‘The Unsung’ by Waseem Altaf

Looking at our history books, we find numerous characters, glorified as national heroes, however when closely examined we discover that they were nothing but opportunists and collaborators. We also find that since history books in Pakistan, as a matter of policy, focus on Pakistan movement rather than anti-colonialism, these men do not deserve any mention in our writings, particularly the official ones.

On the other hand there are a significant number of real heroes who have been conveniently pushed aside by our “ideologues” and the establishment. There is no mention of these great men in our text books and few, if any, know them in this country. However these men were the true symbols of defiance against the oppressive colonial rule, and the freedom the sub-continent won, to a great extent, is owed to these unsung heroes who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of their fellow countrymen.

Without indulging into an unending debate as to who is a terrorist and who qualifies as a freedom fighter, and to what extent the application of violence is justified in a liberation struggle, while we focus on the lives, the conviction and struggle of these men, we find that they were fighting a war of liberation against an oppressive colonial rule and hence were revolutionaries and freedom fighters and not terrorists. They never targeted innocent civilians to achieve political ends, and renounced their present, for the future generations, so that they can live in a free country and have the right to decide for themselves. We should also realize that when no constitutional means are available to achieve political ambitions, the tendency to resort to violence increases manifold.

Udham Singh was brought up in an orphanage. Both his parents passed away by the time he was seven. On April 13, 1919 Udham Singh was serving water to a peaceful gathering of around 20,000 Indians at Jalianwala Bagh, Amritsar, when on the orders of General Dyer, around 90 armed soldiers opened fire on the unarmed civilians who had assembled there to listen to the speeches of their leaders.

Estimates of death range from 379 to 1800, but official records verify that 1650 rounds of ammunition were used. Latest research has revealed that the massacre had occurred with full connivance of the Governor of Punjab Michael O’ Dwyer. Udham Singh who survived the killings, then vowed to take revenge in the Golden temple. For 21 years he continued with his revolutionary struggle and waited for the right moment to hit the main culprit until on March 13, 1940 he got the opportunity to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. At Caxton Hall London, he killed Michel O’ Dwyer with a revolver. He did not try to escape, was caught and tried. During the proceedings, when the court asked his name, he replied “Ram Muhammad Singh Azad” An unprecedented transcendence of caste and creed rarely witnessed in the history of mankind. On 31st July 1941 he was hanged at Pentonville prison. In July 1974, his remains were exhumed and brought back to India by a special envoy of the Government of India. He got a martyr’s reception. Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then Congress President and Gyani Zail Singh,the Punjab CM in 1974,received the casket. The Prime Minister Indira Gandhi laid a wreath. Udham Singh was later cremated at his birthplace Suna in Punjab and his ashes were immersed in river Sutlej.

Ashfaqullah Khan along with Roshan Singh and Ramprasad Bismil were furthering the freedom struggle through fund raising. Due to severe paucity of funds to buy arms and ammunition, the group decided to rob the government treasury carried in the trains. On August 9, 1925 they looted a train in Kakori near Lucknow. However the group was soon caught. In prison, while Ashfaq was saying his prayers an English officer remarked “I would like to see how much of that faith remains in him when we hang the rat.” When Ashfaqullah was being taken for the execution, he was taking two steps at a time; he reached for the rope, kissed it and put it around his neck. Being a religious man he was reciting the “kalima” when he swung on the gallows.

Today Ashfaqullah is a forgotten name, hanged at the age of 27, strongly believed that nationalism does not constitute religious identity.

Bhagat Singh was born in village Banga, near Lyallpur (now Faisalabad). As a teenager he became an atheist. He thoroughly studied European revolutionary movements, while Karl Marx and Engels appear prominently in his diary. During his studies he won an essay competition and was a great admirer of Iqbal the poet. To avenge the death of veteran freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai, killed by police violence, he shot and killed police officer J.P Saunders. Again on April 8, 1929, he threw a cracker in the assembly corridor and shouted “inqilab zindabad”. Bhagat Singh along with Rajguru and Sukhdev were arrested for the murder of the police officer. Bhagat Singh while quoting Irish revolutionary said “I am confident that my death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release”. This was when his father filed a mercy petition. While in condemned cell he wrote a pamphlet “why I am an atheist”.

During his life and after his death Bhagat Singh inspired thousands of youth to actively join the independence movement which ultimately culminated in the liberation of the subcontinent from the colonial rule. He was reading Lenin when at 4 in the morning jail warder Chater Singh asked him to take his last bath.

Bhagat Singh along with comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged on 23rd March 1931.

Chandrashekhar Azad, a revolutionary and freedom fighter was inspired by the non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi and he actively participated in revolutionary activities. At the tender age of 15 he was caught and awarded 15 lashes for being an activist. With each stroke of the whip he would raise a slogan. He then vowed that he would never be captured alive by the British police. He was also a poet and one of his poems is still recited which says “Dushman ki goliyon ka hum samna karenge, Azad hee rahein hain, azad hee rahenge”Azad kept his freedom struggle and remained involved in covert activities, when finally he was betrayed by a police informer. He was encircled by the British police in Alfred Park, Allahabad on 27th February 1931.Instead of surrendering to the enemy he shot himself in the temple.

Chandershekhar Azad died for freedom while keeping his pledge that he would not be captured alive.
These unsung heroes and several others from diverse backgrounds; Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and atheists; all fighting for the cause of Indian nationalism shed their blood for the liberation of the people and the land, so that we, belonging to a different generation live a better life unfettered by the ignominy of imperialist domination and colonial exploitation. The debt of gratitude we owe to them can never be repaid.



Urgent: Send this email for Baghat Singh Chauk today

Dear all,
Urgent request to write a letter for Baghat Singh Chauk

Please write a letter to Salima Hashmi, member of Sub Committee on naming of roads and underpasses in Lahore. Salima Hashmi  is well known social activist and daughter of Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

Lahore Corporation is under pressure from the right wing forces including Jamaat Dawa not to name Fawar Chauk Shadman as Baghat Singh Chauk, a demand that was accepted last month by Lahore administration but was put on hold during the last meeting.

