Bhagat Singh (Punjabi: ਭਗਤ ਸਿੰਘ بھگت سنگھ, [pə̀ɡət̪ sɪ́ŋɡ]) (28 September 1907 – 23 March 1931) was an Indian freedom fighter, considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. He is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh (the word shaheed meaning "martyr").
Born to a Jat Sikh family which had earlier been involved in revolutionary activities against the British Raj, Singh, as a teenager, became an atheist and had studied European revolutionary movements. He also became attracted to anarchism and marxist ideologies. He became involved in numerous revolutionary organizations. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) and became one of its leaders, converting it to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). Singh gained support when he underwent a 64-day fast in jail, demanding equal rights for Indian and British political prisoners. He was hanged for shooting a police officer in response to the killing of veteran freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. His legacy prompted youth in India to begin fighting for Indian independence and contributed to the rise of socialism in India.
Bhagat Singh was born into a Sandhu Jatt family to Sardar Kishan Singh Sandhu and Vidyavati in the Khatkar Kalan village near Banga in the Lyallpur district of Punjab. Singh's given name of Bhagat means "devotee", and he was nicknamed "Bhaganwala" by his grandmother, meaning "The lucky one".He came from a patriotic Jatt Sikh family, some of whom had participated in movements supporting the independence of India and others who had served inMaharaja Ranjit Singh's army. His grandfather, Arjun Singh, was a follower of Swami Dayananda Saraswati's Hindu reformist movement, Arya Samaj,which would carry a heavy influence on Singh. His uncles, Ajit Singh and Swaran Singh, as well as his father were members of the Ghadar Party, led byKartar Singh Sarabha Grewal and Har Dayal. Ajit Singh was forced to flee to Persia because of pending cases against him while Swaran Singh was hanged on 19 December 1927 for his involvement in the Kakori train robbery of 1925.
Unlike many Sikhs his age, Singh did not attend Khalsa High School in Lahore, because his grandfather did not approve of the school officials' loyalism to the British authorities. Instead, his father enrolled him in Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School, an Arya Samajist school. At age 13, Singh began to followMahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement. At this point he had openly defied the British and had followed Gandhi's wishes by burning his government-school books and any British-imported clothing. Following Gandhi's withdrawal of the movement after the violent murders of policemen by villagers from Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, Singh, disgruntled with Gandhi's nonviolence action, joined the Young Revolutionary Movement and began advocating a violent movement against the British.Bhagat Singh was born into a Sandhu Jatt family to Sardar Kishan Singh Sandhu and Vidyavati in the Khatkar Kalan village near Banga in the Lyallpur district of Punjab. Singh's given name of Bhagat means "devotee", and he was nicknamed "Bhaganwala" by his grandmother, meaning "The lucky one".He came from a patriotic Jatt Sikh family, some of whom had participated in movements supporting the independence of India and others who had served inMaharaja Ranjit Singh's army. His grandfather, Arjun Singh, was a follower of Swami Dayananda Saraswati's Hindu reformist movement, Arya Samaj,which would carry a heavy influence on Singh. His uncles, Ajit Singh and Swaran Singh, as well as his father were members of the Ghadar Party, led byKartar Singh Sarabha Grewal and Har Dayal. Ajit Singh was forced to flee to Persia because of pending cases against him while Swaran Singh was hanged on 19 December 1927 for his involvement in the Kakori train robbery of 1925.
In 1923, Bhagat famously won an essay competition set by the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. This grabbed the attention of members of the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan including its General Secretary Professor Bhim Sen Vidyalankar. At this age, he quoted famous Punjabi literature and discussed the Problems of the Punjab. He read a lot of poetry and literature which was written by Punjabi writers and his favourite poet was Allama Iqbal from Sialkot.
