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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 14

Political Correspondence of Bhagat Singh

Saturday 22 March 2008, by Chaman Lal


As we know by now, 107 documents of Bhagat Singh, apart from his Jail Notebook and the Hindi translation of Dan Breen’s My Fight for Irish Freedom have come to light. These include five letters published for first time in March 2007 by this author. Out of these 107 documents, fortyfive fall in the category of correspondence—letters, telegrams and notices/leaflets.1 The correspon-dence of Bhagat Singh is available from 1918, when he had not completed even 11 years of age. There are three notices and four telegrams out of these 45 documents. The letters can be broadly divided into two types: letters of personal nature, addressed to family members and friends; and letters of political nature, addressed to father, friends, British officials, judges, editors of journals etc.

Out of 38 letters, 15 can be categorised as of personal nature, though referring to the political context also. Twentythree letters are of political nature, though there are personal references in these as well. The first five available letters of Bhagat Singh were written between 1918 and 1921, that is, from the age of 11 years to 14 years. Another set of ten personal letters were written from jail during 1930-31, just in the one-year period at the age of 22 years plus. The first set of personal letters belong to the absolute innocent phase of his life and the last set of personal letters belong to the mature and most fertile period of Bhagat Singh’s life.

As far as letters of political nature are concerned, the first political letter of Bhagat Singh is addressed to his father in 1923, at the age of sixteen years. Then 20 odd letters are written during 1927 to 1931, including one letter written just a day before his execution. This is the most mature period of Bhagat Singh’s personality, from the age of 20 years to 23 plus.

LET the notices be discussed first; though these are just three in number, yet these carry great significance. The first such notice was pasted on the walls of Lahore, in the night of December 18 and 19, 1928. The notice was drafted on December 18 itself by Bhagat Singh, though issued in the name of Balraj, commander-in-chief of the HSRA, that is, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army; the military wing of HSRA, that is the, Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. Balraj was the pseudo-name of Chandershekhar Azad. Both wings of the HRA were rechristened as the HSRA on September 8 and 9, 1928 at Ferozeshah Kotla Grounds in Delhi. This notice was pasted in the context of the killing of J. P. Saunders, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Lahore, on December 17 in broad daylight, in front of the SSP office in Lahore city. Saunders had blown lathis on Lala Lajpat Rai on October 30, 1928, when he was leading a huge procession against the Simon Commission. Lala Lajpat Rai died on November 17 and the HSRA decided to avenge this ‘national humiliation’ as exhorted to by Basanti Devi, the widow of the famous nationalist, C. R. Das. Exactly a month later Saunders was killed and this notice appeared on the walls of Lahore. This notice was written in Bhagat Singh’s own handwriting and produced as an exhibit in the court. The notice declared in bold letters—“J.P. Saunders is killed; Lala Lajpat Rai is avenged”. The text of the notice read: ‘Really it is horrible to imagine that so lowly and violent hand of an ordinary Police official, J.P. Saunders, could ever dare to touch in such an insulting way the body of our so old, so revered leader, so loved by 300 million people of Hindustan, and thus cause his death. The youth and manhood of India were challenged by the blows hurled down on the head of India’s nationhood.’

The subheading of notice was: ‘Beware ye tyrants; Beware’. The notice warned the Britishers not to ‘injure the feelings of a downtrodden and oppressed country. Think twice before perpetrating such a diabolic deed.’

The third subheading was ‘Long live Revolution’. In this section, the text read—‘Sorry for the death of a man. But in this man has died the representative of an institution, which is so cruel, lowly and so base that it must be abolished. In this man has died an agent of the British authority in India- the most tyrannical of the governments of government in the world.’

The last paragraph of the notice read—‘Sorry for the bloodshed of a human being; but the sacrifice of individuals at the altar of the revolution that will bring freedom to all and make the exploitation of man by man impossible, is inevitable.’2

It is repeated again—‘Inquilab Zindabad’. (All quotes from the same notice.)

