Bhagat Singh was a sensitive person. He could speak, from his own location, on the question of untouchables. He spoke on swaraj. I wonder why no meeting could happen between Babasaheb Ambedkar and him despite both becoming active around the same decade, the 1920s. I think it was because of absolute difference in the battles they fought. He born in a jat clan (a neo brahminic caste in Punjab). Let’s talk about today’s scenario in his context.
Akali Dal (fully subsumed in the RSS now) in Punjab proudly accepts Bhagat Singh as a real hero. As children we grew up listening to stories about him, that Bhagat took revenge for the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai who led the protest against the John Simon Commission. The popular narrative claimed that he died because of injuries sustained during the lathi charge against the protesters. Lajpat was angry that no Indian was represented in the Simon Commission, a body which was supposed to study and then report on political situation of India. Now, this was the same Simon Commission before which Babasaheb Ambedkar, on behalf of the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha, raised issues concerning the state of education of the Depressed Classes in the Bombay presidency on 29th May 1928 at Damodar Hall, Parel, Bombay. The same Lajpat Rai never thought of giving representation to Dalits, Adivasis and Bahujans.
Well, it was only due to this incident that Bhagat thought of revenge, and in a case of mistaken identity killed someone else instead of Scott, the officer responsible for the volence on the protesters. However, I have differences with Bhagat’s revenge!
In fact, Lajpat Rai died 17 days after the lathicharge, and not due to injuries but because of a heart attack. And there is an interesting and different story here. People working with the Gadar movement in the United States had given him money to pass on to their associates in Punjab. But he did not give the money. It is not known what he had done with that money. When people got to know about it they started searching for him. And he could not show them his face. In the end he died because of the heart attack as pressure was mounting on his head to return the money. This fact cannot be ignored and it cannot be assumed that Bhagat wasn’t aware of it.
Lajpat had claimed that he was a Hindu first, and then a nationalist. He believed that Hindu philosophy is the strength of India. Whereas Bhagat Singh, in his famous article, ‘Why I am an Atheist’, had spoken against Hinduism. There were fundamental differences between them. Far from being a fan of Lajpat Rai, Bhagat used to philosophize about the future of India as a swaraj bharat. How could Bhagat, who could not buy the argument of his Sikh fellow jail mates on god, agree with the ideology of Lala Lajpat? Bhagat’s views on the question of untouchables were absolutely different from Lajpat’s!
Hindu leaders had a problem with the Simon Commission as it was listening to Babasaheb whereas Bhagat Singh could not get a chance to understand how Brahmanism had eaten up the rights of Dalits/Adivasis and Bahujans. He spent most of his time thinking against the British as he was wounded from inside. He unfortunately could not get time to understand how caste Hindus had negotiated with the East India Company to secure their interests. He could not get a chance to engage with the issues of Dalits on a larger canvas.
People who have read his Jail Diary know how deep his thoughts were. Lenin and Marx were his heroes. He was hanged at a young age of 23. It has also come to light that the British were looking at Gandhi to see if Bhagat Singh could be given any respite. But Gandhi did not do anything towards that end. He called Bhagat a terrorist and thus justified the punishment to hang him.
Well, I cannot do anything with the available torn, distorted and misrepresented history. Today, many boys from the Jat community, wherever in the country they might be, wear t-shirts displaying Bhagat Singh’s name with a statement written in Punjabi ‘lagdai fer auna pau’ (‘It seems he has to come back”). The Jat boys’ romance is only about waiting for Bhagat Singh. They look at politicians as ‘black angrez’ and don’t know what to do. So they wear such t-shirts and feel happy. In Punjab, I came across boys driving expensive jeeps or cars with Bhagat Singh stickers, showing him twirling his mustache. They added a patriarchal symbol to his image and no one seems to have any problem with it. Just like Sikhism which had talked about equality and humanity lost those elements because of being under the control of dominant castes and due to joining hands with Hindu fundamentalist forces, Bhagat Singh’s philosophy has also been confined to the Jats. However, Dalits did not let that happen with their communities’ role models.
Bhagat Singh was from the Jat community. Even if people say he is for everyone, that cannot actually be the case. I can only visualise Bhagat Singh for myself but the open market belongs only to the Jats. He was born in a Jat Sidhu family. Sharing the same surname, the joker Navjot Singh Sidhu lays claim to Bhagat Singh as if he was born in his own family. The same Navjot will not speak anything good about Ambedkar because of his caste arrogance and hinduized biases. Therefore, my dignity lies with only the Dalit movement and my future shall be shaped by the Dalit-Adivasi-Bahujan Movement.
My bestest regards to you Bhagat Singh! Happy Birthday!!
Gurinder Azad is a poet, writer, translator and human rights activist.
Pictures courtesy: the net.