad, a legend and inspiration to his countrymen with reward on his head running into tens of thousands and gallows frowning at him throughout all his revolutionary life. And yet a terror, sending shivers down the spine of the police officials having killed a number of them and injuring many others through bomb explosions and the Viceroy miraculously escaping travelling in a train in December 1929. Betrayed by a traitor, Azad was killed in a prolonged shooting encounter with the police, seriously wounding two of them in the Alfred Park of Allahabad where Azad had gone to see one of his associates. And there have been numerous others whose bravery and sacrifice was no less than that of Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad. ‘Roll of Honour —Anecdotes of Indian Martyrs,’ a book in two volumes by Kali Charan Ghosh from Calcutta, gives an account, of all those valiant freedom fighters, who sacrificing their lives without a sigh, challenged the vicious British imperialists – right from the conquest of Bengal by the English in 1757.

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had attributed the popularity of Bhagat Singh to the “upper limit” of his sacrifice. How had he determined the “upper limit”? There is no measure to do so and it is difficult to quantify the “upper limit”. But if there is any such “upper limit”, then one would find many heroes such as Gopi Nath Saha, Birsa Munda etc. reaching the “upper limit” through the sacrifice of their lives at the attar of freedom. Pt Nehru, who was not only a freedom fighter, politician, statesman and the First Prime Minister of India, was also an historian having authored works like ‘Glimpses of World History’ and ‘The Discovery of India’ and his own ‘Autobiography’. He was not expected to have missed the glimpses of the role played by the Indian revolutionaries in their country’s freedom struggle, ultimately, forcing the British imperialists to think of the impossibility of continuing to rule India after the Second World War, but these ‘Glimpses’ found little space in his, a thousand pages great history book.

Whatever the “upper limit”, the sacrifice and bravery could not be the only reason of Bhagat Singh’s popularity. Getting popularity and praise was not his or other revolutionaries’ aim. How casually, calmly and lightly, the impending execution of their death sentences was being taken by them while at the same time feeling deeply concerned at the plight of so many other political prisoners rotting in jails, is apparent from the following extract of a letter of ‘Mahaatma’ Sukhdev written to Mahatma Gandhi a few days before they were executed.

“Since your compromise, (Gandhi – Irwin Pact signed on March 6, 1931) you have called off your movement and consequently all of your prisoners have been released. But what about the revolutionary prisoners? Dozens of Ghadr Party prisoners imprisoned since 1915 are still rotting in jails in spite of having undergone the full terms. Scores of Martial Law prisoners are buried in those living tombs. And so are dozens of Babbar Akali prisoners. Deogarh, Kakori, Machhua Bazaar and Lahore Conspiracy Case, 1915 prisoners are among those numerous still locked behind bars. More than half a dozen conspiracy trials are going on at Lahore, Chittagong, Bombay, Calcutta and elsewhere. Dozens of revolutionaries are absconding and amongst them are many females. More than half a dozen prisoners are actually waiting for their execution. What about all of these people? The three Lahore Conspiracy Case condemned prisoners who have luckily come into prominence and who have acquired enormous public sympathy, do not form the bulk of the revolutionary Party. Their fate is not the only consideration before the Party. As a matter of fact, their executions (and Sukhdev was one of the three) are expected to do greater good than the commutation of their sentences”. (Going through this moving letter, one’s eyes become brimful)

In a first tribute to the three martyrs, immediately after their execution when he said, “now all is over”, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru began saying, “I have remained absolutely silent during their last days, lest a word of mine may injure the prospect of commutation.” One would ask, “why he remained silent? And how his word demanding commutation of their death sentences would have injured the prospect of commutation? As the President of the All India Congress Party, popularly also called the “Rashtrapati”, (President of the Country), was it not his duty to make all-out efforts to save those precious lives while thousands of petitions signed by lakhs of people demanding commutation of death sentences were being sent to Lord Irwin, the Viceroy ? He should have been the first not only to sign such a petition but also think of other steps demanding commutation of their life- sentences. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, as the then President of the All India Congress Committee could have asked Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, for a meeting with him, for the purpose of requesting him for commuting the death sentences of the three patriots. He could have also requested Mahatma Gandhi to launch a civil disobedience movement for the commutation of their death sentences.