One can see the socialist thought of the HSRA, adopted three months earlier, taking shape in this notice. The colonial British Government had been perceived as ‘the most tyrannical government of the world’ and Saunders had been identified not as an individual, but as ‘representative of an institution’, the institution of colonialism and exploitation. ‘Death of a man’ was regretted, but in the death of this man, the death of the colonial system was desired.

Another notice issued about the same incident on December 23 again carries the name of Balraj, though it was actually written by Bhagat Singh, explaining that the action justified on the grounds that ‘this was an avenge for the biggest national insult’ in the form of attack on the grand old man of India, Lala Lajpat Rai. It had also been justified on the ground that it was as per ‘the rule (rule 10-b and c) of the HSRA. The slogan of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ (Long Live the Revolution) had been repeated in this notice as well.3 It seems that the HSRA had given a serious thought to the adoption of the slogan of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and ‘Death to Imperialism’ (Samrajyavad Murdabad), which reverberated in the Central Assembly four months later in Delhi. For Bhagat Singh, the political meaning of the slogans was to arouse people’s emotions. Earlier the slogan of ‘Vande Matram’ used to do it. Now they thought that an advanced slogan was necessary to raise the people’s consciousness. That is how all the three notices issued by the HSRA under the name of Balraj, scripted by Bhagat Singh, prominently focused on these slogans. These two slogans were adopted from the Bolshevik Revolution of Russia in November 1917 which suited Indian conditions perfectly and caught the imagination of the people in no time.

The third and more elaborately political notice/leaflet was thrown in the Central Assembly on April 8, 1929 by Bhagat Singh and B. K. Dutt, after exploding non-harmful bombs in the Assembly. They quoted the French revolutionary Valliant’s words—‘it takes a loud voice to make the deaf hear’—to justify their action. The leaflet referred to the repressive measures adopted by the British colonial regime in the form of Public Safety and Trade Disputes Bill. The Press Sedition Bill was kept reserved for the next session. The leaflet described the HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Republican Association) as a most serious and responsible organisation, which had decided to stop ‘this humiliating farce’ and let ‘the alien bureaucratic exploiters’ do what they wish, but to ‘make them come before the public eye in their naked form.’

The leaflet referred again to ‘the callous murder of Lala Lajpat Rai’ and declared that ‘it is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas. Great empires crumbled but the ideas survived. Bourbons and Czars fell while the revolution marched ahead triumphantly.’

Thus there are clear references to the French Revolution of 1789 and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. By far this was the clearest political statement by Bhagat Singh and his associates about the power of ideas to arouse the people for the revolution. It was a clear break from the earlier emotive and quasi-religious approach of Indian revolutionaries to arouse people in the name of nation or religion against ‘foreign rulers’.

Emphasis on ‘the sanctity of human life’ was again asserted in the concluding para of the leaflet, but the necessity of sacrifice of individuals was also underlined. ‘The sacrifice of individuals at the altar of the great revolution that will bring freedom to all, rendering the exploitation of man by man impossible is inevitable.’4

The leaflet concluded with the slogan—‘Inquilab Zindabad’. In fact all three notices, issued by the HSRA and drafted by Bhagat Singh, shows that the revolutionary movement in India had taken the clear ideological position of Lenin’s anti-imperialist stance.

The fourth notice had been issued by Bhagat Singh on June 17,1929, as a life convict no. 117 of Mianwali jail. It was addressed to the Inspector General Jails, Punjab, Lahore and announced that ‘he is on hunger strike from June 25 and he has lost six pounds of weight’. By asserting himself as ‘political prisoner’, Bhagat Singh had enlisted his demands for ‘better food, bathing facilities, availability of books/newspapers’ etc.5 This notice shows how a mature political personality was developing in Bhagat Singh.

Three brief telegrams also confirm the ideological positions taken by the HSRA in these notices.

