Recently, there has been news that Modi will release a coffee table version of Bhagat Singh’s jail notebooks. Bhagat Singh’s family members have vehemently opposed this move, and Bhagat Singh scholar Prof.Chaman Lal has placed all the facts to expose the lie that the Jail Notebooks are being published for the first time (‘A short publication history of Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook’, EPW Web Exclusives, Vol - XLVIII No. 42, October 19, 2013.)
What is laughable about Modi releasing Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook is that the Notebook itself is testimony to Bhagat Singh’s Marxist ideology and temperament, including detailed quotes from Marx on religion, Lenin, Trotsky and other communist revolutionaries who are anathema for Modi and his RSS.
It is well known that Bhagat Singh, during his trial, had sent a telegram to the Russian Bolshevik Party on Lenin’s death anniversary: “ON LENIN DAY WE SEND HEARTY GREETINGS TO ALL who are doing something for carrying forward the ideas of the great Lenin. We wish success to the great experiment Russia is carrying out. We join our voice to that of the international working class movement. The proletariat will win. Capitalism will be defeated. Death to Imperialism.”
In his article ‘Why I Am an Atheist’, Bhagat Singh writes: “Up to that period (1925) I was a romantic revolutionary. Up till then we were to follow. Now came the time to shoulder the whole responsibility. Due to the inevitable reaction for some time the very existence of the party [Hindustan Republican Association] seemed impossible. Enthusiastic comrades – nay, leaders – began to jeer at us. For some time I was afraid that someday I also might be convinced of the futility of our programme. That was a turning point in my revolutionary career; “Study” was the cry that reverberated in the corridors of my mind. Study to enable yourself to face the arguments advanced by opposition. Study to arm yourself with arguments in favour of your cult. I began to study. My previous faith and convictions underwent a remarkable modification. The romance of violent methods alone, which was so prominent amongst our predecessors, was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith. Realism became our cult. Use of force justifiable when restored to as a matter of terrible necessity: non-violence as policy indispensable for all mass movements. ... As there were no important activities in the field of action, I got ample opportunity to study various ideals of world revolution. I studied Bakunin, the anarchist leader, something of Marx, the father of communism and much of Lenin, Trotsky and others – the men who had successfully carried out a revolution in their country.”
His last major writing, the “Draft Revolutionary Programme”, which conveys the collective understanding of comrades incarcerated in Lahore Central Jail, states clearly, “We want a socialist revolution, the indispensable preliminary to which is the political revolution. That is what we want,” while putting the ‘abolition of feudalism’ as the first point on the General Programme. The General Programme clearly owes a debt to his study of Lenin: “The present situation demands of us a clear and responsible programme of revolution. Just before the revolution of October 1917, Lenin mentioned three necessary conditions of a successful revolution: Political and economic situation; the spirit of rebellion among the masses; a revolutionary party, fully trained to lead the masses at the decisive hour....In India the first condition has already been fulfilled while the other two are waiting for complete realisation. To work for their fulfilment is the first task of every fighter for freedom and the programme should be worked out with this end in view.”
In the context of Modi’s attempts at appropriation, it’s worth reading what Jagmohan Singh, Bhagat Singh’s nephew and former Professor at Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, had said in a 2007 interview (Frontline Volume 24 - Issue 21 :: Oct. 20-Nov. 02, 2007). The interviewer, S. Irfan Habib, had asked, “All political parties today seem to appropriate Bhagat Singh to push their political prospects. What do you have to say about this phenomenon?”
To which he replied, “It is our duty to liberate Bhagat Singh from current misinterpretations. Mere emotional reference to Bhagat Singh’s sacrifice by most of the political parties helps them to misuse his legacy for selfish political ends. Bhagat Singh cannot be frozen merely in a cheap emotional and nationalistic frame. How could a communalist propagating hatred against one another feel comfortable with his thoughts. Rather he should feel ashamed of himself in Bhagat Singh’s company.”
Further, he was asked, “How does Bhagat Singh inspire us in the era of globalisation and neoliberal politics?”, to which he replied, “Bhagat Singh’s views are very relevant today in the context of globalisation. He stood for the end of exploitation of man by man and nation by nation. His slogan of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was always followed by ‘Down with Imperialism’. For him revolution was the complete reorganisation of society so that everyone gets an opportunity to grow and contribute to the national progress. We got rid of colonial imperialism but today, under globalisation, we have the imperialism of corporations, most of the time led by the U.S. Bhagat Singh provides the most clear ideas to fight against this 21st century monster.”