90 Years after Martyrdom-Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev- Reliving in Farmers Movement!

bhagat singh

23rd March 2021marks the completion of 90 years of execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who by now have got the status of supreme martyrs of Indian freedom struggle and every shade of political opinion, even when not sharing their vision of India, eulogies them for advancing their political interests, as they have, by now, become supreme symbol of nationalism and patriotism! The agitating farmers on Delhi borders and the powers suppressing them, both are marking the event in a big way, though one-the farmers are marking the day with the spirit and vision of the supreme martyrs and the other –the ruling powers in centre, trying to suppress the farmers, are marking the day with big posters, advertisements and somewhat fake photographs and mythical narrations spending money from state treasure of people’s paid taxes!

By now, Bhagat Singh has also got the status of one of country’s foremost political thinkers, as his writings in last few years have been published in many Indian languages. Out of his 130 writings in total, found so far, many languages-English, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi and Urdu have the credit of publishing complete writings, while many more like Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, Guajarati, Sindhi, Odia and Assamese have published selected writings, all others languages have at least few writings in print. Why I am an Atheist, his classic political essay has been published even in French! There are more than six hundred books published on Bhagat Singh alone, in at least twenty Indian and foreign languages, some of them from the world renowned prestigious publishers. Out of all freedom fighters, the maximum numbers of books proscribed during British colonial period, in many Indian languages were on Bhagat Singh, as per National archives of India and British records!

So Bhagat Singh does not need much elaboration on such occasions, however Rajguru and Sukhdev find less mention, which needs to be paid attention. Sukhdev, born on 15th May 1907, as per family records and on 18th February 1907, as per his school certificate mentioned date, in Naughara family house in now crowded area of Ludhiana. Although family was living in Lyallpur, where Bhagat Singh family also lived. Since Sukhdev’s father died early, he was brought up by his uncle Achint Ram Thapar, a nationalist in his own right of Lyallpur. Two biographies of Sukhdev are authentic-both by his brothers-Jaidev Thapar, which is not available and another by his other brother-Mathura Das Thapar-Mere Bhai Sukhdev in Hindi language, which has got many reprints and continue to be in circulation. Mathura Das Thapar biography of his brother is well documented and carries few writings of Sukhdev as well. The copy of Lahore conspiracy trial with Sukhdev’s notes on sidelines is part of National Archives of India, gifted by Sukhdev family. Sukhdev, along with Bejoy Kumar Sinha and Bhagwati Charan Vohra was ideological comrade of Bhagat Singh and Mathura Das Thapar in his memoirs of Sukhdev, had mentioned the titles of books which both Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev had read and discussed for hours, sometimes for whole of the nights! In their political organization-Hindustan Socialist Republican Association/Army (HSRA), while Bhagat Singh was coordinator of all states, Sukhdev was convenor of Punjab state. Both Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev were college mates in National College Lahore. Sukhdev’s name figures nowhere in Saunders assassination case, known as second Lahore Conspiracy case, the first one being Ghadar Party case, in which Kartar Singh Sarabha and six others were executed. Sukhdev being trapped in usual police lies based investigation of always saying that other accused have already told the whole story, had made a statement, but still being careful by not mentioning the party shelters. He was neither part of assassination, in which Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Jai Gopal had taken part and Chandershekhar Azad had overseen the whole operation. Yet he owned every part of assassination plan and preferred to die with his comrades rather than saving his life. The farcical and sham part of trial and colonial justice was death sentence for Sukhdev, which could not have been given in any judicial system, as A G Noorani in his classic book-The Trial of Bhagat Singh had underlined. There are two letters written by Bhagat Singh to Sukhdev, both are published, but Sukhdev letters to Bhagat Singh have not been found. Both letters deal with philosophical themes of Love and Suicide. While Sukhdev’s ideas or perception of Love was somewhat traditional and conservative, Bhagat Singh was more liberal and realist in perception about love. He tells Sukhdev in his letter that Love is a feeling which can give a great strength to revolutionaries, by giving an example of Italian revolutionary Mazzini- In the context of discussing someone’s character, one thing that is worth thinking about is if love has ever proved to be helpful to any person. Let me answer this today – yes, it did – for Mazzini. You must surely have read that he was not able to endure the first unsuccessful rebellion, the grief of a heart-wrenching failure, and the memory of martyred comrades. He could have either gone mad or committed suicide, but with a letter from his beloved, he became not only as strong as the others, but stronger than everybody else. 5th April 1929 letter to Sukhdev.

Both friends had changed their opinions in jail times. Sukhdev who despised the idea of Suicide outside, not tolerating sufferings of jail, became votary of suicide in jail, while Bhagat Singh outside jail was more sympathetic to a man who committed suicide due to sufferings in life. In September 1930 letter, few days before the death sentence to all three was announced, inside jail itself, Bhagat Singh rebuked Sukhdev on thinking about suicide-

those of us who are certain to get the death sentence should wait patiently for the day when this sentence would be pronounced, after which they will be hanged. Even that death will be beautiful, but to commit suicide, to put an end to one’s life, to escape some suffering – that is cowardice. I wish to tell you that it is hardship that make a person complete

Rajguru born on 24th August 1908 in village Khed, now renamed as Rajguru Nagar near Pune, was jolly fellow and wanted to be ahead of Bhagat Singh in everything. He was angry at not being sent to Central Assembly for throwing bomb. He walked from his village to Benaras where he got admission in Sanskrit school and joined HRA. Bhagat Singh was supposed to shoot Scott in front of SSP office in Lahore, while Jai Gopal was to give signal of SSP coming out of the office. While Jai Gopal made mistake in identifying Scott and gave signal to Saunders as Scott, who was Deputy SP, Rajguru impulsively shot Saunders, while Bhagat Singh could recognise that it was not Scott and shouted to Chandershekhar Azad that-the person was not Scott, but before he could even complete the sentence, Rajguru had shot Saunders, which compelled Bhagat Singh also to shoot further. At the gallows also it was Rajguru, who first of all himself got the rope put into his neck to be hanged.

With such tales of bravery the three martyrs have got such status of supreme martyrs and a permanent source of inspiration for the generations to come and presently to the Indian farmers movement, who have got such strength from their sacrifice that they are continuing their movement for their rights even after sacrificing 250+ farmer lives and four months of continuing dharna, with no end in sight in near future. Perhaps Govt. should realise what Bhagat Singh had said-Individuals can be crushed but not the ideas, which have longer life than individuals. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev had been crushed as individuals by British colonialists, but their ideas find fragrance every now and then, presently in Indian farmer’s movement. Whether present Govt. proves stronger than even British colonial Govt. in crushing Bhagat Singh ideas too, that will be known with the fate of farmer’s movement. Meanwhile country pays salute to the three supreme martyrs on 91st year of their sacrifice!

Chaman Lal is retired Professor from JNU and is Honorary Advisor to Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre, New Delhi. He is editor of The Bhagat Singh Reader. Email: [email protected]



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