Then in the same short tribute, and in a feeble attempt to redeem himself for his inaction, Pt. Nehru says, “when England speaks to us and talks of settlement, there will be the corpse of Bhagat Singh between us lest we forget.”And forget he did, this resolve of his, when within a week, he, as the main speaker at the AICC Session at Karachi, endorsed rather strongly, the Settlement, called ‘Gandhi-Irwin Pact’, ensuring its approval by the Congress delegates, thereby, exposing his own duplicity and his crocodile tears.

Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru must have known about the several stirring posters such as, “Beware ye Bureaucracy, J.P Saunders is dead, Lala Lajpat Rai is avenged”. “Long Live the Revolution” and “Down With Imperialism”, pasted on the walls all over Lahore just after the Saunders’ killing in 1928. ‘Red Leaflet’- “It Takes A Loud Voice to Make the Deaf Hear’, thrown along with the two bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929 by Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt must have been also read by them. Further, their thrilling statements, given in the Courts extensively reported with banner headlines on the front pages in the Media and read with rapt attention by the people, beside numerous other documents must have been viewed by Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. These “actions” articulating their ideology and their aims on every available occasion, were meant to arouse the revolutionary socialist political consciousness of the people. To run away after the murder of Saunders or to escape after throwing the bombs in the Central Assembly was not their plot as clarified by Sukhdev in his well-known half – written letter. Their aim in all these “actions” was to enlighten the public and that the Saunders’ murder as well as bombs in the Assembly were “political actions” and were the result of the government’s policies and for which it (the government) was responsible. Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru must have understood the significance of their “actions” as well as the inherent threat to the Congress posed by the ideology expressed by Bhagat Singh.

The valiant revolutionary fighters, who sacrificed their lives with the cry of “Long Live The Revolution” and “Down with Imperialism” on their lips, had made the lives of the British and Indian bureaucrats serving the British imperialism vulnerable and unsafe. They have been dubbed “terrorists” and “anarchists” akin to some sort of criminals. Should Bhagat Singh’s daring act of avenging Lala Lajpat Rai’s death be dubbed merely an act of terrorism? Calling it an act of terrorism, as Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru did, condemned it to be some damnable act, although the ‘act’ had vindicated the honour of the Nation as acknowledged by Pt. Nehru himself.

The bulletins of the revolutionaries received wide publicity all over the country through six column headlines on the front pages of many newspapers and spread by word of mouth throughout the country.

Soon after the first revolutionary action, another one followed on April 8, 1929. Every patriot Indian remembers the famous ‘Red Leaflet’ bearing the headline: ‘The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army’ and beginning with “LOUD EXPLOSION NECESSARY TO MAKE THE DEAF HEAR” thrown in the Central Legislative Assembly Hall after dropping the two harmless bombs. The ‘action’ in the Central Legislative Assembly Hall was followed by the historic statement in the Court of the Sessions Judge, New Delhi on June 6, 1929 that Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, as a General Secretary of the Congress Party had thought appropriate to publish in his ‘The Congress Bulletin’ acknowledging it to have received wide appreciation from the Congress rank and file. A letter of Pt. Nehru addressed to Mahatma Gandhi on the 13th of July 1929 reveals their attitude towards Bhagat Singh and his comrades. Disapproving of its publication, Mahatma Gandhi appears to have reproached Pt. Nehru for doing so. In this letter the relevant extract of which is being reproduced, Pt. Nehru apologised.

“I am sorry you disapproved of my giving Bhagat Singh and Dutt’s statement in the ‘Congress Bulletin’. I was myself a little doubtful as to whether I should give it but when I found that there was very general appreciation of it among Congress circles, I decided to give extracts. It was difficult, however, to pick and choose and gradually most of it went in. But I agree with you that it was somewhat out of place. I think you are mistaken in thinking that the statement was the work of their counsel. My information is that the counsel had nothing or practically nothing to do with it. He might have touched up the punctuation. I think the statement was undoubtedly a genuine thing.”