Please write a simple letter to Salima Hashmi, demanding the Fawara Chauk Shadman, Lahore to be named as Baghat Singh Chauk to pay tribute to legendary anti imperialist hero of Indian sub continent.

It does not matter where you live, in Lahore or outside Lahore, inside Pakistan or outside, please write a letter, We need at least 200 letters during the next 24 hours.

Information from Farooq Tariq
member Federal executive Committee
Labour Party Pakistan
0300 8411945

Sample Letter

Ms. Salima Hashmi
Member, Sub Committee on naming of roads and underpasses, Lahore

Dear Ms. Hashmi,
We demand that the decision taken by the Administration in the meeting last month to name Fawara Chauk Shadman as ‘Baghat Singh Chauk’ be implemented to pay tribute to legendary hero of the City of Lahore, the Province of Punjab, and the Indian sub continent.

Thank you
Your Name


‘Down Bhagat Singh lane’ by Chaman Lal

The district authorities of Lahore rename Shadman Chowk after Bhagat Singh, who was hanged there by the British. There are many other places in the city that keep his memory alive.

Shadman Chowk, now renamed Bhagat Singh Chowk. It was built at the site of the gallows of the historic jail of Lahore where Bhagat Singh (below) and his comrades were hanged.

ALL major newspapers in India carried the Press Trust of India release from Islamabad on September 30 about Shadman Chowk in Lahore, Pakistan, being officially renamed Bhagat Singh Chowk. The demand for the renaming is not new; many a time in the past, civil society groups put up signboards calling the road junction Bhagat Singh Chowk on March 23, when they would gather with candles to pay homage to the memory of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who were executed on that day in 1931. They, of course, would later be removed by the civic authorities.

Shadman Chowk is at the centre of Shadman Colony. The middle-class colony was built after the Pakistani authorities demolished, in 1961, the historic jail of Lahore, where many freedom fighters, such as Kartar Singh Sarabha and many of his comrades of the Ghadar Party, were executed in 1915. The chowk was built where the gallows had stood.

Old-timers say that until the 1965 war, people from India and Pakistan could freely move to each other’s countries with minimal restrictions. Thus people from India coming to visit Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, would invariably travel 40 kilometres from there to visit Chak No.105, Lyallpur Bange, Faisalabad, the house where Bhagat Singh was born.

I visited Bhagat Singh’s house in 2007. On the way to his village, we came across an 82-year-old person named Farhad Khan, a retired government official, who had named the street to his house Bhagat Singh Lane. He insisted on taking us to his house. In his drawing room was an old black-and-white photograph of Bhagat Singh.

At Bhagat Singh’s birthplace, we met the present occupants of the big house, who were all reverence for the martyr. Later, a friend sent me the photograph of the primary school where Bhagat Singh studied. It is now in a dilapidated condition, as reports on Bhagat Singh’s birth anniversary in Lahore say.

Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were to be executed early in the morning on March 24 as per jail practice. But in a rare aberration in history, the trio was executed around 7 p.m. the previous evening, on secret orders that were issued to the jail officials on March 17. After the execution, the bodies of the three martyrs were taken to Ganda Singhwala village near Kasur, now in India, on the Hussainiwala border in Ferozepur district of Punjab, and half-burnt. The remains were picked up by hundreds of people who had walked from Lahore for more than 50 kilometres following the British police. The police had secretly taken the bodies out through the back gate of the jail fearing a backlash from the people who had gathered in large numbers at the jail gate.

People brought the half-burnt pieces of the bodies of the martyrs and cremated them with great respect, with the whole of Lahore observing a bandh and more than 50,000 people joining the funeral procession. This was reported by The Tribune, published from Lahore in those days, on March 26, 1931.

The Naujawan Bharat Sabha, established by Bhagat Singh and his comrades, decided to build a befitting memorial for the martyrs on the banks of the Ravi, where they were cremated. Donations were collected for this. But the Congress party foiled the plan.

Apparently, the Congress, through Kishan Singh, Bhagat Singh’s father, who was its activist, promised that it would build the memorial. Comrade Ramchand, an office-bearer of the Sabha, has detailed this treachery in his book on the history of the organisation.

Apart from the Lahore jail, there are many other places in Lahore city that are in one way or the other associated with Bhagat Singh and his comrades. Bradlaugh Hall, built in memory of the British socialist Charles Bradlaugh, who was a supporter of the Indian freedom movement, was the headquarters of the Punjab Congress party. It also housed the National College in Lahore, where Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev were students. This heritage site is also in a bad condition now. I could locate it with much difficulty during my 2007 visit.

Lahore is where Bhagat Singh and his associates in the Naujawan Bharat Sabha assassinated J.P. Saunders, the Deputy Superintendent of Police responsible for raining lathi blows on Lala Lajpat Rai on October 30, 1928, when he was leading a protest against the visit of the Simon Commission to the city.

Lala Lajpat Rai died from the blows on November 17, 1928, and Basanti Devi, the widow of the radical nationalist leader C.R. Das, exhorted the Indian youth to avenge the killing of Lajpat Rai. Bhagat Singh and his comrades accepted her call despite their differences with Lajpat Rai on many issues.

Though the decision was to kill the Superintendent of Police James A. Scott, who had ordered the lathi charge, it was Saunders, who had hit Lajpat Rai on the head, who became the victim.

The revolutionaries did not regret the assassination as they treated Saunders not as an individual but as a representative of the oppressive British colonial administration.

Saunders was killed in front of the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police in Lahore. Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Mazhar Ali, father of Tariq Ali, celebrated author and communist leader from Pakistan, who were in the Government College nearby at that time, heard the gunshots. It was in this case that Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged at the place, now named Bhagat Singh Chowk.