On January 24, 1930, Bhagat Singh and other convicts of the Lahore Conspiracy Case greeted the Third International in Moscow on ‘Lenin Day’. They came to court wearing red scarfs around their neck and shouted slogans like ‘Socialism Zindabad’, ‘Samrajyavad Murdabad’ and gave telegrams to the Magistrate, which was published in The Tribune of January 26, 1930.6

They sent another telegram to the Hindustani Samiti in Berlin on April 5, 1930, condoling the passing away of the Indian revolutionary Shyamaji Krishna Verma.7 The third telegram was sent to the convicts of the Kakori case, who were on hunger strike in Bareilley jail. They were Sachinder Nath Bakhshi, Rajkumar Sinha, Mukundi Lal and Manmath Nath Gupt. They were requested to end their hunger strike in view of the notification issued for classification of convicts in jail.8

There is another telegram sent by Bhagat Singh to the Home Secretary, Government of India on January 24, 1930. This draws his attention towards the fact that though they had ended their hunger strike in view of the assurances given to them regarding the behaviour with political prisoners in jail, yet the Congress leaders of the Jail Reform Committee were not being allowed to meet them. It also referred that undertrial prisoners of the Lahore Conspiracy case were badly beaten up by orders of police officials on October 23 and 24, 1929.9

BHAGAT SINGH’S political correspondence through letters roughly starts from year 1923, with a letter addressed to his father. This is a quite well-known letter, when Bhagat Singh left home for Kanpur ‘to serve the nation’. The letter, written originally in Urdu, can be quoted verbatim—

‘Respected father,

Namaste. My life has already been committed to a noble cause—the cause of freedom of India. For that reason comforts and worldly desires have no attraction in my life. You must be remembering that at the time of my sacred thread ceremony (Yagyopavit), when I was quite young, Bapuji (grandfather) had declared that I was being pledged for the service of the country. I am therefore honouring the pledge of that time. I hope you will excuse me.
Yours obediently—Bhagat Singh.’10

Though a simple and small letter, yet to understand Bhagat Singh’s mental make-up and his political commitment, this letter is quite significant. Bhagat Singh was clear from the day one that his life was dedicated to the nation and so he was not tempted by any such thing which could be considered normal for his age—good clothing, good eating, and living in comforts, given the rich financial background of his family. He started living in hardship by his own choice. He worked as a newspaper vendor in Kanpur, worked in Pratap, the Hindi paper edited by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, worked during floods around Kanpur in relief activities. As his grandfather pledged him for the service of the country, he took that pledge more seriously than even his family. No one in the family perhaps wanted to see him die, even while serving the nation; yet Bhagat Singh never faltered when the cause of freedom needed his life.

From 1923 to March 22, 1931, a day prior to his martyrdom, Bhagat Singh wrote a number of letters to his close family members, friends, editors and many official letters to British officials—judicial as well as administrative. Two more letters addressed to his father are available—one written in April 1929 after his arrest in the Central Assembly bomb case and another written on October 4, 1930; this second letter is again a historic document. Bhagat Singh’s father was a Congress activist; for that matter, his whole family was part of the freedom struggle, as is clear from Bhagat Singh’s first available letter to his father. His grandfather Arjun Singh himself was a nationalist and all his three sons—Kishan Singh, Ajit Singh and Swarn Singh were freedom fighters. Swarn Singh died at the age at which Bhagat Singh was to die later. He died due to tuberculosis contracted in jail. Ajit Singh remained exiled for 38 years, returned only to die on August 15, 1947 itself. Kishan Singh, along with two brothers, served many years jail terms, so also the two younger brothers of Bhagat Singh later—Kulbir Singh and Kultar Singh.

In his second letter to his father, Bhagat Singh informed his father about being shifted to Delhi jail, after being kept in police remand from April 8 to 22. He informed his father that ‘the drama’ of trial will be over within a month. He told his father that that there was no need of any lawyer; however he needed legal ‘consultation’. He also demanded a few books to be sent to him and about ‘good treatment’ in Delhi jail. From this letter one comes to know about the strategy of Bhagat Singh regarding ‘political trials’, which he elaborated later in many of his letters or other writings. Bhagat Singh was clear that ‘political actions’ by revolutionaries should not be ‘denied’ in the courts; on the contrary ‘these should be accepted’ and the philosophy of such actions should be propounded ‘in the courts’ by revolutionaries.

