“They may kill me, but they cannot kill my ideas. They can crush my body, but they will not be able to crush my spirit” – Bhagat Singh.
Bhagat Singh was an Indian revolutionary freedom fighter who was killed by British colonists when he was 23 years old. He is regarded as a national hero of India’s liberation struggle and is fondly known as “Shaheed Bhagat Singh”. He popularised the term ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ as a youngster, which later became the motto of the Indian independence struggle. The Martyr was the person who smile before being hung at such a young age. Bhagat is still an inspiration for millions of people.
The Life of Bhagat Singh
On September 27, 1907, Bhagat Singh was born into a Sikh family in Banga village in Faisalabad district (formerly known as Lyallpur), now in Pakistan’s Punjab state. He was the second child of Kishan Singh and Vidya Vati. He grew interested in the country’s independence movements since his family was greatly impacted by nationalism. His father and two uncles were imprisoned at the time of Bhagat’s birth for creating a political disturbance.
Bhagat’s ancestral hamlet was Khatkar Kalan, located near the town of Banga, India, in the Punjab district of Nawanshahr (today known as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar). His grandfather, Arjun Singh, was a member of Arya Samaj, Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s Hindu reformist organization, which had a significant effect on him. When his parents attempted to marry him off, Singh fled to Kanpur.
He went to the scene of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre when he was 12 years old, only hours after hundreds of unarmed people gathered for a public assembly were massacred. As a youngster, it had a profound effect on him.
Mahatma Gandhi became an active member in the Movement for Non-Cooperation when it began in 1920. Bhagat Singh had high hopes from Gandhi that he would surely bring Independence to India. However, he was unhappy when Gandhi called off the campaign in the aftermath of the Chauri Chaura tragedy in 1922.
In 1923, Singh distinguished himself by winning an essay competition sponsored by the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. He attended the National College in Lahore. He became a member of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha.
In 1926, he established the ‘Naujawan Bharat Sabha’ (Indian Youth Society) and became a member of the Hindustan Republican Association (later known as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association). He met several anti-colonialist activists around this time. Singh also joined the Hindustan Republican Association, which was then led by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan.
On November 17, 1928, in Lahore, veteran independence fighter Lala Lajpat Rai was killed by police during an anti-British parade. Bhagat Singh along with Shivaram Rajguru, Jai Gopal, and Sukhdev Thapar was resolved to avenge Lajpat Rai’s death by shooting Deputy Inspector General Scott, the British officer responsible for the killing.
Gopal informed Singh about the appearance of J. P. Saunders, the deputy police superintendent, in case of mistaken identity. Instead of Scott, Singh shot J. P. Saunders. To evade the authorities, he fled from Lahore right away. He shaved his beard and cropped his hair to avoid being recognised, letting go of his Sikh principles.
After he escapes from Lahore to Calcutta, then on to Agra, where he set up a bomb factory. The British government retaliated by enacting harsh legislation such as the Trades Disputes Bill. Singh and Dutt detonated bombs on April 8, 1929, while screaming “Inquilab Zindabad.” He tossed explosives in the Central Assembly Hall (now our Loksabha) while the Assembly was in session in protest of Bill’s passage. The explosives did not cause any injuries, but the cacophony they created was enough to awaken an oppressed nation from its long slumber.
Singh and Dutt surrendered to police after the explosion. He and Dutt were sentenced to life in jail for the explosion on June 12, 1929.
Soon after their conviction and prosecution for the Assembly bombing, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were accused of J. P. Saunders’ murder. Bhagat wanted to use the court to highlight his campaign for India’s independence, so he confessed to the murder. While being kept in jail, he and other inmates went on hunger strike to protest for prisoner rights while awaiting trial. They were striking to protest the preferential treatment of British murderers and thieves, who are entitled to better treatment than Indian political prisoners under the law.
Before his death, he also wrote a pamphlet titled “Why I am an atheist,” in which he addressed the charge of vanity for rejecting God in the face of death.
The Fearless Fighter was hung in Lahore on March 23, 1931, along with his companions Rajguru and Sukhdev. His followers, who had been protesting the hanging, quickly declared him a shaheed, or martyr.
Their remains were burned in Ferozepur, on the banks of the Sutlej River. India’s liberation warriors are today honoured at the Bhagat Singh Memorial. At the time, he was just 23 years old. According to old-timers, not a single hearth fire was lit that day in numerous regions.
Bhagat Singh’s death had the desired effect, inspiring thousands of young people to join the remainder of the Indian independence fight. Following his death, youngsters in Northern India rioted in defiance of the British Raj. They all deserve to be remembered as bright young stars in our collective memory for all time.
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