Understanding Bhagat Singh

Suchibrata Sen

In the history of Indian national movement there are many shades, many of which has not received due attention of the historians. The great revolutionary Bhagat Singh is one of them. While the main stream historians paid little or no attention to him (For instance Sekhar Bandopadhay's From Plassey in the history of India to Partition, Orient Longman, 2004), Marxist historians too failed to critically evaluate the hero whom India needed at a very uneasy time. Bhagat Singh is no doubt a revolutionary with a difference. His transformation from the ideas of Hindustan Republican Army of which Kakori Cospiracy Case is an important event, to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association is a pointer in this respect.

The *book, under review, is an invaluable addition to the understanding of this great hero. Perhaps no such comprehensive work has previously been undertaken. Though a collection of articles, it maintained a coherence throughout. The author, Chaman Lal, himself has admitted in the beginning of his preface that the book, "is a collection of my articles written during the last many years". He has also claimed objectivity, very correctly, in his approach to Bhagat Siingh.

Divided in 12 chapters with Annextures, Bibliography, Photo Gallery and Index, the book covers 258 pages. Chaman Lal's study represents a tour deforce. It is a mine of information. He has examined almost all the available sources. To debate over Bhagat Singh's atheism and his belief in Marxism has been resolved in the positive with evidence non can queation. While discussing Bhagat Singh the author does not forget to mention the similar type of movements in other places of India. He has highlighted Chitttagong rebellion of 1932 and claimed "Do or Die" slogan had been given by Surya Sen before Gandhi (p.19). His most revealing chapter( 2) is a book review on Gandhi and Bhagat Singh where it has been clearly been proved that whatever attempts had been made by Gandhi to stop the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukdhev and Rajguru, were nothing but mere hypocrisy. It will forever remain a blot in the Congress Movement.

Another important Chapter deserves mention(17), where Chaman Lal rising above the hard facts of history, has observed some emotional and personal factors. The poor mothers of Sukdev and Rajguru were denied the meeting with their sons even before they were going to gallows. Even in independent India the legacy continued when the information about the hanging of Afzal Guru was not made known to his nearest relatives.
Chaman Lal is not an historian who wrote an erudite history on Bhagat Singh, but has deep love and highest regard for him. Objectivity, in writing history, is no doubt a quality, but history cannot be written unless the historian knows the mind of the men about whom he is writing. E H Carr's observation has been a vivid reflection in this book. The volume is readable, and hence is useful for both the scholars and the commoners as well. The reader can form his own opinion also from the annextures which include letters, newspapers clippings, court proceedings etc. The author has consulted all the available sources, one more, however, be added and that is Manik Mukhapadhay's Bhagat Singh's Rachana Sangraha, 1991, Kolkata. The book should be a compulsory reading for all, whether scholars or laymen, interested in acquiring an insight into the great revolutionary that Bhagat Sigh was.

*Understanding Bhagat Singh -by Chaman Lal, Akaar, Delhi, 2013, Price Rs 550.00

Vol. 46, No. 42, Apr 27 - May 3, 2014