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The Hanging Of Bhagat Singh - Book By Professor Malwinderjit Singh Waraich , Dr. Gurdev Singh Sidhu

The Hanging Of Bhagat Singh-Book by Professor Malwinderjit Singh Waraich , Dr. Gurdev Singh Sidhu

The era of 'Inqlab Zindabad' was ushered in by twenty rebels, all in their twenties, during the late twenties of the twentieth Century.

Making a decisive start in September 1928 at Delhi, this phase of their struggle climaxed in March 1931.

Bhagat Singh, in his last meeting with his comrade, Jaidev Kapoor in Lahore Central Jail, a few days before his martyrdom said that " he (Bhagat Singh) had visualised that if by sacrificing my life, I am able to spread the slogan "Inqilab Zindabad" all over the country, I shall consider myself to be fully rewarded…..To-day I can very well hear crores of my countrymen shouting the slogan, even while I am confined behind the thick walls of my death cell ... I trust, this slogan would continue to inspire our liberation struggle against Imperialism."1

Significantly, it was also during this very phase of our freedom struggle that the timid Congress leadership too had to commit itself, for the first time to the goal of Independence in its Lahore session in Dec 1929.

This "Revolution" according to these rebels was not the act of bomb and pistol as propagated by its opponents. "By 'Revolution' we mean, 'the present order of things which is based on manifest injustice must change ... " and instead, a system " ... in which the sovereignty of the proletariat should be recognised and world federation- should redeem humanity from the bondage of Capitalism and misery of Imperial wars."

"This is our ideal and with this ideology as our inspiration, we have given a fair and loud enough warning.

"The elimination of force at all costs is Utopian and the new movement which has arisen in the country, and of that dawn we have given a warning, is inspired by the ideals which guided Guru Gobind Singh and Shivaji, Kamal Pasha and Riza Khan, Washington and Garibaldi, Lafayalte and Lenin.”

The 'Operation Inqilab Zindabad', confined to bare 2.5 years involved quite heterogeneous 'sub-operations' detailed in these two documents, i.e. Judgement of Delhi Assembly Bomb Case and Judgement of Lahore Conspiracy Case, more particularly in the latter.

To sample a few - to choose a particular type of action, its target, timing, post-action follow-up and cover-up; to select a particular village or city as a base for each action or its preparation like bomb-making, then the street, the house, the excuse for hiring it, in whose name; then to manage the necessary expertise, the know-how, the manufacturing/ experimental paraphernalia, choose the testing site, procurements of arms, ammunition and arrange for training in their use, all in a safe and secret manner; choosing and providing suitable dresses; drafting and printing of propaganda material, utilization of media, pasting of posters on selected spots on specific timings, all this requiring a lot of money which often proved to be the insurmountable hurdle.

Above all, these decisions had to be taken simultaneously, being closely inter-linked and that too within limited time at their disposal. This, apparently mundane agenda, was their day to day occupation, and upon its successful accomplishment depended the fate of their sublime goal of arousing the masses from their deep slumber and disabusing the middle class intellectuals of their illusions about the nature of Imperialism and Capitalism, a formidable task by all accounts.

The human qualities, both individual and collective which enabled these relatively inexperienced youth to anticipate and pre-empt the cruel repressive blows of the authorities, to gauge the contemporary political climates of opinion for choosing the particular action, and importantly the apt moment, to outline the post-action follow-up in order to optimise the ideological impact, was a task nothing less than herculian.

To understand the 'secret' behind this miracle, let us go through what one of them, Sh. Shiv Verma, a life long radical activist, wrote in 1968.

"My companions and friends have always been my weak points. Perhaps in practical politics it will be considered a negative quality. Even then I believe that the person who is not faithful to his companions, who does not love them from the core of his heart, can never be honest in politics. The place of those whose reminiscences are recorded in these sketches is above that of ordinary people. These companions were neither hypocrites nor had artificiality in their personalities nor were they opportunists. They too were competing among themselves but not for leadership, office or status. They would not pull down a companion to surpass him. They competed in their ideals to challenge death - to continue the tradition of sacrifice and to be first to annihilate and to sacrifice themselves.

"When during a hunger strike in Lahore it appeared within a week that the Government would not consider our demands without sacrifice, all the people wanted to be first to embrace death. In this tussle Yatindra Nath won the day. In Andaman Mahavir Singh had begun a hunger strike at the outset so that the other companions remain alive. Raj Guru's desire in life was that Bhagat Singh should not precede him. Who will not love such companions and the moments spent with them?

"The Reminiscences have yet another importance for me. When I look at ail - pervading opportunism in the political world around me, its cut -throat competition for power and position, the lust of a man to ride on the shoulders of his friends and then knock them down in the race for one-upmanship, immorality in the name of principles and morals, factionalism, frauds, artificiality etc sometimes I feel that I did not merit being in this arena and that circumstances have pushed me into a wrong place. Then a feeling of disgust arises in my mind and I feel I should leave all this and stand aloof. In the moments of such despondency and disgust these reminiscences and recollections of the old friends have supported me."

About their ideological moorings, there have always been, and continues to be a lot of hair-splitting as to whether they were terrorists. A trend of thought is categorical in its thesis that they were in fact terrorists before they landed in Lahore Central Jail where they got baptised to become true crusaders of Socialism and Communism.

Paradoxically, this label of 'terrorists' often mouthed by self-professed radicals, was avoided even in these two judicial verdicts by the judges.