The third letter to his father, written on October 4 with much anguish, makes this strategy more clear. And Bhagat Singh censures his father quite harshly for his ’unwanted interference’ in the case, in order to ‘save’ the life of his son. Bhagat Singh’s father had given a petition to the special tribunal, conducting the Saunders murder trial, that his son was ‘innocent and he had nothing to do with the Saunders murder’. Expressing himself as being ‘astounded’ to know about this petition, Bhagat Singh wrote that ‘it has upset the whole equilibrium of my mind’. Then he put it very strongly that ‘in the political field my views always differed with those of yours. I have always acted independently without having cared for your approval or disapproval.’

Bhagat Singh reminded his father that though he (his father) always wanted him (Bhagat Singh) to fight his case seriously and defend him properly, he (BS) always opposed it. Thus he told his father that ‘we have been pursuing a definite policy in this trial’. He explained further their policy—‘I have always been of opinion that all political workers should be indifferent and should never bother about the legal courts and should boldly bear the heaviest possible sentence inflicted upon them. They may defend themselves but always from political considerations and never from a personal point of view. Our policy in this trial has always been consistent with this principle; whether we were successful in that or not is not for me to judge.’

In this letter the maturity of political thinking of Bhagat Singh can be seen at its peak. He told his father—‘My life is not so precious, at least to me, as you may probably think it to be. It is not at all worth buying at the cost of my principles. There are other comrades of mine whose case is as serious as that of mine. We have adopted a common policy and we shall stand to the last, no matter how dearly we have to pay individually for it.’ After explaining his policy about the case, Bhagat Singh performed perhaps the most difficult duty—of censuring his father and he did not shirk from this unpleasant but politically necessary duty.

‘Father, I am quite perplexed. I fear I might overlook the ordinary principles of etiquette and my language may become a little but harsh while criticising or rather censoring this move on your part. Let me be candid. I feel as though I have been stabbed at 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—a weakness of the worst type.

‘This is the time where 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.’11

This was not just a private letter, Bhagat Singh insisted that this letter must be published at the earliest and so it was in The Tribune. Probably this move by Kishan Singh made Bhagat Singh so apprehensive that he instructed Kumari Lajjawati, Secretary of the Bhagat Singh Defence Committee, while handing over the bag of his papers, prior to his pending execution, ‘to hand over these papers only to Bejoy Kumar Sinha’, who was his close friend at the ideological level as well and who was undergoing imprisonment in the Andamans. As per Lajjawati, Bhagat Singh had specifically instructed her ‘not to hand over these papers to her father’. And Lajjawati followed these instructions and refused even ‘to show’ the papers to Kishan Singh, when he wanted to see them.12 Though Lajjawati gave this bag to Lala Firoze Chand, the editor of People, the weekly established by Lala Lajpat Rai, to take whatever papers for publication Lala Firoze Chand took out some papers, which were later published in People, and these included—‘Letter to Young Political Workers’ (fragments) on March 29, 1931, ‘On Political Trials’ of June 9, 1931, and ‘Why I am an Atheist’ of September 27, 1931. As per Lajjawati, she handed over the remaining papers to B.K. Sinha in 1938, after his release from the Andamans and how these were lost, that is a somewhat controversial and unconfirmed story.

BHAGAT SINGH’S letters to Sukhdev are equally significant for expressing his philosophical views about life, particularly about ‘love’ and ‘suicide’. But the reference point here again is political perception. Bhagat Singh initially was not chosen by the revolutionary group for throwing a bomb in the Central Assembly, because of his indispensability for the party, despite Bhagat Singh’s own pleadings for it. Sukhdev was not present in that meeting and after his return he charged Bhagat Singh with showing ‘weakness’ for some unnamed woman and thinking himself to be too big. At Bhagat Singh’s insistence the meeting of the group was called again and Bhagat Singh chose to go to the Assembly; he also got the approval of the group to ‘not to escape’ and use the platform of courts to propound their political views. To rebutt Sukhdev’s accusations, Bhagat Singh wrote a letter to him on April 5, 1929, which was delivered by Shiv Verma to Sukhdev on April 6, two days prior to the throwing of bombs in the Central Assembly. While expressing his anguish at being misunderstood by ‘my brother, my own brother’, Bhagat Singh dwelt upon the features of his own personality. He said emphatically: ‘I am full of ambition and hope, and full of charm of life. But I can renounce all at the time of need, and that is the real sacrifice.’ Bhagat Singh also referred to the over- idealistic bent of mind of the radical activist, while referring to the natural feeling of love. ‘We, in spite of all radical ideas that we cherish, have not been able to do away with the over-idealistic Arya Samajist conception of morality. We may talk glibly about all the radical things that can possibly be conceived, but in practical life we begin to tremble at the very outset. This I will request you to do away with.’13

