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Book Review
Walking with Bhagat Singh Soon After Independence
by Amar Kant Jttu
Published by Aakar Books, Delhi, 2019,
Pages 320, Price Rs. 595

Walking with Bhagat Singh Soon After Independence

Sunish Kumar Deb

‘... On January 21, 1930 they [Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru] appeared in court wearing red scarves and raised slogans such as: ‘Long Live Socialist Revolution’, ‘Long Live the Communist International’, ‘Long Live the People’, ‘Lenin’s name will never die’, and ‘Down with Imperialism’ ...’ ‘... they also handed over the text of a telegram to be sent to Russia, USSR: ‘On Lenin Day [Lenin’s death anniversary] 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 ...’.

This spirit alone makes Bhagat Singh stand apart and the slogans, the tele-text are testament enough that Bhagat aimed at achieving a greater goal than assassinating the Goras (British officials posted in India) and forcing them to flee. It is this commitment to the doctrine of Marxism and communism that tempered the steel in young Bhagat’s faith and has attracted the principal focus of Sri Amar Kant Jttu’s Walking with Bhagat Singh Soon After Independence.

In addition, the nonagenarian author has put in immense research to make a comparative study of Bhagat’s height as well as promise as a young leader vis-à-vis those of Mahatma Gandhi and/or Jawaharlal Nehru during the late twenties and early thirties.

The author has dealt with the focussed topic as widely as he could, and has successfully etched the figure of a twenty-plus stalwart who grew illustrious so much so to have emulated, even often eclipsed, the Gandhian or Nehruvian hallow, and thus, challenged his political and philosophical adversaries in the freedom struggle. Mr Jttu accused Gandhi and Nehru point blank for conspiring against the death of such a glorious freedom fighter and a visionary leader who if alive would have led India to his highly hailed path of ‘scientific socialism’: ‘In his pamphlet An Address to the Young Political Workers,written on February 2, 1931, just a few weeks before his execution, he asked ‘the professional revolutionaries’ to inculcate class polities and educate the masses on socialist theory. One can just wonder what a giant intellectual he would have been, if he had survived. That is what makes him unique.’ (Jttu 2019, 27) This was truly rare those days for a revolutionary in his twenties having so much depth and vision to lead the nation not only towards independence but also to socialism.

The book, apart from journeying through the milestones of Bhagat’s life and actions, includes some interesting episodes, viz. chapter 1 – Tracking Down Bhagat Singh and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru (Nehru’s sympathy for revolutionaries vis-à-vis critical views on terrorism, his meeting with Chandra Shekhar Azad, and an estimation on Nehru’s vacillations between the two extremes – revolutionary action and non-violence),  chapter 16 – Auguste Vaillant’s Court Room Speech on December 9, 1893, France (pointing to the incidental resemblance with Bhagat’s speeches in the court room as delineated in chapter 17), chapter 24: Judas and Quislings Generously Awarded (includes the latest research by an IAS officer, R K Kaushik, Punjab Cadre, who investigates into material gains that were awarded to the approvers in the Lahore Conspiracy Case: Hans Raj Vohra, Jai Gopal, Phanindra Nath Ghosh, and Manmohan Banerji), chapters 25 and 26 – critically reassessing the role Mahatma played to ensure the removal of the hurdle (posed by the mounting charisma of Bhagat Singh) in his much eulogized path of non-violence.

Also, a very pertinent reference is made to My Meetings with Bhagat Singh by Sohan Singh Josh – (Jttu 2019, 86- 89) – The conversations between Bhagat and Josh have been excerpted from the book. The author concludes: ‘This conversation showed Bhagat Singh and his Party had serious political differences with Comrade Josh and his Party, albeit, the Communist Party’. He also adds: ‘He [Bhagat] and his revolutionary comrades did not think of joining the Communist Party …’. [Emphasis added].   The conclusion prompts a bit of introspection here. The debates and differences make organizations dynamic. The organizations should have enough patience to be able to accommodate them keeping the views alive as well as the opposing voices united for a greater goal. But in India, the history of the radical Left is studded with jerks and jolts of parting with comrades in arms every now and then like washing away of the clods from the continent. The year 2019 strongly demands to the Left to look back with logical and impartial analysis from the premise of the toiling people.

One may feel more inquisitive about the last book that Bhagat was reading hours before his execution. Mr Neeraj K. Gupta in his prefatory remarks refers to Lenin’s The State and Revolution (Jttu 2019, 27). There is no confirmatory source mentioned. But there are other claimants too, e.g. Gurpreet Singh’s article, ‘The Book on Lenin that Bhagat Singh was reading before he was hanged’, Sabrang, March 23, 2018 <https://sabrangindia.in/article/book-lenin-bhagat-singh-was-reading-he-was-hanged>, that refers to Mr Jagmohan Singh (Bhagat Singh’s nephew)’s research that points to Clara Zetkin’s Reminiscences of Lenin, London: Modern Books, 1929. 

To sum up, Jttu’s book is a valuable publication especially in terms of the detailed comparative research between the paths dreamt by Bhagat and those practised by Mahatma-Pandit collaboration. Yet, the approach of the author often tends to appear unidirectional. In reality, there may be multiple ways to freedom in a land of pluralistic cultural bond that stands even today largely unexplored. 

Finally, it would be helpful if addenda in the 2nd edition include a detailed index of persons, places, and books as well as references to books cited herein.

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Frontier
Oct 23, 2019


Sunish Kumar Deb [email protected]

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