Bhagat Singh has always attracted the attention of Pakistani writers and historians. The eminent Sindhi poet Sheikh Ayaz has written a poetic play on his life; the Punjabi writer Ahmad Salim has many publications on him, including Bhagat Singh: Jivan ate Adarsh (Bhagat Singh: Life and Ideals) and a poetry collection, Kehdi Man ne Bhagat Singh Jammia (Which Mother gave birth to Bhagat Singh); and the Urdu writer Zahida Hina has described Bhagat Singh as the most honoured martyr of Pakistan. Najam Hussain Syed, Faiz’s daughter, and the art historian Salima Hashmi have written about him. The historian Mubarak Ali has written about him in Dawn, a respected daily of Pakistan. Sibte Rizvi has translated Ajoy Ghosh’s book Bhagat Singh and his Comrades into Urdu.

Pakistan’s leftist movement and civil society need liberal icons like Bhagat Singh to counter the jehadi movements. The naming of the road junction, though a small and symbolic gesture, is a significant step in that direction. Interestingly, Bhagat Singh has been projected in Pakistan and its media as a strong anti-imperialist working class representative. Many activists call him Comrade Bhagat Singh and describe him as the Che Guevara of South Asia.

There is a demand to establish a museum at his birthplace. Also, opinion is building in favour of protecting Bradlaugh Hall as a heritage building. British colonialism tried to eliminate all signs of Bhagat Singh in Lahore, but now history has taken a different turn.

There was a proposal to have a Bhagat Singh memorial lecture in the British Parliament during the Bhagat Singh centenary, for which Prof. Bipan Chandra’s name was suggested. That event failed to take place.

Chaman Lal is Professor at the Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and editor/author of many books on Bhagat Singh, including his complete documents.


The Udham Singh Reading Room: London UK Sept 21 – Nov 18/12

Tajender Sagoo, Udham Singh Reading Room, Bhagat Singh,screen print on poster, 2012.

The Udham Singh Reading Room
21st September to 18th November 2012
Open every Friday, Saturday & Sunday 12 – 6pm.

Admission Free

Viewing is by appointment
Please call 075 3047 2483
Or email popsamiti@gmail.com
To book a visit

At Pop Samiti Studio
Limehouse Town
646 Commercial Road
E14 7HA


Travel; Limehouse, Westferry DLR, Mile End Tube, Bus 15,115, 135, D3 Map
(Refreshments provided!)

The Udham Singh Reading Room is a project by artist Tajender Sagoo, on a relationship between Punjab, Britain and the present day. The visitor is invited to view, research and respond to the work, as presented in a non- linear construction of time. Found research is reconfigured in paper and cloth (print and weave) and with selected books, essays and articles.

On 13th March 1940 Udham Singh (b.1899) killed Sir Michael O’Dwyer, a former Governor of Punjab at the time of the Amritsar Massacre in 1919, at Caxton Hall, Westminster, where a meeting of the East India Association and Royal Central Asian Society was being held, on Afghanistan: The Present Position.

While awaiting trial in Brixton Prison, Udham Singh (a.k.a Mohamed Singh Azad) went on a 42 day hunger strike. The trial lasted for two days. At the trial Mr. Justice Atkinson directed that nothing said in court should be published. In 1996-97 redacted documents from the trial were released, although other files on him remain closed. On the 31st June 1940 Udham Singh (alias Sher Singh, Udhan Singh, Ude Singh, Frank Brazil) was executed at Pentonville prison.

Tajender Sagoo

‘Gursharan Singh: A Devout Punjabi’ by Bhupendra Yadav

Gursharan Singh as Bhai Manna Singh. Amritsar 1972, photo from Amarjit Chandan Collection

Punjab has its vibrant revolutionary tradition starting with Bhagat Singh. With the death of Gursharan Singh, fondly known as Bhaaji respected brother, a link with this tradition has been broken. If the worst crisis of East Punjab since 1947 was the Khalistani mayhem, Bhaaji emerged heroically from it. Born into a devout Sikh family, he lived in his ancestral house Guru Khalsa Niwas in Amritsar, wore his turban and did not trim his beard. This made him a ‘critical insider’ for Khalistani militancy and made his opposition to it more meaningful.

Bhaaji’s opposition to Khalistan was in a league different from others. He did not issue sanitised statements from behind bullet-proof podiums or well-guarded houses. He moved fearlessly in villages and towns of East Punjab with the determination of a soldier for democratic socialism against Sikh extremism. This experience gave him the faith to advise activists, ‘Your doubts will melt and you will find a way if you go to the people.’ On the day of his cremation, some 150 groups pledged to carry people’s work forward on Bhaaji’s inspiration.

In 2007, the Centenary year of Bhagat Singh, the whole of India caught revolutionary fever thanks to films like The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Rang de Basanti etc. It goes to the credit of Bhaaji that he celebrated the memory of Bhagat Singh in Punjab two decades before this. Around the Martyrdom Day, viz. March 23, Bhaaji would hit the streets of East Punjab with his cultural troupe since the 1980s.

Bhaaji used street theatre as the medium to spread ideas for change and he dipped his ideas for change in the earthy wit of Punjab. His enduring fame was created by Bhai Manna Singh – a play that was telecast from the Jalandhar station of Doordarshan for more than a year between 1985-86. Bhai Manna Singh is a character who stands for reason amidst slippery social climbers and cunning power brokers. Some thought it was a character Bhaaji represented in his daily life.

The Green Revolution produced economic development in East Punjab. But this growth came with a cultural lag. Bhaaji put this dilemma beautifully. ‘Just a few feet away from Punjab’s flourishing modern agricultural fields exists an impoverished culture. This culture is full of fear for the weak and packed with ethical deprivation for the strong.’ The son of a famous doctor in pre-Partition Punjab, Bhaaji took a Master’s degree in Chemistry. From 1961, he earned his livelihood for twenty years as a cement technologist with the Canal and Irrigation department of Punjab Government. He contributed to the research of strengthening the bunds of reservoirs like Bhakhra. His social conscience bid him to oppose the Emergency (1975-77) and he was promptly jailed for it.

