The following is the text of the letter sent by Professor Chaman Lal of Jawaharlal Nehru University to Speaker Loksabha, Som Nath Chatterjee.
From: chaman lal
Subject: Regarding Bhagat Singh statue controversy
To: Som Nath Chatterjee , Speaker Loksabha
For most urgent attn.
Professor Chaman Lal
Dated:–17th August, 2008 Chairperson
Centre of Indian Languages (SLL&CS)
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi -11006
Editor- Complete Documents of Bhagat Singh in Hindi
(Published by Govt. of India-“Shaheed Bhagat Singh:Dastavezon ke Aaine mein’)
Honorable Speaker of India
Parliament House, New Delhi
Subject: Regarding Statue of Bhagat Singh in Parliament Complex
Respected Somnath ji,
In the beginning I must appreciate your sincere efforts in getting the statue of country’s most cherished martyr Bhagat Singh in Parliamentary complex. You have also promised in your visit to JNU in response to my query, to get the plaques installed inside Loksabha at the spots in visitor’s gallery, where Bhagat Singh and B K Dutt stood while throwing bombs and getting arrested and also where the harmless bombs fell near some chairs in the hall. However with all the happiness at symbolic level in getting the statue finally installed and inaugurated by the President of the nation on 15th august 2008, 62nd independence anniversary, in recognition of Bhagat Singh and all other revolutionary martyr’s contribution to national freedom, a very disturbing development has also taken place with this inauguration, about which I wish to draw your most urgent attention.
PTC, a Punjabi news channel on 15th August and The Tribune’s Delhi edition on 16th August has referred to the reactions of close members of Bhagat Singh’s family about the inaugurated statue. Smt. Virender Sandhu, niece of Bhagat Singh (Daughter of Kultar Singh), who is the first biographer of Bhagat Singh and his ancestors in Hindi and who has been honored by Punjab Govt. this year on this forty year old classic book as ‘Shiromani Hindi Sahityakar’, traveled from England to be part of this ceremony, has expressed her deep disappointment at the statue, which has been installed. Abhay Singh Sandhu, son of Kulbir Singh and nephew of Bhagat Singh, who has been instrumental in getting Bhagat Singh’s jail notebook, published from Punjab and Haryana Govts with Punjabi and Hindi translations for free distribution in schools and for public, felt even more distressed at the figure of Bhagat Singh as sculpted in statue.
Jagmohan Singh son of Bibi Amar kaur and nephew of Bhagat Singh has also reacted strongly about the sculpted figure. Being a bit close to family members of Bhagat Singh, as late Kultar singh wrote an introduction to the documents of Bhagat Singh edited by this author, I must also share with you that invitation cards for this programme were not sent by the concerned office to family members of Bhagat Singh and they had to come and collect themselves from the office, which is nothing but disgraceful, though family members have been graceful enough not to make this fact public. Not only family members of Bhagat Singh, even eminent freedom fighter Sh. Shashi Bhushan ,who is also member of Govt. of India’s programme implementation committee for these national anniversaries of Bhagat Singh etc. and who was present on the occasion, felt that the statue looks like that of a 50-60 year old man and not of 23-24 years young person.
Sh. Kuldip Nayar, former member of Rajya Sabha and author of book on Bhagat Singh-‘Without Fear’ has also taken exception to the present statue. Another author S. Irfan Habib, who wrote a book on Bhagat Singh-‘To Make the Deaf Hear’ and which probably your good self has himself gone through felt that the statue looked ‘very bad’. I watched the programme live from Loksabha TV and also saw the picture of statue in next days papers felt shocked at the figure sculpted in the statue.
No doubt Sculptor is known to be a big name, but while sculpting historical figures, face of a personality can not be changed with imagination, it has to remain closest to the real face. No other statue in Parliament complex or elsewhere has suffered this fate of being away from real face as the statue of Bhagat Singh has suffered.
For very long period Bhagat Singh ideas remained shadowed by various fishy interpretations and many paintings, particularly in Punjab, based on these shady interpretations came up. One of these paintings has been of Bhagat Singh wearing yellow turban with pistol in hand, confirming the colonial image of ‘a terrorist’. Some of us like Prof. Bipan Chandra, Prof. Sunmit Sarkar, Prof. Irfan Habib, myself and others, who have worked for many years to resurrect the real image of Bhagat Singh as a brilliant socialist thinker, through his writings, feel cheated, when some of these painted images take precedence over real pictures of Bhagat Singh. Punjab Govt. has been guilty of publishing a painted picture of Bhagat Singh as real picture in media in its official advertisements for last more than three decades, including the advertisement issued on 15th August this year.