He wrote another letter to Sukhdev when, in response to his own letter, Sukhdev expressed the desire ‘to commit suicide’ in case he got the ‘sentence of transportation for life’. Sukhdev wished only for ’death’ or ‘release’. Bhagat Singh gave him a very sharp reply. Sukhdev earlier could not sustain police tactics and made a ‘statement’, after his arrest in April 1929, even when Bhagat Singh and Dutt were being kept in police custody and both refusing to give any statement to the police following their arrest in the Delhi bomb case. Again when all others comrades of the Lahore conspiracy case continued their hunger strike in support of Bhagat Singh and B. K. Dutt’s hunger strike, in which Jatin Das even gave his life, Sukhdev could not sustain the hunger strike for long. Bhagat Singh reminded Sukhdev of their earlier conversation about ‘suicide’, when they had not been arrested, in which Sukhdev thought suicide to be ‘horrible and heinous’. Bhagat Singh at that time told that ‘in some situations suicide may be justifiable’. Bhagat Singh now took this view that ‘suicide is a heinous crime. It is an act of complete cowardice. Leave alone revolutionaries, no individual can ever justify such an act.’ Bhagat Singh debated with Sukhdev about the role of ‘suffering’; the latter thought that suffering cannot serve the country and that was why he did not endure the suffering of hunger strike. Here Bhagat Singh defended the role of hunger strike in order to improve the miserable conditions of political prisoners in jail. He put the query to Sukhdev in this context as to whether this hunger strike or the death of Comrade Jatindernath Das could be called suicide. Bhagat Singh’s emphatic view was—‘No. Striving and sacrificing one’s life for a superior ideal can never be called suicide.’ He underlined the fact that due to hunger strike, they won the political rights for better treatment of political prisoners—‘Ultimately, our suffer-ings bore fruit. Big movements started in the whole country. We were successful in our aim. Death in the struggle of this kind is an ideal death.’

Bhagat Singh told Sukhdev that getting hanged in this case ‘will also be beautiful, but committing suicide—to cut short the life just to avoid some pain—is cowardice’. Bhagat Singh discussed Russian literature at length in this context, which both comrades had been discussing during their earlier life outside the jail. Bhagat Singh spoke about the role of jail in understanding the realities of life—

‘I want to tell you that in jail, and in jail alone, can a person get an occasion to study empirically the great social subjects of crime and sin. I have read some literature on this and only jail is the proper place for self-study on all these topics. The best part of the self-study for one is to suffer oneself.’

One can write a thesis on the basis of just this one letter of Bhagat Singh, which is a most clear expression of his philosophical, political and cultural ideas. Bhagat Singh told Sukhdev that they were not doing something very unusual in life. They were just ‘a product of the needs of our times’, as was Marx. And here he give the most mature Marxist understanding of Marx, which Marx himself gave about himself at one time—

‘I shall even say that Marx—the father of communism—did not actually originate this idea. The industrial revolution of Europe itself produced men of this kind. Marx was one among them. Of course, Marx was also instrumental to an extent in gearing up the wheels of his time in a particular way.

‘I (and you too) did not give birth to the idea of socialism and communism in this country; this is the consequence of the effects of our time and situations upon ourselves. Of course, we did a bit to propagate these ideas and therefore I say that since we have already taken a tough task upon ourselves, we should continue to advance it. The people will not be guided by our committing suicides to escape the difficulties; on the contrary, this will be quite a reactionary step.’