A man of immense sensitivity, Bhaaji observed keenly and expressed vividly. One dark day at the height of the Khalistan movement in 1987, we sat huddled in a meeting of one Democratic Forum at a small hall in Patiala. The Khalistanis were called people without a just cause by one speaker and condemned for bloodletting without meaning by another. As the chairperson of that meeting, Bhaaji rose to speak at the end.
‘I oppose Khalistan due to two simple reasons stemming from experience. I have seen the Partition of united Punjab. I was a good player of hockey in college and was habituated to good cheer. But after seeing the bloodshed and listening to all those horror stories then, I have not laughed whole-heartedly ever since 1947. Secondly, I oppose Khalistan because I have two daughters and these fellows have no program for the future. All they are doing is making vulnerable people more insecure. And all they will do is ask women to cover their head or even face, stay home and live like caged birds. I cannot approve this.’

Though all of us had spoken our minds as frankly as we could, Bhaaji had spoken from his heart truthfully. He carried the day.

My first encounter with Bhaaji was in 1985. Navsharan, the elder of his two daughters, and I were colleagues at a research institute in Chandigarh. On my request, he carried a pair of blankets for me from Amritsar to Chandigarh. He lived in Amritsar amidst his big joint family, large theatre group called Amritsar Natak Kala Kender and larger group of fans. I learnt much later that Amritsar was as much well known for Bhaaji as it was for its woollen goods and the Golden Temple. Somewhere it hurts my conscience that I saddled a man of his stature with a domestic chore like buying a pair of blankets in Amritsar, carrying them 300 kms away to Chandigarh in an ordinary bus and delivering them to a lout like me. Who said great men do not do ordinary chores?

Bhupendra Yadav teaches History in Rohtak University.

From Amarjit Chandan

‘MERA RANG DE BASANTI CHOLA’ by Ajoka – Lahore 14-15 Sept/11

in collaboration with
Lahore Arts Council
Based on the struggle of the great freedom fighter Bhagat Singh
On 14th & 15th September 2011
At 7:30pm
VENUE: Hall #2
Alhamra the Mall

Written by
Shahid Nadeem
Directed by
Madeeha Gauhar

For further Information & passes
Ajoka: 042-36682443, 36686634 , 36677047
Alhamra: 99200917-8

Mera rang de basanti chola is a much deserved and long over-due tribute to one of the most influential revolutionary leaders of the independence movement and the one of the most charismatic sons of the Punjab, But the story does not end with the execution of Bhagat Singh and his comrades on 23 March 1931. The story of this fearless 23-year old revolutionary freedom fighter gets intertwined with some other stories of struggle between defenders of freedom and justice and the forces of darkness and oppression. As the play reveals links with the past and the future, the spirit of Bhagat Singh lives on. His last words were Inqilaab Zindabad. These words still resound in the air of Lahore, we can feel his presence and seek inspiration from the way he lived and died.

See following links for press reviews on this play

‘Rare documents on Bhagat Singh’ by Chaman Lal

From: The Hindu

The photograph of Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt was taken by Sham Lal in Delhi on April 4, 1929 and sent for publication to newspapers by Bhagat Singh’s comrades. Photo Courtesy: Chaman Lal

Digitalised records with the Supreme Court reveal some inspiring facets of the revolutionary. Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt offered themselves for arrest after throwing harmless bombs in the Central Assembly to ‘make the deaf hear.’ Their case drew worldwide attention.

When the Supreme Court of India established a museum to display landmarks in the history of India’s judicial system, it also put on display records of some historic trials. The first exhibition that was organised was the ‘Trial of Bhagat Singh’. It was opened on September 28, 2007, on the occasion of the birth centenary celebrations of one of the most significant among martyrs and popular heroes. Noorul Hooda, Curator of the Museum, and Rajmani Srivastava of the National Archives worked to collect documents, items like bomb shell remains, pictures and publications. Not all of what was collected could be displayed in the exhibition. In 2008, the Supreme Court digitalised the exhibits. Some of Bhagat Singh’s rare writings thus came to light for the first time since he was executed on March 23, 1931 at the Lahore Central Jail along with Rajguru and Sukhdev. How the three young patriots were put to judicial murder, is brought out by the eminent legal scholar, A.G. Noorani, in his book, The Trial of Bhagat Singh — Politics of Justice.

The most significant part of Bhagat Singh’s life is that spent in jail since his arrest on April 8, 1929 from the Central Assembly in Delhi, where he and B.K. Dutt offered themselves to be arrested after throwing harmless bombs in the Assembly to ‘make the deaf hear.’ They faced two trials. The first was in the Delhi bomb case. It started on May 7, 1929 in Delhi and was committed to the Sessions Judge, on charges under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code and the Explosives Act. That trial started in June. Bhagat Singh and Dutt made a historic statement on June 6. Dutt was represented by the nationalist counsel Asaf Ali. Bhagat Singh fought his own case with the help of a legal adviser.

On June 12, in less than a week, both were convicted and transported for life. From the June 6 statement to his last letter to his comrades written on March 22, 1931, a day before his execution, Bhagat Singh read and wrote so much: one can only marvel at the explosion of talent at the age of 21 years-plus. He wrote letters to family members and friends, jail and court officials, and penned major articles including Why I am an Atheist, Letter to Young Political Workers, and Jail Notebook.

On June 14, after the conviction, Bhagat Singh was transferred to Mianwali and Dutt to the Lahore jail. That was the start of a chain of struggles throughout the period they were in jail. It began with a hunger strike from June 15 by both Bhagat Singh and Dutt, demanding the status of political prisoners. Bhagat Singh was also shifted to Lahore jail after some time. He and Dutt were kept away from the other accused in the Lahore conspiracy case, such as Sukhdev. The trial in that case, related to the murder of Saunders, began on July 10, 1929. Bhagat Singh, who was on hunger strike since June 15 along with Dutt, was brought to the court on a stretcher. The other accused in the case came to know about this hunger strike on that day, and almost all of them joined the strike.