In his teenage years, Bhagat Singh started studying at the National College in Lahore, but ran away from home to escape early marriage, and became a member of the organisation Naujawan Bharat Sabha ("Youth Society of India"). In the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Singh and his fellow revolutionaries grew popular amongst the youth. He also joined the Hindustan Republican Association through introduction by history teacher, Professor Vidyalankar, which had prominent leaders like Ram Prasad Bismil, Chandrashekhar Azad and Ashfaqulla Khan.It is believed that he went to Kanpur to attempt free Kakori train robbery prisoners from the jail, but returned to Lahore for unknown reasons.On the day of Dasara in October 1926, a bomb was blasted in Lahore, and Bhagat Singh was arrested for his alleged involvement in this Dasara Bomb Case in 29 May 1927, and was released on a bail of Rs.60,000 after about five weeks of his arrest.He wrote for and edited Urdu andPunjabi newspapers published from Amritsar. In September 1928, a meeting of various revolutionaries from across India was called at Delhi under the banner of the Kirti Kissan Party. Bhagat Singh was the secretary of the meet. His later revolutionary activities were carried out as a leader of this association.
Later revolutionary activities
The British government created a commission under Sir John Simon to report on the current political situation in India in 1928. The Indian political parties boycotted the commission because it did not include a single Indian as its member and it was met with protests all over the country. When the commission visited Lahore on 30 October 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led the protest against Simon Commission in a silent non-violent march, but the police responded with violence. Lala Lajpat Rai was beaten with lathis at the chest. He later succumbed to his injuries. Bhagat Singh, who was an eyewitness to this event, vowed to take revenge. He joined with other revolutionaries, Shivaram Rajguru, Jai Gopal and Sukhdev Thapar, in a plot to kill the police chief, Scott. Jai Gopal was supposed to identify the chief and signal for Singh to shoot. However, in a case of mistaken identity, Gopal signalled Singh on the appearance of J. P. Saunders, a Deputy Superintendent of Police. Thus, Saunders, instead of Scott, was shot. Shahid Bhagat Singh quickly left Lahore to escape the police. To avoid recognition, he shaved his beard and cut his hair, a violation of the sacred tenets of Sikhism.
Bomb in the assembly
In the face of actions by the revolutionaries, the British government enacted the Defence of India Act to give more power to the police. The purpose of the Act was to combat revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh.However, the Act was then passed under the ordinance that claimed that it was in the best interest of the public. In response to this act, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association planned to explode a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly where the ordinance was going to be passed. This idea was originated by Bhagat Singh, who was influenced by a similar bombing by a martyr anarchist Auguste Vaillant in the French Assembly. It was decided that Bhagat Singh should go to Russia, while Batukeshwar Dutt should carry on the bombing with Sukhdev. Sukhdev then forced Bhagat Singh to call for another meeting and here it was decided, against the initial agreement, that Batukeshwar Dutt and Bhagat Singh would carry on the bombing.Bhagat Singh also disapproved that the two should be escorted after the bombing by the rest of the party.
On 8 April 1929, Singh and Dutt threw a bomb onto the corridors of the assembly and shouted "Inquilab Zindabad!" ("Long Live the Revolution!").This was followed by a shower of leaflets stating that it takes a loud voice to make the deaf hear.
The bomb neither killed nor injured anyone; Singh and Dutt claimed that this was deliberate on their part, a claim substantiated both by British forensics investigators who found that the bomb was not powerful enough to cause injury, and by the fact that the bomb was thrown away from people.Singh and Dutt gave themselves up for arrest after the bomb. He and Dutt were sentenced to 'Transportation for Life' for the bombing on 12 June 1929.
Ideals and opinions
Bhagat Singh was attracted to anarchism and communism. Both communism and western anarchism had influence on him. He read the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky andBakunin. Bhagat Singh did not believe in Gandhian philosophy and felt that Gandhian politics would replace one set of exploiters with another. Singh was an atheist and promoted the concept of atheism by writing a pamphlet titled Why I am an Atheist. Bhagat Singh was also an admirer of the writings of Irish revolutionary Terence MacSwiney. When Bhagat Singh's father petitioned the British government to pardon his son, Bhagat Singh quoted Terence MacSwiney and said ""I am confident that my death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release" and told his father to withdraw the petition.
