How many of our 23-year-olds even know the struggles of 23-year-old Bhagat Singh?

 

There are those who argue that Bhagat Singh had a natural penchant for violence and using that to justify labelling him a chest beating Hindi Nationalist; which could not be further from the truth. He did take part in violent activities but painting his entire struggle under one umbrella is unfair.

Singh had a very different approach to protest when compared to the likes of Gandhi and Jinnah. Having studied European revolutionary movements as a teenager, he was attracted to the Marxist ideologies. There are claims of him reading a book by Russian revolutionist Vladimir Lenin, minutes before his execution. He was an avowed socialist, who not only dreamed of freedom from the British Raj but also of an egalitarian and secular India, where all religions, ethnicities and sects could co-exist. A committed atheist, he was a staunch critic of communal politics and capitalism.

In December 1929, he wrote,

“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. No doubt they play a prominent part in some movements, but they do not – for that very reason – become one and the same thing. A rebellion is not a revolution. It may ultimately lead to that end.”

But why is such an important part of the subcontinent’s struggle for independence, largely forgotten in the history books taught in Pakistan?

It has been proven time and time again that the history text books taught in Pakistani schools have been repeatedly modified to portray versions of historical events that do not reveal the truth on multiple occasions. They are shamefully silent on the subject of Bhagat Singh, and in the rare cases he is mentioned, he has been portrayed as a heroic Indian Sikh, thereby disregarding the fact that despite being born to a Sikh family, Bhagat Singh was not a practicing Sikh.

After reading Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky, he embraced atheism abandoning the Sikh religious belief, famously saying:

“One of my friends asked me to pray. When informed of my atheism, he told me when my last days come, I will begin to believe. I said no, dear sir. Never shall it happen. I consider it to be an act of degradation and demoralisation. For such petty selfish motives, I shall never pray.”

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