This historic hunger strike by Bhagat Singh and his comrades resulted in the martyrdom of Jitender Das on September 13, 1929. Bhagat Singh and the other comrades ended their hunger strike on September 2 after receiving assurances from a Congress party team and British officials on the acceptance of their demands, but they resumed it on September 4 as the British officials went back on their word. It finally ended on October 4 after 112 days, though the status of “political prisoner” was still not given; some other demands were acceded to.

During the Lahore conspiracy case trial conducted by Special Magistrate Rai Sahib Pandit Kishan Chand, an incident occurred on October 21, 1929. Provoked by an approver named Jai Gopal, Prem Dutt, the youngest among the accused persons, threw a slipper at him. Despite the other accused dissociating themselves from the act, the magistrate ordered the handcuffing of all of them. Bhagat Singh, Shiv Verma, B.K. Dutt, Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Ajoy Ghosh, Prem Dutt and others were beaten after they refused to be handcuffed. They were treated brutally inside the jail and at the court gate in front of the magistrate. Ajoy Ghosh and Shiv Verma fell unconscious following the police brutality. Bhagat Singh was targeted by a British officer by name Roberts.

The details of the brutalities were recorded by Bejoy Kumar Sinha. In February 1930, Bhagat Singh resumed his hunger strike for 15 days, as the British officials did not fulfil the promises they had made earlier with respect to demands.

Meanwhile, the fame of revolutionaries, arising from their hunger strikes and court statements, soared, while the image of the British was at its lowest ebb. The case drew attention the world over. While dismissing appeals from Bhagat Singh and Dutt against the Delhi bomb case judgment, the Punjab High Court in Lahore acknowledged Bhagat Singh to be a ‘Sincere Revolutionary.’

The British colonial regime led by Viceroy Irwin took the unprecedented step of issuing the Lahore conspiracy case ordinance on May 1, 1930. Under this, the proceedings that were being conducted by a Special Magistrate in Lahore were transferred to a three-judge Special Tribunal established to complete them within a fixed period. The Tribunal’s judgment was not to be challenged in the superior courts; only the Privy Council could hear any appeal. This ordinance was never approved by the Central Assembly or the British Parliament, and it lapsed later without any legal or constitutional sanctity. Its only purpose was to hang Bhagat Singh in the shortest possible time. That judgment sentencing Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru to the gallows was delivered on October 7, 1930.

The Tribunal began its proceedings on May 5, 1930. The accused in the Lahore conspiracy case refused to attend the proceedings after May 12. On that day they raised slogans and sung revolutionary songs. Brutalities were repeated on them, as in October 1929, in front of the Special Magistrate. This time Ajoy Ghosh, Kundan Lal and Prem Dutt fell unconscious. The accused remained absent during the whole proceedings and remained unrepresented by counsel. Advocates engaged to defend them were insulted by the Tribunal. Subsequently, the accused themselves directed them not to defend them in their absence. These details are in A.G. Noorani’s book, The Trial of Bhagat Singh.

What remained out of view all these years were the many letters that Bhagat Singh wrote and the petitions he sent to either the jail authorities or to the Special Tribunal or to the Punjab High Court, during the period 1929-1930. In these letters and petitions, Bhagat Singh sought to expose the British colonial regime’s determined efforts to get him hanged by denying the accused any defence during the trial. Even though the accused were choosing not to be present in the court, they were participating in the legal proceedings through counsel. The Tribunal refused the revolutionaries’ counsel, Amolak Ram Kapoor, permission to cross-examine 457 prosecution witnesses and allowed the cross-examination of only five approvers. This was a farce.

The letters reveal another hunger strike by Bhagat Singh from July 28, 1930, on which he himself informed the High Court it was against the jail rules. He was joined in the hunger strike by Kundan Lal, Prem Dutt Verma, Sukhdev and Bejoy Kumar Sinha. This hunger strike continued till at least August 22. With this, the total period of hunger strikes observed during his nearly two-year incarceration becomes about five months. Probably this is more than the total period of Mahatma Gandhi’s hunger strikes during his prolonged political career starting from South Africa.
When the court finally allowed interviews as sought by Bhagat Singh to prepare his defence, and when he asked for an adjournment of the case, the court closed the proceedings without giving any chance to defence counsel to cross-examine prosecution witnesses or present defence witnesses. Then it reserved judgment, which was delivered on October 7, 1930.

More such documents might emerge. The compilation of the complete proceedings of the Delhi Assembly bomb case and the Special Magistrate Court’s proceedings could bring more facts to light. The Punjab Archives in Lahore has 135 files of the Bhagat Singh case. These are not accessible even to Pakistani scholars; Kuldip Nayar is now trying to get access to them. In 2006, at the time of the 75th anniversary of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, the Acting Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Rana Bhagwan Dass, handed over to the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh four volumes of exhibits of the Lahore conspiracy case. These included some new documents.

While the source of the documents in the Supreme Court records is not clearly mentioned, undoubtedly these are part of the trial proceedings at both levels. The letters, self-explanatory in the context of the freedom struggle, show the amazing command Bhagat Singh had over the English language, apart from Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi, his knowledge of legal terminology and his beautiful handwriting. In the book, Gandhi and Bhagat Singh, historian V.N. Dutta expressed doubts about Bhagat Singh’s command over English as he was an under-graduate. He sought to ascribe the language to Jawaharlal Nehru or Asaf Ali. For legal professionals, scholars and students, the letters present a wonderful experience of how Bhagat Singh had such maturity in complex matters of legal defence.

But Bhagat Singh’s very talent and competence scared the British colonial regime and it became even more determined to get rid of him.