How was it out of place? Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru should have stood by it. The Congress leadership including Mahatma Gandhi should have felt proud of his statement and rather should have owned it. It was “a practical protest against the institution of the Central Legislative Assembly,” [The so-called Indian Parliament]. There should have been no reason to disagree with what had been stated by Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt in their statement before the Sessions Court. The rank and file of the Congress had amply shown their agreement with the views expressed in the same. Pt. Nehru himself seemed to have appreciated the statement and that’s why he published it in ‘The Congress Bulletin’. Mahatmaji too should have approved the same. ‘The Congress Party meant its rank and file, not just its leaders. ‘The Congress Bulletin’ represented not only the Party’s ideology, programme and its activities but also the sentiments, opinions, thoughts, reactions, ideas, impressions of the people in general and Congress men in particular.

One witnesses Bhagat Singh’s phenomenal brilliance in another statement before the Lahore High Court Bench wherein he, like a legal luminary, emphasised the importance of ‘motive’ arguing that the ‘motive of action’ should be the main consideration while judging the offence of an accused.

His letter to the Punjab Governor, his last writing in which he had declared that “the state of war does exist between the Indian Nation and the British Nation and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses are being exploited by a handful of parasites – who may be purely British capitalists or mixed British and Indian or even purely Indian.

There are, of course, numerous other writings of Bhagat Singh equally important such as “An Address To The Young Political Workers”; “Why I Am An Atheist?”; His Party’s [The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association] Manifesto; “The Philosophy of the Bomb”, authored by Bhagat Singh and typed, got printed, published and issued by the Party’s Propaganda Secretary, Bhagwati Charan Vohra in response to Gandhiji’s; “The Cult of the Bomb”; Many of Bhagat Singh’s writings were issued under the name of Kartar Singh and Bal Raj, fictitious names to mislead the British authorities and to prevent the documents falling into their hands.

A passage by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in his “Autobiography’ [page 261­262] gives a glimpse of how poorly he thought of the revolutionaries. He called them terrorists having definitely the fascist mentality. It is being reproduced here.

“I remember a curious incident about that time (February, 1931) which gave me an insight into the mind of the terrorist group (The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association of which Chandra Shekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh were the prominent members) in India. This took place after my discharge from prison either a little before father’s death or a few days after.(Pt. Motilal Nehru died on February 6, 1931). A stranger came to see me at our house and I was told that he was Chandra Shekhar Azad. I had never seen him before but I had heard of him ten years earlier when he had non-cooperated from school and gone to prison during the N.C.O. (Non-Co-operation) Movement in 1921. A boy of 15 years of age or so then, he had been flogged in prison for some breach of gaol discipline. Later he had drifted towards the terrorists (revolutionaries) and he became one of their prominent men in North India. (Chandra Shekhar Azad was the Commander- in-Chief of ‘The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army’). All this I had heard vaguely and I had taken no interest in these rumours. I was surprised, therefore, to see him. He had been induced to visit me because of the general expectation (owing to our release) that some negotiations between the Government and the Congress were likely. He wanted to know if in case of a settlement, his group of people would have any peace. Would they still be considered and treated as outlaws, hunted out from place to place with a price on their heads and the prospect of the gallows ever before them? Or was there a possibility of their being allowed to pursue peaceful vocation? He told me that as far as he was concerned as well as many of his associates, they were convinced now that purely terrorist methods were futile and did no good. He was not, however, prepared to believe that India would gain her freedom wholly by peaceful methods. He thought that sometime in the future, a violent conflict might take place, but this would not be terrorism. He ruled out terrorism as such so far as the question of Indian freedom was concerned. But then, he added, what was he to do when no chance was given to him to settle down, as he was being hounded all the time? Many of the terrorist acts that had occurred recently, according to him, were purely in self-defence.”

“I was glad to learn from Azad, and I had confirmation of this subsequently, that the belief in terrorism was dying down. As a group notion, indeed, it had practically gone, and individual and sporadic cases were probably due to some special reason, – act of reprisal or individual aberration, and not a general idea. This did not mean, of course, that the old terrorists or their new associates had become converts to non-violence, or admirers of British rule. But they did not think in terms of terrorism as they used to. Many of them, it seemed to me, have definitely the fascist mentality.” “I tried to explain to Chandra Shekhar Azad what my philosophy of political action was and tried to convert him to my view – point. But I had no answer to his basic question: what was he to do now? Nothing was likely to happen that would bring him or his like any relief or peace. All I could suggest was that he should use his influence to prevent the occurrence of terrorist acts in the future for these could only injure the larger cause as well as his own group.”