From May to September, 1928, Bhagat Singh serially published several articles on anarchism in Punjabi periodical Kirti. He expressed concern over misunderstanding of the concept of anarchism among the public. Singh tried to eradicate the misconception among people about anarchism. He wrote, "The people are scared of the word anarchism. The word anarchism has been abused so much that even in India revolutionaries have been called anarchist to make them unpopular." As anarchism means absence of ruler and abolition of state, not absence of order, Singh explained, "I think in India the idea of universal brotherhood, the Sanskrit sentence vasudhaiva kutumbakam etc., has the same meaning." He wrote about the growth of anarchism,"the first man to explicitly propagate the theory of Anarchism was Proudhon and that is why he is called the founder of Anarchism. After him a Russian, Bakunin, worked hard to spread the doctrine. He was followed by Prince Kropotkinetc."
Bhagat Singh was also influenced by Marxism. Indian historian K. N. Panikkar described Singh as one of the early Marxists in India. From 1926, Bhagat Singh studied the history of the revolutionary movement in India and abroad. In his prison notebooks, Singh used quotations from Vladmir Lenin (on imperialism being the highest stage of capitalism) and Trotsky on revolution. In written documents, when asked what was his last wish, he replied that he was studying the life of Lenin and he wanted to finish it before his death.
Singh began to question religious ideologies after witnessing the Hindu-Muslim riots that broke out after Gandhi disbanded the Non-Cooperation Movement. He did not understand how members of these two groups, initially united in fighting against the British, could be at each others' throats because of their religious differences. At this point, Singh dropped his religious beliefs, since he believed religion hindered the revolutionaries' struggle for independence, and began studying the works of Bakunin, Lenin, Trotsky — all atheist revolutionaries. He also took an interest in Niralamba Swami'sbook Common Sense, which advocated a form of "mystic atheism".
While in a condemned cell in 1931, he wrote a pamphlet entitled Why I am an Atheist in which he discusses and advocates the philosophy of atheism. This pamphlet was a result of some criticism by fellow revolutionaries on his failure to acknowledge religion and God while in a condemned cell, the accusation of vanity was also dealt with in this pamphlet. He supported his own beliefs and claimed that he used to be a firm believer in The Almighty, but could not bring himself to believe the myths and beliefs that others held close to their hearts. In this pamphlet, he acknowledged the fact that religion made death easier, but also said that unproved philosophy is a sign of human weakness.
Bhagat Singh was known for his appreciation of martyrdom. His mentor as a young boy was Kartar Singh Sarabha.Singh is himself considered a martyr for acting to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. In the leaflet he threw in the Central Assembly on 9 April 1929, he stated that It is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas. Great empires crumbled while the ideas survived. After engaging in studies on the Russian Revolution, he wanted to die so that his death would inspire the youth of India which in turn will unite them to fight the British Empire.
While in prison, Bhagat Singh and two others had written a letter to the Viceroy asking him to treat them as prisoners of war and hence to execute them by firing squad and not by hanging. Prannath Mehta, Bhagat Singh's friend, visited him in the jail on 20 March, four days before his execution, with a draft letter for clemency, but he declined to sign it.
Many believe that Bhai Randhir Singh, a revolutionary of 1st Lahore Conspiracy Case and Gadhar, prison inmate and a known figure in Sikh circles, met with Bhagat Singh in condemned cells in Lahore Central Jail on 4 October 1930, when Randhir Singh was released from the jail, as mentioned in his book "Jail Chithiyan" by Randhir Singh himself. Bhagat was condemned on 7 October 1930 contradicting his presence in condemned cells on the 4 October.According to Randhir Singh, Bhagat mentioned to him, that he (Bhagat Singh) had shaven "hair and beard under pressingcircumstances" and that "It was for the service of the country" that his companions "compelled him to give up the Sikh appearance" adding to it that he was "ashamed". He had expressed, as his last wish before being hanged, the desire to get "amrit" from Randhir Singh and to once again adorn the 5 k's.However, his last wish, of getting "amrit" was not granted by the British.Some scholars are skeptic about this meeting as, Randhir Singh being the only source of information about sudden change in Bhagat Singh's point of view towards religion casts doubts, as Bhagat Singh had been a strong critic of religion.