The fact of the matter is that four real pictures of Bhagat Singh are now widely available. One is of about 10-11 years, another of National College Lahore’s drama group photo of 16+ years, third one of Lahore police station photograph of 1927, 21 years and last one cliqued by Delhi photographer in first week of April 1929, 4-5 days prior to bomb throwing, photographs of Bhagat sing and B K Dutt, which got published world over on 9th april 1929, after the bomb throwing incident a day earlier. These four photographs are part of my book, published by Govt. of India and released by Sh. Priyaranjan Das Munshi, information Minister on 19th December 2007 at Delhi. These are available at my blog bhagatsinghstudy.blogspot.com as well. Not only that during the campaign for celebrating Bhagat Singh birth centenary and also during campaign for proper statue of Bhagat Singh, after your announcement of statue installment plan came out, I had circulated these four photographs on email to media, political parties and many more.
In fact, Sh. Debbrat Biswas, leader of Forward Bloc in Parliament, even forwarded my letter in this regard to you with his comments. Com A.B.Bardhan also sent me the copy of his own letter, which he sent in this regard. In spite of that I regret to say I or others concerned were never approached informally or formally by any official or the sculptor, while sculpting this historic personality. None of the family members was either consulted or shown the statue prior to inauguration. None of the Parliament members, who had taken great interest in regard to Bhagat Singh like Mohd. Salim, D.Raja or Sita ram Yechuri, Abani Roy etc. nor Sh. Shashi Bhushan were ever consulted about the statue. An unsavory controversy however was created by those, who had nothing to do with the ideas of Bhagat Singh to communalize the issue of statue of a confirmed atheist.
Although the whole world knows Bhagat Singh by his last photograph with hat and dozens of statues throughout the country—Indore, Kolkata, Partapgarh, Delhi (Ferozeshah Kotla) and dozens of other places, are based on this world known photograph, which is popular even in Pakistan. Irony of the matter is that, the place where he created history by his action on 8th April 1929, in this very photographic shape, he was denied the same shape by the new rulers. History will judge all these in due course of time, but the enlightened ones try to correct the errors, as has been done by deciding to install the statue, but a bigger blunder has been committed while correcting the error.
Even if one grants that a statue with turban was the decision of certain committee, then it was imperative that the real picture with turban was to be sculpted, that has not been done. The popular picture with turban is of College drama group. In this picture Bhagat Singh is wearing white Kurta Pyjama with white falling turban, which is not a typical Sikh way of wearing turban. Sikh way is way of wearing close tight turban. Bhagat Singh was almost six feet tall with robust health, but he was not fat. In his turbaned photo, he has very small beard and moustaches, as he was just sixteen then. What the sculptor has done:
i. Bhagat Singh’s body figure looks of a fat person, which he was definitely not.
ii. Bhagat Singh’s beard and moustaches have been shown thick, which were not.
iii. Worse still, he has been shown with standing moustaches, which he had only with hat wearing shape.
There is another irony in this whole issue. Issue of installing Bhagat Singh’s picture in the picture gallery in Central hall of Parliament, where the pictures of much lesser known, even some controversial personalities like Savarkar are displayed , was raised hundreds of times, but Bhagat Singh’s picture was never allowed to be put up in that hall. It has been camouflaged now that he has been given greater honor by installing his statue in Parliamentary complex, where only few more statues like that of Netaji Subhash Bose and Indira Gandhi is displayed. But the Central Hall has also the pictures of those, whose statues are displayed in the complex, but the pictures of Bhagat Singh ,Chandershekhar Azad etc. are still denied entry there. Thus the picture gallery of patriots in Central hall is not free of ideological perspective about Indian freedom struggle, in that sense.
Sir, this is a very serious matter and with a concerned speaker like you must pay urgent attention. To make amends to this serious blunder, first step is to cover the statue, till a proper enquiry is made into whole issue and a properly shaped statue is installed. Secondly, the hat wearing popular, real and last photograph of Bhagat Singh and B K Dutt must be displayed inside the Central Hall, preferably, where they sat watching the proceedings before throwing bombs with plaques. If these amends are not made, I am afraid, the youth of the country will always think that why Bhagat Singh like revolutionary patriots are wronged during their life time and also after their life time by the establishment of that period. Though Bhagat Singh is like a Phoenix, however he may be tried to be buried and killed at the level of body or ideas, he will resurrect himself with renewed vigour, as Che Guvera’s resurrection has happened in all Latin American countries, shaking the neo colonial powers of the earth.
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