One can see the giant of a committed theoretician of the Marxist revolution taking shape in Bhagat Singh at the age of 23 years, when this letter was written. He asserted his materialistic thinking, their atheist approach towards God, hell, heaven etc. and declared that he is hundred per cent certain about the capital punishment being awarded to him—‘I do not expect a bit of moderation or amnesty. Even if there is amnesty, it will not be for all, and even that amnesty will be for others only, not for us; it will be extremely restricted and burdened with various conditions. For us, neither can there be any amnesty nor will it ever happen. Even then, I wish that release calls for us should be made collectively and globally. Along with that, I also wish that when the movement reaches its climax, we should be hanged.’ Bhagat Singh declared his unflinching faith in the revolution, in face of his certain death—‘A revolution can be only achieved through sustained striving, sufferings and sacrifices. And it shall be achieved.’ For Sukhdev and persons of his kind in revolutionary movements, his unequivocal opinion was—‘You will kindly excuse me for saying that had you acted according to this belief right at the time of imprisonment (that is, you had committed suicide by taking poison), you would have served the revolutionary cause, but at this moment, even the thought of such an act is harmful to our cause.’14 Here one is reminded of a young Bengali woman revolutionary of Chittagong—Preetilata Wadedar, who had consumed a capsule of cyanide, after throwing a bomb in a Britishers’ club on September 24, 1932 and got martyred; that perhaps would never be considered a suicide in revolutionary movements.

BHAGAT SINGH sent a message to the second Punjab Students Conference held at Lahore on October 19, 1929, under the Presidentship of Subhash Chandra Bose. Here the very first line of his message shows how Bhagat Singh was trying to remove the tag of ‘bombs and pistols’ from their movement. He said—‘Today, we cannot ask the youth to take to pistols and bombs. ... the youth will have to spread this revolutionary message to the far corners of the country. They have to awaken crores of slum-dwellers of the industrial areas and villagers living in worn out cottages, so that we will be independent and the exploitation of man by man will become impossibility.’15

In a letter addressed to Ramanand Chatterjee, the editor of Modern Review, who ridiculed the slogan of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, Bhagat Singh reasserts—‘Revolution did not necessarily involve sanguinary strife. It was not a cult of bomb and pistol. They may sometimes be mere means for its achievement.’16

Bhagat Singh wrote two letters in the context of Harikishan’s trial being taking place. Harikishan had shot at the Governor of Punjab during the convocation of the Panjab University in Lahore on December 23, 1930. The Governor survived but one other official died in this attack. Harikishan was just a young boy of 18 years and was bound to be hanged in this case; however, the way lawyers conducted his case made Bhagat Singh quite unhappy. He wrote two letters in this connection. While one of the letters is untraceable till date, another letter was found in the Bhagat Singh papers and was published in the People (Lahore) on June 9, 1931, after Harikishan was hanged on May 31, 1931. Bhagat Singh defended his earlier line of facing such trials by boldly accepting the deed regardless of the consequences, which will make public sympathise with the cause. He came down heavily on the lawyers in the context of this case and castigated them—‘Lawyers should not be so unscrupulous as to exploit the lives and even deaths of young people who come to sacrifice themselves for so noble a cause as the emancipation of suffering humanity... Why should a lawyer demand such an incredible fee as has been paid in the above case?’ Bhagat Singh was particularly unhappy at the way Harikishan was shown as not being so bold, whereas Bhagat Singh knew that they ‘are trying to belittle the beauty of the marvellous character of our young comrade.’17

TWO more letters of Bhagat Singh need special mention here, while the official correspondence of Bhagat Singh with British judicial and jail officials must be deferred for another paper. Bhagat Singh wrote to the Governor of Punjab on behalf of all the three condemned prisoners of the Lahore Conspiracy case on March 20, 1931, three days prior to the executions. They pleaded ‘to be shot dead as war prisoners’ as India and British colonialism were ‘at war’ and they were ‘soldiers of the Indian side’. The letter contains the historic statement—‘The days of capitalist and imperialist exploitation are numbered. The war neither began with us nor is it going to end with our lives. It is the inevitable consequence of the historic events and the exciting environment. Our humble sacrifices shall only be a link in the chain that has accurately been beautified by the unparalleled sacrifice of Mr Das and the most tragic but noblest sacrifice of Comrade Bhagwati Charan and the glorious death of our dear warrior Azad.’18

