On every 23rd March, the leaders of the nation pay homage to three supreme martyrs of freedom struggle-Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev! 89 years after their martyrdom, Bhagat Singh, who became an icon of revolutionary movement, even during his lifetime, continues to be one of the most popular icons of the nation, along with Mahatma Gandhi and perhaps Subhash Chander Bose. But do the nation had really honored Bhagat Singh in the past 73 years of independence or just made the day as a ritualistic day by paying lip service to the martyred ones?

Since Bhagat Singh is most popular youth icon, has any University been named after him? Has his thought in form of his writings, been made part of School/College/Universities Syllabuses? Even the youth day of the country is not named after him! Swami Vivekanand birthday 12th January was declared National Youth Day in 1984 by Government of India. Would the Punjab Government dare to declare 28th September as Punjab Youth day, especially in the wake of Drug infected youth of Punjab, to look towards alternative in inspiring vision of Bhagat Singh!

The so powerful icon of freedom struggle does not even find place in gallery of portraits in Central hall of Parliament, where even lesser known revolutionaries like the martyr Hemu Kalani find place. Since Hemu Kalani was from Sindh, then Deputy PM Advani saw to it that his portrait is displayed in Central hall of Parliament portrait gallery! Bhagat Singh statue has been put up with those of Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhash Chander Bose and so outside Parliament, but their portraits are also displayed in Gallery but not of Bhagat Singh. Ironically portrait of V D Savarkar, an accused in Mahatma Gandhi murder case is displayed opposite to Mahatma Gandhi portrait!

There are scores of colleges in India and hundreds of schools and youth clubs named after Bhagat Singh in Punjab as well as throughout India, but why not a University? I checked University Grants Commission (UGC) website to know if any University is named after Bhagat Singh and how many Universities are named after Freedom fighters? As on 1st February 2020, UGC has listed 935 Universities throughout the country, dividing into many subheadings, such as there are 50 Central Universities, 409 State Universities and 127 Deemed to be Universities. Then there is spurt in Private Universities, these are 349 at present, but numbers of private Universities is increasing at alarming speed.

While lot many Universities are named on states or cities where they were set up, like Delhi University, Calcutta University, or Panjab University, however large number of Universities are named after eminent national leaders or scholars also. I looked at list of only Central and state Universities, I found interesting data. The maximum number of Public sector Universities are named after Dr. B R Ambedkar-14 in total, exactly half of the number- 7 Universities are named after Mahatma Gandhi. The most vilified national leader in present regime-Jawahar Lal Nehru has also the same number as Mahatma Gandhi, whereas his daughter Indira Gandhi has six, but Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi has eight Universities in his name! All other national leaders are having lesser number of Universities in their names, as Netaji Subhash Chander Bose has just three, same number goes with Sardar Patel! But others have more numbers, fast growing name is of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, who already has four Universities in his name and may cross Gandhi and Nehru soon! Even APJ Abdul Kalam has four Universities in his name, while Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education minister of India has just one. Four Universities are named after Swami Vivekanand. One pleasant surprise is Scientist C V Raman, who has three Universities in his name. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Rabindranath Tagore have two each till now.

Among the revolutionaries, Birsa Munda, Sidho-Kanha-tribal revolutionaries have two Universities in their names, Tilka Manjhi another tribal revolutionary-one. Out of all well-known revolutionary icons, only one University in Kanpur is named after Chander Shekhar Azad and none after Bhagat Singh or any other well-known revolutionary like Master Surya Sen! Mostly states have Universities named after their local heroes or saints. Bhagat Singh name was not thought either by Punjab state or left ruled states like Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, who own Bhagat Singh as youth icon of their youth and student organizations!  When Central University of Punjab (CUP) was set up in Bathinda in 2009, I wrote to then MHRD minister Arjun Singh and his successor Kapil Sibal to name CUP on Bhagat Singh, but received no response. Punjab MP’s in Parliament can still pressurize Central Govt. to rename CUP Bathinda on Bhagat Singh. If Central University of Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar can be named after Rajiv Gandhi, why CUP cannot be named after Bhagat Singh?

Despite Bhagat Singh’s 130 writings now fully available in many languages-Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, English and Marathi and in lesser number in many more languages, despite his serious and relevant political writings like-‘Religion and our Freedom Struggle’, ‘ Communalism and its resolution’, ‘The Problem of Untouchability’, ’Letter to Young Political Workers’, ‘Why I am an Atheist’ etc, no state or Central University or School Board of any state has included his writings in curricula!

So much so, the name of Chandigarh international airport to be named on Shaheed Bhagat Singh is being held up indefinitely, despite both Punjab and Haryana state Assemblies passing resolutions to this effect as early as in 2009/10.! Whereas there is spree of naming railway stations/airports/Universities in the name of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya!

In contrast, mass organizations of workers, peasants, students, youth and employees love to have Bhagat Singh photographs, songs, slogans as part of their mass struggles/processions, as is visible in Shaheen Bagh dharnas all over the country, apart from Delhi. Bhagat Singh favorite slogan Inqilab Zindabad reverberates in all Shaheen Bagh dharnas and in struggles of mass organizations! Thus honoring Bhagat Singh at non official level!

P.S In the time of Corona scare lock down, when even all religious places- temples, Gurdwaras/Masjids, Churches etc being closed for public, the words of Bhagat Singh from his classic essay-Why I am an Atheist come to mind-He poses the question-I ask why your omnipotent God- Why did he not kill warlords or the fury of war in them and thus avoid the catastrophe hurled down on the head of humanity by Great war?  Perhaps he would have posed this question today-Why does he(God) not kill Corona virus, causing catastrophe in the whole world, that even his places of worship are closed and whole life locked down!

Chaman Lal is a retired Professor from JNU and Honorary Advisor to Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre, New Delhi. He is presently Dean, Faculty of Languages, Panjab University Chandigarh. Email: Prof.chaman@gmail.com


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One Comment

  1. Avatar Jagmohan Singh says:

    Photo is mirror copy of original photo of Bhagat Singh . why it is choosen ? Is this way to honour him.