“Two or three weeks later, while the Gandhi-Irwin talks were going on, I heard at Delhi that Chandra Shekhar Azad had been shot down and killed by the police in Allahabad. He was recognised in the day-time in a park and was surrounded by a large force of police. He tried to defend himself from behind a tree; there was quite a shooting-match and he injured one or two policemen before he was shot down.”

Pt. Nehru dubbed the revolutionaries not only as terrorists but also thought of them as fascists and, thereby, did a great injustice to the country’s martyrs and revolutionary freedom fighters. Revolutionaries’ actions were repeatedly called terrorist acts which according to him were countered by the creed of non-violence as stated below:

“Terrorism, in spite of occasional recrudescence, has no longer any real appeal for the youth of India”, asserted Pt. Nehru. He, then, flattered himself by proudly declaring in 1936 in his ‘An Autobiography’:

“Fifteen years’ stress on non-violence has changed the whole background in India and made the masses much more indifferent to, and even hostile to, the idea of terrorism as a method of political action.”

But did Pt. Nehru realise that this “indifference of the masses and their hostility to the idea of terrorism” as a result of his and Gandhiji’s preaching of non-violence, as claimed by him, had the effect of strengthening and perpetuating the British rule. Pt. Nehru had slighted the contributory role, terrorism played in bringing about revolution. Bhagat Singh had stated:

“Terrorism instils fear in the oppressors. It brings hopes of revenge and redemption to the hearts of the oppressed masses. It gives courage and self-confidence to the wavering. It shatters the spell of the superiority of the ruling class”.

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had analysed the phenomenon of Bhagat Singh and his popularity in more than two pages (174-176) of his autobiography, published in 1936, well, more than five years after his (Bhagat Singh) and his two comrades-Sukhdev and Raj Guru’s execution. After giving a deep thought, he reached a conclusion as follows:

“he [Bhagat Singh] did not become popular because of his act of terrorism, but because he seemed to vindicate, for the moment, the honour of Lala Lajpat Rai, and through him of the nation. He became a symbol, the act was forgotten, the symbol remained, and within a few months, each town and village of the Punjab, and to a lesser extent in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name. Innumerable songs grew up about him, and the popularity that the man achieved, was something amazing.”

It goes to Bhagat Singh’s credit that Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, an eminent leader of the Congress Party, had to think it necessary to discuss Bhagat Singh phenomenon in his autobiography. Pt. Nehru, must have felt compelled to do so. Bhagat Singh’s popularity had been proving to be too “amazing”, bewildering and uncomfortable to the bourgeois nationalist leadership of the country and it had to be downplayed and he did try. But could he do so?

Dr. Shalley K. Gupta had made some pertinent observations as follows:

“Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru always appeared, and it was most probably deliberate, to fluctuate between the two extremes of political ideology, the role of revolutionary action versus non-violence and the future economic basis of a free India. This was to wean away the young men’s mind from thinking of joining the revolutionaries by creating an impression that he [Pt. Nehru] too is a revolutionary and, thereby, prompting them to follow him. He did his best to underplay Bhagat Singh and his Party’s revolutionary role and his true Marxist ideology. Even the epic hunger-strike lasting more than 110 days by Bhagat Singh and his comrades and the country-wide upsurge against the British rule was shrewdly obliterated by Pt. Nehru in evaluating the revolutionaries”.

Should Bhagat Singh’s daring act of avenging Lala Lajpat Rai’s death and vindicating nation’s honour be dubbed an act of terrorism? Calling it an act of terrorism, as Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru did, meant it to be some damnable act. Was it not a just and revolutionary act? Again no Indian has forgotten this justified and valorous act. May be Pt. Nehru did.

Had this been the only reason of Bhagat Singh’s popularity, then Sardar Udham Singh should have been equally, if not more, popular than Bhagat Singh. He had killed Sir Michael O’ Dwyer, then Lt. Governor of Punjab, responsible for the diabolical crime of butchering hundreds of innocent young and old, women and children, in the blood-bath at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919 at Amritsar. Sardar Udham Singh too had vindicated the honour of the nation as well as of those got butchered by Sir Michael O’ Dwyer and that he did even 20 years after the massacre. There were others such as Madan Lal Dhingra who vindicated the honour of the nation. But they are almost like foot-notes in the history of the country.

