Let us Discover the Future of India together with Bhagat Singh

By the time this issue of Liberation reaches you, the birth centenary year of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh will have just begun. Today's Indian rulers, the ‘brown sahibs' whom Bhagat Singh knew pretty well, seem to be blissfully ignorant of this fact of history. Busy as they are celebrating a fictitious centenary of Vande Mataram, our rulers also seem to be unaware of the fact that we are currently living in the 150th anniversary year of the Great Rebellion of 1857, India's First War of Independence. We might as well grant them their right to amnesia – after all they have completely abdicated all moral right to pay homage to our great martyrs – as long as we do not allow them to trap us in their conspiracy of silence. Bhagat Singh can be an inspiring icon only for the revolutionary people of India and they shall celebrate his birth centenary to uphold his lustrous revolutionary legacy.

Bhagat Singh's political awakening began at a time when the British colonial rulers had perpetrated the infamous Jallianwalabagh massacre in a blatant bid to drown the first Gandhian attempt at mass awakening in sheer blood. Yet Gandhi had gone on to withdraw the non-cooperation movement to reprimand the ‘erring' peasants of Chaurichaura in Uttar Pradesh who had answered the British policy of repression by resurrecting the spirit of 1857 and burning down a police outpost. Bhagat Singh had also clearly noted the fact that Gandhi and his ‘ism' consciously discouraged any attempt to politicise the working class. The class character of Gandhism and the Congress – defined by the centrality of the interests of capitalists, traders and landlords and the political marginalisation of the overwhelming majority of Indians, the workers and peasants – was thus quite evident to Bhagat Singh from the very beginning.

Equally evident to him was the utter hesitation of the Congress to voice the demand for complete independence. When Bhagat Singh and his comrades raised full-throated slogans for independence and inquilab , most of the Congress leaders were still confined, conceptually and practically, to various legal variants and degrees of colonial slavery, and many including Gandhi openly and repeatedly condemned the revolutionaries. Yet Bhagat Singh never dismissed Gandhi or the Congress, never hesitated to acknowledge their contribution in terms of triggering a mass awakening while joining issue with the Congress leadership over both the substance of freedom and ways of achieving it. In his initial writings, one can see a certain inclination to anarchism and terrorism, but he was quick to recognise and grasp the superior revolutionary essence of Marxism and the absolute indispensability of an organised communist party and communist politics for any real political headway towards independence and socialism.

History did not give Bhagat Singh the opportunity to found the communist party of India, but the draft revolutionary programme he had prepared in the last days of his life and which was published in parts only after his martyrdom must be recognised as the first effective blueprint of a revolutionary communist programme and tactics in the history of Indian communist movement. In sharp contrast to the one-sided and fragmented vision of most of India's national leadership, and the erratic fluctuations of the early communist leadership, Bhagat Singh's writings convey a far-sighted and holistic vision, and a consistent and comprehensive revolutionary approach that are so lacking even today.

He was acutely aware of the nuisance and havoc that communalism could play and insisted on strengthening class solidarity as the basis of people's harmony and strict separation of religion from the state in particular and politics in general. At the same time, his sensitive and sharp analytical gaze also pierced through the brutal Indian reality of caste oppression. He did not stop at condemning untouchability, he also exposed the double standards of the so-called reformers and uplifters and most importantly, he issued this clarion call to the socially oppressed: “You are the true proletariat ... Get organised. Arise and revolt against the existing system. ... Reforms in small doses will not give you anything. Bring about a revolution with your social movement and gird your loins for radical political and economic transformation. You are the main base of this country, the real force. Sleeping lions, rise up and rebel!”

Beyond Gandhi and Nehru and defying the Advanis and Manmohans, and the Bushes and Blairs, the future of India is still waiting to be discovered. In this mission of transforming the present and discovering the future, Bhagat Singh remains and will remain most relevant both as a guide and as an inexhaustible source of energy and inspiration. In the centenary year, let us make concerted efforts to carry Bhagat Singh's ideas and message to every nook and corner of our vast country. Inquilab zindabad! Down with imperialism!!