The Supreme Court’s digitalised records include nearly 20 written Bhagat Singh documents. Some of these, such as the June 6, 1929 statement, ‘Ideal of Indian Revolution,’ have been published. Only 12 letters or petitions remain unpublished. This writer acknowledges the permission granted by the Supreme Court to do so. Ten of the documents are in complete form. Only the first page remains of two letters/documents, one relating to the October 21, 1929 incident in court and another petition from early-1930; the second and likely final page in these two are not in the digital records. Also available now is a photograph of Bhagat Singh and Dutt, published in ‘Bande Matram’, Lahore (on April 12, 1929) and Hindustan Times(April 18, 1929). This was taken by photographer Sham Lal of Kashmere Gate in Delhi on April 4, 1929 and sent to newspapers for publication by Bhagat Singh’s comrades. The writer is grateful to the National Archives, New Delhi, for providing the rare newspaper photographs.

Chaman Lal, the editor of the Bhagat Singh Documents (Hindi: Publications Division) and the Jail Notebook and Other Writings (LeftWord), is a Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, now on deputation to The University of the West Indies, Trinidad &Tobago, as Visiting Professor.


Information sent by IJAZ SYED

‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh – Aik Amar Kahani (an immortal story)’ a new documentary

National Students Federation (NSF) has released a documentary on the hero of the subcontinent, Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The documentary ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh – Aik Amar Kahani (An Immortal Story)’ comes with Urdu voiceover. In the duration of 13 minutes, it gives an overview of the Struggle of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his Comrades against British Imperialism.

View it here:

The documentary is produced with zero budget, and lots of hard work. We shall wait for your Feedback. The link of the documentary is given below.

National Studens Federaton, Lahore
E-mail: nsfpk.og@gmail.com

A scam to remember: Shaheed Bhagat Singh Centenary Celebrations 2008

Rs 1 crore fraud in 2008 during Bhagat Singh’s Birth Centenary Celebrations
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, 22 March 11

Even as frantic preparations are on these days to make the martyrdom day function of Shaheed Bhagat Singh being held at his ancestral village Khatkar Kalan on Wednesday, a ‘historic’ event, a probe by the Vigilance Bureau has pointed to the embezzlement of nearly one crore from the funds sent by the Union Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 2008 to the state government for the concluding function of Shaheed-E-Azam’s birth centenary which was organized in 2008. The information provided by the Bureau to an NGO, Human Empowerment League of Punjab (HELP) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act reveals how bogus bills were raised in the names of not only the event management and supplier companies but renowned Bollywood artistes also to ‘utilize’ the money. The probe, report of which is under the consideration of Vigilance Bureau chief, is learnt. to have indicted a number of persons including a bureaucrat. The probe was ordered on the complaint of HELP activist Parvinder Singh Kitna.

A whopping Rs 3.05 crore were spent by the organizer Punjab Arts Council (PAC) on the function which was held on September 29, 2008 at Khatkar Kalan, out of which Rs 1.49 crore were spent on lighting, stage, sitting arrangement, tents, green rooms, sound system and power supply, Rs 1.12 crore on calling singers and musicians and Rs 18.53 lakh on television video production besides lavish spending on lodging and transportation. Rs 11.42 lakh was spent on publicity and Rs 2.52 on hospitality.

Vigilance probe has revealed that to provide benefit to a Chandigarh based “The Professionals Stage Management Company”, two fictitious bidding firms were raised which were shown to have quoted higher rates than this company. The investigating team failed to trace these addresses. The PAC engaged G M Entertainment Company to arrange Bollywood artists from Mumbai. The company pretended to have paid the performers (some non performers also) much higher a price than it actually did. Vigilance team, obtained statements of all concerned artists or their promoters to find out that except Pammi Bai, no one else was paid the quoted money. Music director Uttam Singh, for instance was showed to have been paid Rs 20 lakh whereas he was paid Rs one lakh only. Playback singer Udit Narayan, Sadhna Sargam and Punjabi folk singer Daler Mehndi were paid Rs 12 lakh, 10, lakh and 5 lakh respectively in books, but the singers themselves claimed to have received one lakh each. As per bills, actor Ajay Devgan was paid Rs 6 lakh whereas he told the investigating team that he was invited at all for the said function. Daler Mehndi’s manager said the singer was told by the entertainment company that he need not come but who deposited Rs one lakh in his account was not known.

The PAC signed an MOU with another Chandigarh based company ‘Rainbow Entertainment’ to make a documentary on the celebrations for Rs 15 lakh. The record shows three quotations from three firms including Rainbow but the other two companies again came out to be fake. The address given by Rainbow too proved to be false. During the probe, misappropriations were detected in purchase of cloth, flex banners, sign boards, and other miscellaneous items.

Vigilance Bureau also questioned Punjab Art Council chairman Dr Swaran Singh, secretary general Rajpal Singh and executive officer Sham Sunder Sharma. Dr Swaran Singh, who was then principal secretary, Cultural Affairs, said in his reply that the detailed budget estimate was prepared by a team of experts. He revealed that the original project cost was pegged at Rs 6 crore but it was rejected by the Central government following which, the cost was curtailed. He claimed that that the budget estimates and issue of selection of artists were discussed in the Cabinet. Since the organizing committee had not much time at its disposal, a “trustworthy” Karan Brar was asked to assist, he said. Dr Singh argued that in this high-tech era it was not “unusual” to call quotations in a single day.

As for participation of artists, Dr Singh said that the state government had suddenly made up its mind to turn the event into a political function despite the knowledge that pricey performers had been booked and advance paid. It was government’s ‘fault’ and not theirs if they could not perform, he added. “The cultural affairs minister got two stages built instead of one and left every thing topsy-turvy. Although I had technical competence but my advise was not sought”, he said.

Information sent by Harpreet Kaur

‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’, Screening, Lahore Feb 18/11

The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)
Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
Genre: Drama/History
Duration: 155 Mins
Language: Hindi/English
Time: February 18, 2011 – 5 – 7:30 PM
Venue: Institute for Peace & Secular Studies

A historic biographical film about Bhagat Singh, a freedom fighter who fought for Indian independence, and who was eventually hanged for his radical views and struggle against the British raj. The film discusses the factors that were involved in his decision of becoming a revolutionary fighter and his post-revolutionary life and struggle.

