Bhagat Singh is baar na lena kaaya bharatwasi ki!
Deshbhakti ki saza aaj bhi tumhe milegi faansi ki!
(Bhagat Singh,don’t be born as an Indian!
Even today, you will be hanged for your patriotism!)
In 2004, I was going to Raipur, Chattisgarh for some work. Before boarding the train, I bought “Writings of Bhagat Singh and his Friends” from People Publishing House, Connaught Place, Delhi and I was reading it on my train journey till I reached Raipur.
Coincidently, the next day was Chhattisgarh foundation day ( 1 November). On this day, every year, the state government puts up a fair. Upon the request of local friends, I also went to the fair. A big pandal was put up with a tableau showcasing the development of the state. There was another tableau in the corner that caught my attention. The title of the tableau was “Confiscated Naxal (Maoist) literature. On that stall, there was literature and writings published by Naxalites working in the forests of Chhattisgarh. Suddenly I was shocked to see what was next to those documents. There was the book “Writings of Bhagat Singh and his friends” and next to it was Lenin’s famous book “State and Revolution”. I still had `Writings of Bhagat Singh and his friends`in my bag. For a second, a sensation passed through my body. When did Bhagat Singh’s writings become Naxalite Literature?
I was staying with an acquaintance who is a lawyer by profession and has been overseeing cases of many people who were alleged to be “Naxalites’.He laughed and said-
“One can read Bhagat Singh in cities like Raipur and Bilaspur but as you cross the boundaries of the city and move towards the villages and forests where Dalits and Adivasi are fighting against the state and the capitalist class, the book of Bhagat Singh in your bag starts getting heavier and Bhagat Singh starts to move. He comes to life and who is not afraid of a living Bhagat Singh? In those roads, if you are found with a living Bhagat Singh, your punishment will also be the same as that of Bhagat Singh and his friends.”
Later in the next 16 years of my political life, I have seen this truth very closely. Another expert on Kashmir Issues also told me something similar. He told me that watching a famous movie `Omar Mukhtar´ on youtube is quite a normal thing. But watching this movie during the 90s when militancy was at its peak in Kashmir, could land you in jail or worse get you killed. Watching `Omar Mukhtar´ was a political act in those times in Kashmir.
“Soye hue Sher utho, aur bagawat khadi kar do!”
( O´ Sleeping Lions, wake up and Revolt! )
These lines that were written by Bhagat Singh calling forth Dalits have the power to start a revolt in a Naxal affected Dalit Basti in Bihar and send the ones who give this call to jail.
The police Inspector understands the power of Bhagat Singh. During any protest demonstration, when the police are beating the protestors with lathis, this is what they say-
“Abhi mein tere sar se Bhagat Singh ka bhoot utarta hu” ( I will rid you of the ghost of Bhagat Singh)
During the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Lucknow, Police were shouting this line and beating the peaceful protesters.
Marx wrote in the Communist manifesto in 1848- A Spectre is haunting Europe- the spectre of communism. Likewise today the spectre of Bhagat Singh is haunting India.
Actually, the ideas that are relevant to society, the bearers of those ideas are also essentially present in those societies, even if they are a few in number. Bhagat Singh not only lives through his ideas, but he is also active through the people who carry forward his ideas. That is why the challenge today is to move beyond the passive reading of Bhagat Singh´s ideas and identify the real carriers of his ideas and be with them.
That day in Raipur, while I was looking at Lenin’s `State and Revolution´among the “Confiscated Naxalite Literature” in bewilderment, I quietly picked´State and Revolution´. I had a surreal feeling that maybe one of its pages was also earmarked. But I found that the book was marked till the end and did not find any earmark, meaning the book was read completely. In 1931, before his hanging, Bhagat Singh could read only half of the book and had earmarked it.
In that surrealist feeling, I realised that Bhagat Singh is now content that today that book has been fully read.
The original article was written in Hindi. It was translated into English by Swati Krishna.
The author is a social activist based in Uttar Pradesh. Views are personal.