– Article contributed by Swati, IIT BHU
“The peasant who grows corn for all, starves with his family, the weaver who supplies the world market with textile fabrics, has not enough to cover his own and his children’s bodies, masons, smiths and carpenters who raise magnificent palaces, live like pariahs in the slums.” The above mentioned lines seem as a very recent picture of our society, but to the surprise they were loudly said by Bhagat Singh around 90 years back in court to the magistrate. These lines by Bhagat Singh clearly speaks of the naked truth about our society which remains same even after a century. Even after being called republic, it can be observed that the socio-political and economic disparities continued and have increased to a great extent.
In the time when people are expected to wear badges and slogans of blind nationalism on their heads, and people are being misled about the real causes of the problems of society, we really need to question this definition and idea of nationalism. We need to think if lynching people based on caste and religious identity, or imposing UAPA and sedition on students , intellectuals and activists for having dissent , grabbing the adivasi’s land for corporate interests, privatising the already insufficient public education system, supporting rallies for rapists, declaring riots, murdering journalists, cold blooded fake encounters are our idea of serving the nation? With this fake “nationalism” as cover, manuvadi-hindutva-fascism is showing its most naked form and the state is consciously preventing us from looking into the chains of slavery around us. In such times, Bhagat Singh’s vision of social and political justice needs to be revisited; we need to be engaged with the significant intellectual legacy of struggle which he has left behind.
We are made to remember Bhagat Singh as a brave-heart who sacrificed his life for nation at the age of 23 in the struggle for independence. Most leaders have intentionally ignored his social programme, projecting him merely as a passionate anti-colonialist and nationalist, which is not only inaccurate, but incomplete. They pay homage to Bhagat Singh on his anniversary like rituals, and distort the life and history of our martyrs, which is not mere a political drama but a serious conspiracy to prevent the youth from knowing his actual ideas. His martyrdom is venerated, but we seldom ponder over his intellectual legacy, something which we should actually look for in order to create an egalitarian society which he dreamt of and worked for.
When most of the leaders of his times were having only one immediate goal of physically expelling the Britishers which they used to call as freedom, Bhagat Singh understood their strategy to safeguard the interests of Indian feudal and capitalists and their intentions of transferring the power through a compromise between the British and Indian capitalists. He had prescience to look beyond the immediate. One of his last messages from prison on March 3rd, 1931 was quite explicit saying, “The struggle in India would continue so long as a handful of exploiters go on exploiting the labour of the common people for their own ends. It matters little whether these exploiters are purely British capitalists, or British and Indians in alliance, or even purely Indian.” He was no ordinary revolutionary with passion to die or kill for the cause of freedom. His vision was to establish a classless society, for him ‘Inquilab Zindabaad’ was not merely an emotional war cry but a lofty ideal to end class distinctions and exploitation of the masses and which would give birth to a new social order.
Bhagat Singh considered communalism as big as an enemy as colonialism. He wrote, “Your well-being is in erasing the discrimination based on colour, creed, race, religion, regionalism and unite together to try and take the power of government into your hands. By trying so, you are not going to lose anything but one day your shackles will break freeing you from economic despondency.” His ideas of internationalism inspired many of his times. He noted, “On the occasion of Lenin Day we send out heartfelt congratulations to all, on the developments in the Soviet Union. We consider ourselves to be part of the world revolutionary movement. Workers’ rule will be established, capitalism and imperialism will be destroyed.” About the caste based exploitation in India, he wrote in one of his article, “Our country is unique where six crore citizens are called untouchables and their mere touch defiles the upper castes. Gods get enraged if they enter the temples. It is shameful that such things are being practiced in the twentieth century.”
We can clearly see that the current so called trajectory of development of “independent” India is the exact contrast of Bhagat Singh’s vision about freedom. The greatest challenge today is to make sure that the country’s institutions live up to democratic principles. The call of the hour is to wake up wide to one’s revolutionary responsibilities. Bhagat Singh’s vision of social and political justice continues to be relevant and his ideals should inspire us to take forward the revolutionary struggle for freedom from exploitation.