In Assembly Bomb case, the Lahore High Court Judge while dismissing the appeal against the decision of Delhi Session Judge observed that "Bhagat Singh is a sincere revolutionary, I have no doubt, that is to say he is sincere in his illusion that the world can be improved by destroying the social structure as it now stands and substituting for the rule of law, the unrestrained will of the individual." Almost identical is the remark of judges in the main case that "the character of resolution passed at the Delhi meeting of September 1928 (were) in favour of adoption of terrorism as a mean to bring about revolution."

In the ultimate analysis, the proof of pudding, as goes the saying, lies in eating ..... INQILAB got embedded in the Indian psyche those very days!

That those people were hard-boiled realists regarding their own role is well depicted in the musings of Sh. Bhagwan Das Mahore, a participant, in his own words:

"For us a few comrades, armed with crude pistols and improvised ill-devised bombs, the idea of challenging the mighty Empire would have been nothing less than a grand delusion. To be precise, none of us suffered from such a grotesque notion and we were acutely conscious of the constraints under which we were operating and hence aimed at accomplishing only what was expedient and attainable." 4

Ironically enough, still these young men were charged also with the crime of 'Waging War Against King Emperor' under Section 121, Indian penal code, which (then) read: " Whoever wages war against the king Emperor or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war shall be punished with death or transportation for life and shall forfeit his property."

But then 'war' in its ordinary sense is an open state of conflict especially between nations. On the face of it, this charge against these few ill armed youth, acting clandestinely for the most part, looks almost comical. Even a semblance of military confrontation between the mighty Empire and these boys was inconceivable, to say the least. Yet at the end of the trial, of these 20, ten were found to be guilty of ACTUAL WAGING OF WAR and two others (Kundan Lal and Prem Dutt) were found guilty of being the conspirators of waging such war, thus attracting a milder charge under Section 121-A (Conspiracy to wage such a war) which carried no death sentence but transportation of life.

However , the slapping of such a charge on them was not without a design. A careful study of the trial scenario would reveal that the trial too .was a battlefield of sorts, where the wits of the two protagonists were in array, each trying to score in the battle of propaganda. Primarily, the accused employed all their means to expose the hypocricy of the authorities, who were bent upon crushing them under the garb of rule of law, the latter strived to disprove it. The former were ultimately successful in compelling the Government to throw away the mask of legality by promulgating special Ordinance III of 1930 to set up Special Tribunal for their trial like of those set up in 1914 -15 for trial of Ghadrites -notorious for its "NO VAKIL" "NO DALEEL", "NO APPEAL'' since the Magisterial trial was getting protracted due to the non-participation of the accused, while the latter continued to attract the glare of the press, which they were exploiting for propagating their ideas.

The application of Section 121and121-A along with an 'all -purpose' Section 120-B (Conspiracy for a crime) provided a legal cover to charge all the accused with all the crimes committed by any one of them including the incident of Delhi Assembly dated 8 April 1929 for which Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt had already been sentenced to transportation for life. In legal parlance this device is called conviction for vicarious participation/ liability.

Of the numerous anecdotes about these 'boys' just one may be recounted. Bhagat Singh was a voracious reader including fiction. One of his favourite novels was 'The Seven Who Were Hanged'. Sometimes, in free time in Special Magistrate's court, he used to narrate an episode about a character in that novel who had managed to convince himself that "come what may, I shall not be hanged." As per the novel, even while that character was being finally led to the gallows to be hanged, he continued chanting, "I shall not be hanged ..... "

According to Sh. Jatinder Nath Sanyal, (a co-accused who was acquitted), Bhagat Singh after narrating this episode, almost word by word broke into a hearty laugh, then falling silent suddenly, tears started rolling down his eyes!

May be, to Bhagat Singh, the mere hint of his own self escaping death was as ridiculous or amusing as in case of that character, which made him laugh and then his shedding of tears soon after, showed him empathising with that pitiable character who was naive enough to evade the inevitable.

In their own view, Bhagat Singh and his comrades conceived of themselves just as a link between the past and the future revolutionary movements.

"The days of Capitalist and Imperialist exploitation are numbered. The war (against the imperialism) neither began with us nor is it going to end with our lives. It is the inevitable consequence of the historic events and the existing environments ... Our humble sacrifices shall be only a link in the chain that has very accurately been beautified by the unparalleled sacrifice of Mr ( JATIN) Das and the most tragic but noblest sacrifice of Comrade Bhagwati Charan (Vohra) and the glorious death of our dear warrior Azad.

"We know that the maxim 'Might is Right' serves as your guiding motto. The whole of our trial was just a proof of that. We wanted to point out that according to the verdict of your court we had waged war and were therefore war prisoners. And we claim to be treated as such, i.e. we claim to be shot dead instead of to be hanged. It rests with you to prove what your court had said.

"We request and hope that you will very kindly order the military department to send its detachment to perform our execution".5

Since they had been sentenced for waging war against the King Emperor, they (three) put the oppressors on the defensive, a few days before quitting this mortal world by asking them to prove true to the said charge. "It rests with you to prove what your court had said".

Site Plan of Mr. Saunders & Channan Singh Murder Case crown Vs Bhagat Singh and others F.I.Reportsts No. 164 dated 17-12-1928, Section 302/120-B-109 I.P.C. is appended

This compilation is our humble offering to our compatriots, to all sincere students of history, courtesy our publishers- UNISTAR.


Prof. Malwinderjit Singh Waraich

Dr. Gurdev Singh Sidhu


28, September 2005

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