Context: The 23rd of March is commemorated as Martyrs Day in honour of Bhagat Singh and his comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev. The day is also known as Shaheed diwas.
Early life of Bhagat Singh
- Born on September 27, 1907, in the Lyallpur area of the Punjab, now in Pakistan.
- Bhagat Singh’s uncle Ajit Singh was prominent in politics. Ajit Singh led the establishment of the radical Anjuman-i-Mohisban-i-Watan in Lahore and oversaw the publication of its newspaper, Bharat Mata.
- Ajit Singh also participated in the protests against the Canal Colonization Bill in 1907 and the Ghadar Movement in 1914–1915. His uncle Ajit Singh had an impact on Bhagat Singh.
Participation in the Indian Independence Struggle
- He enrolled in the Lahore National College in 1923, which Lala Lajpat Rai established in reaction to Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement.
- He also contributed to pamphlets issued by the Naujawan Bharat Sabha and wrote for publications in Punjabi and Urdu. He also contributed to Kirti, the publication of the Kirti Kisan Party.
- Affiliation with Hindustan Republican Association Army or HRA/ Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA):
- The organisation operated throughout the Bihar, Punjab, and United Provinces region.
- It was founded in October 1924 in Kanpur.
- Founded by: Ramprasad Bismil, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, and Sachin Sanyal.
- Objective: Plan an armed uprising to depose the colonial administration and install a federal government based on the basis of adult franchise in India.
- During a meeting held in Delhi’s Ferozshah Kotla ruins in September 1928, the younger revolutionaries reorganised the group under the new name Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), with socialism as its stated objective.
- Reorganised by: Chandra Shekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Bhagwaticharan Vohra, Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Shiv Verma, and Jaidev Kapur.
- The killing of Saunders (Lahore, December 1928)
- Cause: The death of Sher-i-Punjab Lala Lajpat Rai as a result of blows from a lathi charge during a procession against the Simon Commission.
- Saunders, the police officer in command of the lathi charge in Lahore, was shot dead by Bhagat Singh, Azad, and Rajguru.
- Defended the murder by stating that it was “an dishonour to the country” that a leader who was revered by millions of people was killed by an unqualified police officer.
- Bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly (April 1929)
- On April 8, 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly to protest against the adoption of the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill.
- Objective: To get arrested using the trial court as a platform for propaganda.
- The Lahore Conspiracy Trial, which took place in 1929, saw the trial of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru.
- Gandhi-Irwin Pact: On February 14, 1931, Viceroy Irwin and Gandhi agreed to a pact in Delhi. Gandhi’s requests for a public investigation into police abuses and a life sentence instead of the death penalty for Bhagat Singh and his companions were both rejected by the viceroy.
- The Congress’s Karachi session: Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were executed six days prior to the session on March 23 (the session actually took place on March 29).
- The Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha demonstrated with black flag protests throughout Gandhi’s trip to Karachi in retaliation for his failure to achieve the commuted death sentence for Bhagat and his companions.
Rethinking in Bhagat Singh’s ideologies
- Bhagat Singh transitioned his belief from violence and individual heroic action to Marxism and a popular broad-based movement.
- This is why Bhagat Singh helped found the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha (1926) as an open wing of revolutionaries to conduct political work among the youth, peasants, and workers.
- For students to engage in open, legal work, Bhagat and Sukhdev jointly established the Lahore Students’ Union.
- He also understood that organising a mass movement of the exploited was necessary for a revolution to be successful.
- The aim of the revolution was not just to end imperialism but also to stop “exploitation of man by man,” and to establish a new socialist system.
- He was a secular. The members of Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha were not allowed to be associated with sectarian organisations and were to promote tolerance in society.
- Books by Bhagat Singh: Why I am an Atheist and Ideas of a Nation.