The last words authored by him on March 22, just a day prior to his final journey, were addressed to his comrades and rightly so. He lived and died amongst them. It is interesting to know that his last words were written in Urdu; these words were written neither in English, which he mastered so much in the last part of his life, nor in Punjabi, his mother tongue, whose Gurmukhi script he learnt with conscious choice. Incidentally, his last letters to his younger brothers—Kulbir and Kultar—penned on March 3 were also in Urdu. Urdu was the first and last language of his expression, perhaps he expressed himself most comfortably in that language, which he learnt as a medium of instruction in school in those days. Bhagat Singh was at complete peace with himself, fully contended with life he lived in the last moments of his life and he expressed himself in these words—‘I am proud of myself these days and I am anxiously waiting for the final test. I wish the day may come nearer soon.’ Bhagat Singh prolonged his trial to the extent possible by various means at his disposal, most of these created most imaginatively, with the full awareness of getting capital punishment, because of his political agenda—to expose the British judicial and administrative system so thoroughly that the Indian people become aware of the true form of the colonial regime. And when his agenda was complete, he was ready to face death most boldly, as Che Guvera faced in Bolivia thirtysix years later, challenging the American armyman sent to shoot him. Only one thing pricked him—‘My heart nurtured some ambitions for doing something for humanity and for my country. I have not been able to fulfil even one-thousandth part of these ambitions. If I live I might perhaps get a chance to fulfil them. If ever it came to my mind that I should not die, it came from this end only.’19

One should mark that the word ‘humanity’ comes here before the word ‘country’. Bhagat Singh had become a truly international martyr for the cause of humanity; he was not just an Indian martyr for the cause of the country on March 23, 1931. His political consciousness had grown to the level of ‘human liberation’ and not just ‘Indian liberation’. One should try to understand Bhagat Singh from this perspective.


1. Chaman Lal (ed.), Shaheed Bhagat Singh: Dastavejon Ke Aaine Mein, Publications Division, Government of India, 2007.

2. Shiv Verma (ed.), Selected Writings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, National Book Centre, New Delhi, 1986 (First Edition), pages 62-63.

3. Chaman Lal (ed.), ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh: Dastavejon Ke Aaine Mein’, Publications Division, Government of India, 2007, pages 30-31.

4. Shiv Verma (ed.), Selected Writings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, National Book Centre, New Delhi, 1986 (First Edition), pages 67-68.

5. Chaman Lal (ed.), Shaheed Bhagat Singh:Dastavejon Ke Aaine Mein, Publications Division, Government of India, 2007, pages 30-36.

6. Shiv Verma (ed.), Selected Writings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, National Book Centre, New Delhi, 1986 (First Edition), page 82.

7. Chaman Lal (ed.), Shaheed Bhagat Singh:Dastavejon Ke Aaine Mein, Publication Division, Government of India, 2007, page 47.

8. Chaman Lal (ed.), Shaheed Bhagat Singh:Dastavejon Ke Aaine Mein, Publication Division, Government of India, 2007, page 47.

9. Shiv Verma (ed.), Selected Writings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, National Book Centre, New Delhi, 1986 (First Edition), pages 77-78.

10. Ibid.;

11. Ibid., pages 112-14.

12. Interview with Lajjawati by the oral History Cell of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.

13. Shiv Verma (ed.), Selected Writings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, National Book Centre, New Delhi, 1986 (First Edition), page 55.

14. Ibid., pages 106-11.

15. Ibid., page 79.

16. Ibid., pages 80-81.

17. ibid., pages 124-27.

18. Ibid., pages 154-56.

19. Ibid., page 157.

The author is a Professor at the Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the editor of Bhagat Singh’s documents. He can be contacted at e-mail:

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