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, while discussing Bhagat Singh phenomenon in his Autobiography, neither took into consideration his (Bhagat Singh) and his Party – “The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army’s” other revolutionary actions nor their revolutionary writings issued in the form of notices, leaflets, statements, articles, booklets, letters etc.

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru did not see or did not like to see the revolutionary movement in India and saw only terrorism and terrorists in various parts of the country. He swept aside all the daring “actions” and writings of Bhagat

Singh and his Party’s Revolutionary Army. He remembered only the murder of Saunders, that too, as it avenged the death of Lala Lajpat Rai and vindicated his and the nation’s honour, but regretfully, at the same time, labelled it ‘an act of terrorism’.

Did Mahatma Gandhi or Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru or any member of their own Congress Party dare to think of avenging Lala Lajpat Rai’s death and vindicate his and the nation’s honour through the creed of non-violence or otherwise? Lala Lajpat Rai was one of the tallest leader not only of the country but was of the Congress Party also. Only the revolutionaries, such as Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Madanlal Dhingra and many others, had thought of doing so putting their lives at stake and displaying a rare courage to vindicate the honour of the nation. The Congress leadership should have felt proud of them.

The revolutionaries had made a unique impact upon the masses. People were over-awed by their courage, fearless patriotic spirit and sacrifice of their lives and showered admiration of their marvellous actions. They thought of them as ‘revolutionary freedom- fighters’ and not ‘terrorists’ as Pt. Nehru and some other historians had designated them.

In his two and a half pages, probing Bhagat Singh phenomenon and his popularity, Pt. Nehru asserts another fact that, “he [Bhagat Singh] did not become popular because of an act of terrorism. Terrorists have flourished in India, off and on, for nearly thirty years, and at no time, except in the early days in Bengal, did any of them attain a fraction of that popularity which came to Bhagat Singh”_ And another “fact”, which is again “obvious” to him, is that can any patriot Indian forget Sukhdev’s brilliant letter to Mahatma Gandhi written just a few days before his execution. This letter was written in the context of his [Gandhiji’s] compromise with the British Indian Government known as ‘Gandhi-Irwin Pact’. Under this compromise, Gandhiji’s civil-disobedience movement prisoners were got released, Sukhdev, in his letter, a part of which already reproduced in foregone pages in this Chapter, reminds Mahatmaji of the fate of Ghadr Party, Babbar Akali and various revolutionary conspiracy cases prisoners rotting in jails. But Mahatmaji did not speak to Lord Irwin, the Viceroy about them. Nor Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Congress President ever pleaded their case.

The epic hunger-strike lasting more than 110 days by Bhagat Singh and his comrades and the mass revolutionary movement resulting in a country­wide revolutionary upsurge against the British rule created by them while locked behind the prison walls, was shrewdly obliterated by Pt. Nehru in evaluating the revolutionaries in his more than 600 pages of his “Autobiography.”Pt. Nehru observes, “and within a few months each town and village of the Punjab and to a lesser extent in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name. It was not “to a lesser extent in the rest of the northern India” as asserted by Pt. Nehru. Bhagat Singh’s name, fame, daring acts and the news of how smilingly he and his comrades kissed the gallows spread in no time throughout the nook and corner of India and “was as widely known all over India and was as popular as Gandhiji.” Articles, editorials, poems, in newspapers such as ‘The Hindu’. ‘The Deccan Chronicle’ of South India, ‘Amrit Bazar Patrika’ of Bengal, ‘Free Press Journal’ of Bombay and in many other newspapers in all parts of the country, began to be published.

Pritam Singh, Professor at Oxford Brookes University, UK, in his research found that in states as different as Assam and Andhra Pradesh, there are folk songs and rural craft works celebrating Bhagat Singh’s bravery.

Mr. Periyar E.V. Ramasami, then well-known and popular literary personality in the South, wrote an important article/editorial in ‘KUDIARASU’, on March 29, 1931. His long editorial/article began stating, “There is no one who has not condoled the death of Mr. Bhagat Singh by hanging. There is none who has not condemned the British Government of India for hanging Bhagat Singh. Besides, we now see several people known as patriots and national heroes scolding Mr. Gandhi for the happening of this event”. Mr. Periyar’s article has been included and published in almost every book on Bhagat Singh. ‘The Modern Rationalist’ thought it appropriate to publish it again in its issue as recently as in November, 2006. Reports and articles on Bhagat Singh’s execution were published as far as in ‘Daily Worker’ in New York, USA and Berlin in Europe.