Institute for Peace & Secular Studies (Farogh-e-Aman o Roshan Khiali) is a volunteer based community effort.

Institute for Peace and Secular Studies
Room 709, Al Qadir Heights
1 Babar Block, New Garden Town
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Phone Number: +92-423-5842640

‘The Phenomenon of Bhagat Singh’ by Manpreet Singh Bādal

A rare picture showing Bhagat Singh aged 10 with an unknown sitter. 1917

This year marks the 103rd birth anniversary of one of the great Indian revolutionary-martyrs, Bhagat Singh. Born on September 28, 1907, Bhagat Singh was a mere 23-year-old young man when he was judicially murdered on March 23, 1931, by the British.

Although his life was plucked so early, during the short period of time he lived, he became a cult figure, who literally aroused devotion on the part of the Indian youth and the wider downtrodden masses. To no small extent was the “phenomenon of Bhagat Singh” to borrow Nehru’s apt description, due to this remarkable young man’s spotlessly clean life, his lofty ideals, his passionate commitment to the cause of Indian freedom, his devotion to secularism and uncompromising hostility towards religious fundamentalism, his hatred of narrow nationalism and his dauntless courage, unwavering fortitude and a self-sacrificing heroism that defies belief in the pursuit of the ideals to which he had devoted his life.

By all accounts, Bhagat Singh was of a scholarly bent of mind and a deep thinker who understood the power of ideas. “The sword of revolution”, he told the judges trying him, “is sharpened at the whetstone of thought”. On being asked as to what set him apart from other revolutionaries, Shiv Verma, a fellow revolutionary and a close comrade-in-arms, replied thus: “I can tell you that in just one sentence: Bhagat Singh was our undisputed ideological leader. I do not remember a single moment when Bhagat Singh did not have a book in his pocket. The other virtues of Bhagat Singh like tremendous courage and so on were there in the other revolutionaries amongst us also. But his uniqueness lay in his great studiousness. The degree of clarity and integrity that he had about the aims of our movement was not there in any of us at that time”.

It was to the ideals of freedom of the Indian masses that he had committed himself while still in his teens. In 1924, learning that his father was insistent upon marrying him, Bhagat Singh left for Kanpur, leaving behind a letter addressed to his father. In this letter, he explained that he had no time for a peaceful married life, devoted as had become to the cause of liberation of the Indian masses. His father had tried to put pressure on him by alluding to the desire of his grandmother to see Bhagat Singh married. Bhagat Singh countered his father’s plea with the following unanswerable remark: “You are caring for Dadi, but in how much trouble is our mother of 33 crores, the Bharat Mata. We shall have to sacrifice everything for her sake.”

It was in the pursuit of the self-same ideals that Bhagat Singh along with Sukhdev, B.C. Vohra and Ram Krishan, formed the Naujawan Sabha in March, 1926, played a leading role in the formation of the Hindustani Socialist Republican Association in September 1928; took part along with Sukhdev, Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad, in the killing of the British Police Officer, J.P. Saunders on December 17, 1928, and on April 8, 1929, he and Butukeshwar Dutt threw two bombs in the Central Assembly Hall.

In the Second Lahore Conspiracy case, which lasted from July 10, 1929 to October 7, 1930, Bhagat Singh and his fellow accused formed, as had been their intention all along, the court room into an arena for trying the crimes of British imperialism against the Indian people, for propagating their revolutionary programme and rousing the Indian masses to revolt against the alien rulers who had so abused their subjects.

The verdict was a forgone conclusion with Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev receiving the death sentence, while seven others were transported for life and the remaining two were given prison sentences of seven and five years.

Meanwhile, as the judgment day neared, unable to contain his paternal feelings, Bhagat Singh’s father, Kishen Singh, petitioned the Tribunal in a last desperate effort to save his son’s life. On hearing of his father’s petition, Bhagat Singh was incandescent with rage and wrote to his father a remonstrative letter, which brings out clearly Bhagat Singh’s exacting standards of conduct — standards which he followed and expected others, including those he dearly loved and respected, to abide by. Bhagat Singh’s letter, published in full by The Tribune on October 4, just three days before the Tribunal’s judgment, reflects not only his legendary courage, fidelity to principle and indomitable spirit of self-sacrifice but also the deeply-felt injury to his feelings inflicted on him by the father that he loved and respected. This is what, inter alia, Bhagat Singh wrote to his father on this occasion (the original written in Urdu is translated here):

“My dear father,

I was astounded to learn that you had submitted a petition to the members of the  Special Tribunal in connection with my defence. This intelligence proved to be too  severe a blow to be borne with equanimity. It has upset the whole equilibrium of my  mind. I have not been able to understand how you could think it proper to submit  such a petition at this stage and in these circumstances. In spite of all the sentiments and feelings of a father, I don’t think you were at all entitled to make such a move on my behalf without even consulting me.

Father, I am quite perplexed. I fear I might overlook the ordinary principle of etiquette and my language may become a little but harsh while criticising or censoring this move on your part. Let me be candid. I feel as though I have been stabbed in the back. Had any other person done it, I would have considered it to be nothing short of treachery. But in your case let me say that it has been a weakness.

This was the time when everybody’s mettle was being tested. Let me say, father, you have failed. I know you are as sincere a patriot as one can be. I know you have devoted your life to the cause of Indian independence, but why, at this moment, have you displayed such a weakness? I cannot understand.”

On the evening of March 23, 1931, with the shouts of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and ‘Down with Imperialism’, the three great revolutionaries forced the hangman’s noose. They were hanged while singing the following couplet, which has become a symbol of the revolutionary immortality of Bhagat Singh and his comrades:

Dil se niklegi na markar bhi watan ki ulfat,

Meri mitti se bhi khushboo-e-watan aaegi.

(Love for the motherland will not leave my heart even after death/ Its fragrance will still be there in my dusty remains.)

Surviving Beri tree in the house where Bhagat Singh was born
in Chak No.105, Banga
photo by Chaman Lal, 2007

While we freed ourselves from the alien rule about 63 years ago after bearing the merciless physical pain and agony of unrelenting batons and well aimed bullets, our country continues to flounder on the edge of economic despair.

