Today is the 23rd March 2019. A poll fever has gripped Mera Bharat Mahan. Indians are obsessed with different parties ‘ candidates list. Mafia dons are eager to “serve” the motherland. Some dons, who have been convicted by courts, are out to get tickets for their better – halves. In this cacophony, nobody is bothered to remember that on 23rd March 1931, Bhagat Singh and his two comrades, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sent to the gallows in the Lahore jail. On Bhagat Singh ‘s martyrdom day, newspapers are speculating about mafia don Anant Singh’ s Lok Sabha ticket! Therefore, let me remember Bhagat Singh in the times of Anant Singh.
Bhagat Singh was born in a family of revolutionaries. His uncle Ajit Singh was a great freedom fighter. There is an interesting story about Bhagat Singh’s childhood. One day, Bhagat Singh, then a little boy, was planting his toy-gun in his field. His amused family members asked him what the naughty Bhagat was doing. “I am going to grow guns in my field to drive the Englishmen out ” replied the kid who went on to become Shaheed – e-Azam!
Indians instantly recognise Bhagat Singh because of his signature hat. His hat is as popular as Gandhiji ‘s round glasses and lathi. When I studied at the Patna Science College from 1984 to 86, an ice – cream seller was very popular with students on the Ashok Rajpath. Everyone called him Bhagat Singh because he wore a hat and sported an upturned moustache. But do you know that Bhagat Singh DIDN’T wear a hat regularly. In fact, he wore a hat to hoodwink the police. He dressed as a brown saheb and escaped with his “wife” when the police were hot on his heels. Bhagwati Charan Vohra ‘s wife played the role of Bhagat Singh’ s wife during his daring escape. Vohra was also a revolutionary. He wrote a pamphlet on Philosophy of the Bomb. He himself was killed while making a bomb. His wife was called Durga Bhabhi by Bhagat Singh and his comrades.
There is another little – known fact about Bhagat Singh. When he was being tried in the Lahore Conspiracy Case, no lawyer was ready to fight his case. Such was the terror of the British Raj that lawyers refused to represent lion – hearted revolutionaries. Finally, a Muslim lawyer Asaf Ali fought Bhagat Singh ‘s case. Though he couldn’t save Bhagat Singh, Asaf Ali went down in history as Bhagat Singh’ s fearless lawyer. Asaf Ali was married to a Hindu lady Aruna. Aruna Asaf Ali was honoured with Bharat Ratna in the 1990s.
Another lesser – known fact about Bhagat Singh is his atheism. Bhagat Singh didn’t believe in God! Like Karl Marx, he considered religion as the Opium of the Masses! In fact he wrote a long essay, Why I Am An Atheist to explain his animosity towards religious mumbo – jumbo. And he was a die – hard secularist. When Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh ‘s hero, turned somewhat communal, a crestfallen Bhagat Singh wrote an article The Lost Leader to express his dismay. And he was a bookworm too.
On the day of his hanging, Bhagat Singh was engrossed in a book, written by Lenin, the Soviet revolutionary. When prison guards came to his cell, he requested them to let him finish the book. “Let two revolutionaries meet” told Bhagat Singh to guards who stood overwhelmed by his bravery in the face of death. So let me salute Bhagat Singh on his martyrdom day. Anant Singhs will come and go. But Bhagat Singh represents the soul of India!
(Amitabh Kumar Das is a retired IPS Officer. His views here are personal.)