And it was Bhagat Singh and his ‘The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army’ and not the Congress Party led by Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru who made this people’s “anger” and “indignation” and “national humiliation”, a serious and a major issue and in practice, an act of “terrorism” on the Indian people to be avenged with “counter-terrorism” on the British imperialist rulers. They, the Congress Party and its leadership, on the other hand, condemned the revolutionaries calling them ‘lunatics’ and ‘madmen’.

This new revolutionary development highly unnerved not only the British rulers but also the bourgeois nationalist leadership of the country. The people, however, were secretly very happy. The action and the notices of the revolutionaries were got etched in the eyes and the minds of the people and never forgotten. It was a master-stroke by the leadership of revolutionists that reverberated among the young and the old of the Indian Nation. This could not be cherished by the Indian bourgeois nationalist leadership. Another claim proudly flaunted forth was; “Fifteen years stress on non-violence has changed the whole background in India and made masses much more indifferent to, and even hostile to the idea of terrorism as a method of political action.” This is Pt. Nehru in his “Autobiography”.

One sees grudging “glimpses” of Pt. Nehru in his conflicted views, in his “Glimpses of World History.”

“To the tiger of imperialism, there will only be fiercest opposition and today our country has to deal with that ferocious animal. It may be possible to tame the wild tiger of the forest and to charm away its native ferocity, but there is no such possibility of taming Capitalism and Imperialism when they combine and swoop down on an unhappy land”. And India is one of such unhappy lands in the World where not the tigers of the forest but tigers of Capitalism and Imperialism had been and are still swooping down upon in the 21st century since 1757. Could these tigers be got tamed with non-cooperation and civil disobedience movements and Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Nehru’s “non-violence”? They, in the actions of the revolutionaries, saw the potentialities of the growth of a new phenomenon of revolution against the British rule. This new development started weighing heavily on the minds of the collaborationist leadership of the country as this could affect the interests of the Indian bourgeoisie and their political leadership, the Congress, adversely.

Pt. Nehru, therefore, thought of writing about Bhagat Singh phenomenon in detail eulogizing him individually and that too on the basis of avenging Lala Lajpat Rai’s death and for his bravery in sacrificing his life, excluding him from all the other revolutionary actions as well as his writings. He even ignored the formation of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, a real revolutionary socialist Party articulating the Marxist ideology. This was Pt. Nehru’s masterful stroke.

Many of the writers of the history books have toed the ideology of social democracy sanitized, sanctioned and followed by mainstream nationalist leaders including, especially, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. The role of the valiant revolutionary fighters, who, by sacrificing their own lives, had made the lives of the British and Indian bureaucrats, serving the British imperialism, vulnerable and unsafe, was usually either undervalued or deprecated, calling them terrorists. The significance of the formation of organizations such as Naujawan Bharat Sabha, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army was ignored. Their manifestoes had never found any space in their history books. Terrorism was condemned in its totality without acknowledging its promotional role in inculcating revolutionary fervour and in bringing about revolution. In recent years as Bhagat Singh’s popularity had grown all over the country, his moorat [statue] had been installed within the premises of the Parliament Complex in New Delhi. The ‘moorat’, however, is a feeble substitute for understanding and following his true ideology. The ideology and political views of Bhagat Singh were outlined in his numerous writings and statements which were never mentioned by Pt. Nehru. The historians, while eulogizing Bhagat Singh’s bravery and sacrifice of his life, also ended up eulogizing and glorifying Pt. Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.

The author of ‘Glimpses of World History’ would write about Karl Marx and Lenin devoting about nine chapters on Marxism and the Soviet Union and about hundreds of kings, queens, social reformers, philosophers and religious men but not about the countless lion-hearted revolutionaries, the Anushilan Samiti, the Ghadr Party, The Hindustan Republican Association and Bhagat Singh’s The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and their dauntless actions which shook the foundations of the British Empire, in his internationally acclaimed book of more than a thousand pages.





* This is a chapter from the book entitled ‘Walking with Bhagat Singh Soon after Independence’ which is to be published by Aakar Books, New Delhi.

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