The fire of nationhood actuated Shaheed Bhagat Singh and so many other patriots of the same genre who left their smiling children, beautiful wives, green fields and happy homes so that the people of India could live a life of honour and dignity — a cultured and prosperous life. But the dreams of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and those patriots remain unfulfilled.

Why has India deviated from the objectives of her freedom movement? Political freedom for our citizens is beyond the pale of the present if we proceed within the present structures at the present pace. Foremost amongst the obstacles are the lack of educational opportunities and the availability of even basic health care.

Around 300 million people live on less than Rs 25 a day. Every other child is malnourished in our country. But even more than these, at the level of basic existence, access to potable water, inadequate sewage facility, crucial shortage of decent housing and electricity remain but a dream.

As a policy maker, I pause here to focus upon the proud martial tradition of Punjab, which has had the privilege of guarding the borders of India’s ancient and refined civilisation for thousands of years. It was with excruciating anguish and searing pain that last time when I visited the Sainik School, Kapurthala, I was told that recruitment from Punjab to the armed forces in the officers’ cadre was coming down. I was told that no one was willing to join the armed forces to defend the motherland to carry forth the tradition to lead a life of honour, discipline and noble purpose.

I ask the young people of India on the Shaheed’s birthday: does the younger generation truly prefer the life of an executive of a multinational company? Is earning money the only imperative of higher thought and honourable living? If the glitter of gold and the clatter of silver were the only criteria, then, there would never have been a Bhagat Singh.

The war is not merely against the enemy without but the enemy within and I hope some of us will devote part of our lives and one day turn the tide in favour of the starving millions of this great country.

Today is the day to make the pledge in all our hearts that while we have life and strength, we will fight the forces which have kept India poor and backward, i.e. corruption, communalism, lack of access to education, lack of opportunities, etc. I ask the young people that as we prepare to take forward our individual destinies, it is also time to move on the destiny of India and change it forever.

Bhagat Singh had his primary education in this school building. Chak No 105, Banga

photo by Chaman Lal. 2007

It is not an easy task to learn to give back to society from which one has always taken so far. This would require a deep sense of honour and courage. Let us remember what the great Shaheed wrote to his brother Kultar in his last letter from Lahore Central Jail in 1931:

Daher (duniya) se kyon khaffa rahen

Charakh (ruler of the sky) se kyon gila karen

Sara jahan Addu Sahi (dushman)

Aao mukaabla aren

[Why should we remain annoyed with the world? Why should we complain against the God (ruler of skies)? Let us face stoically the opposing world.]

Today, while marking the 103rd birth anniversary of this great son of India, the people of India, especially its youth, must vow to carry forward the revolutionary teachings of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. This is the only way to honour them. There is no more fitting tribute that can be paid to them — and no more appropriate monument to commemorate them.

The author Manpreet Singh Bādal is Finance Minister in the (East) Punjab government

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Bhagat Singh Shaheed: ‘Nee mayaiN mera rung dae basanti chola’




Bhagat Singh Shaheed Day

March 23/09


Two Punjabi poems




Bhagat Singh de NaaN 1
By Mudasar Punnu


Rat. laal nee

Paalan rut mhaal nee

Jind haaloN behaal nee

Kufr dae ghhaeray

Haq dae gaeRay

Keh parwah jo

Sangi saaDae naal nee


Bhagat Singh de NaaN 2
By Mudasar Punnu


KidhroN aye

Kidhar langh gaye

Yaar peyareyaN sangdi

Rut karni

Rab honi toN

Khair ishq de mangdi

Soohae saaway naal gulabi

Vich bzareiN bhatti chaaRhay

Basanti malmal cha’ naal

Ghar ja ke rangdi

Mudasar Punnu

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Bhagat Singh’s Statue by Fahmida Riaz

There is news from Delhi
alas! Alas!!
What a mess they have made
Of Bhagat Singh
In the Parliament Square!

For sixty years they petitioned
The British rejected him
But YOU! Our own government.
Erect his statue
in the Parliament Square.
At last the government beat its breast
and said why not!
and erected the statue in the parliament square.
But when the veil was lifted
You discover it is not Bhagat Singh
That 24 year old beautiful lad
Nor his young limbs that they could not properly burn
On the fateful night when they hanged him.

It is some 60 years old guy
Flabby and tired looking
With upturned mustaches
Ah what the hell is this.
This is not our Bhagat Singh
In the Parliament Square
Who the hell is he?

Ha ha ha! Dear friends
Wipe your tears look closely
At all the other statues
Is it the same Jawahar Lal as he was? Is it the same Gandhi?
The same Abulkalam Azad?

The in-coming and out-going respected parliamentarians
Have made an omlette of thier reality
And gobbled them up long long ago.
In this grand square
Only scissored and edited versions
Can find a lasting place.

Bhagat Singh was the child of his time
And times have changed. He loved Urdu poetry and Ghalib
And Ghalib, getting rid of his robe
Is Galib now, winking and singing some trashy “gajal”
Ishwarya Rai is dancing on it
So kind of her.

And in his city Lahore
Bhagat Singh is a Sikh
Who perhaps left for India in ’47
Such names make people nervous
Is the god-damn man coming back?
to claim his property??
We shall never let that happen
After all we left fields and barns
shops and houses
in Ludhiana.

Bhagat Singh was a pure Indian
His times are swept away with the wind
He was a purely Indian heart-flame
Light in the water
rustling in the wind
He was a purely Indian passion of his time
And times have changed.

Let his statue remain where it has been for 60 years
Accross both sides of the border
In a heart or two.
There every morning
Longings as innocent and ignorant as little children
Cover his young body with fresh garlands of marigold
Bathe his limbs with tears of love and adoration
He belongs there
He is happy there.

Translated by the author from the original in Hindustani

Original Urdu Version

On Bhagat Singh Statue Controversy

Background Information

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