Bhagat Singh was not only a great patriot and revolutionary socialist, but also one of India’s early Marxist thinkers and ideologues. A voracious reader right from his boyhood, he brought upon his thinking and writings the tremendous influence of his varied reading. His several statements before courts, his passionate letters to his father and other comrades, his insights on revolution and communalism and his atheistic faith, all reveal a mind that is at once original and mature in understanding. The National Book Trust, India is proud to present this selection of Bhagat Singh’s speeches, writings and letters for a wider dissemination, on the special occasion of his 100 birth anniversary as also to mark the 75 year of his martyrdom.
This collection of Bhagat Singh’s writings is divided into three parts: Part A: Speeches and Writings; Part B: Letters; and Part C: Appendices. The appendices contain those writings which have a direct bearing on the ideas and philosophy of Bhagat Singh but have not been authored by him, except for “Manifesto of the HRA” and “Constitution of the HRA”; they were, however, read and approved by him, as representing his party’s views. These writings have not been arranged in a strictly chronological order. However, an attempt has been made to arrange them thematically as far as possible.M<
D N Gupta teaches history at the Hindu College. His book, Communism and Nationalism in india (1939-1945): A Study of the Communist Party of India Relations with India’s Liberation Movement, will soon be published.
Bhagat Singh was a great patriot and revolutionary. But he was also a giant of an intellectual. He fully grasped the role of ideas and ideologies, especially those aimed at changing the society. For example, he said in a memorable statement before the High Court, “The sword of revolution is sharpened at the whetstone of thought”. From his boyhood he immersed himself in books. He made Dwarka Das Library, founded by Lala Lajpat Rai, virtually his home. His comrades have pointed out how his kurta pockets were always filled with books. This passion for reading he carried into the jails, where he spent nearly last two years of his young life—he died before he was 24. This is borne out by his jail diary where he has recorded notes from the large number of books he read in jail.
The statement he made at his trials, the letters he wrote to he press, friends and relatives are witnesses of the quality of his mind and the wide understanding of society and social and political movements.
He eventually became a Marxist. But he did not adopt a readymade ideology. He grappled with issues, both personal and social and political, and came to Marxism the hard way. I believe r.at he was, consequently, capable of finding the Indian road to socialism, following in the footsteps of Lenin, Marx and Gramsci. This is borne out by the vast distances he travelled by time he was 23. Starting out when very young as a believer r anarchic violence, he soon shed this belief and gradually, but rapidly, moved to socialism and Marxism. He was, therefore, as the following pages reveal, a revolutionary and a Marxist in making; he was not so much what he became but what he was capable of being. He had a great promise, perhaps the greatest of all his contemporaries, when his life was cruelly cut short.
Bhagat Singh made several statements before courts which have become historic. In them he, and his co-signatory Batukeshwar Dutt, cogently described what he meant by Revolution to which he and his comrades were committed. Above all, he declared, Revolution meant the overturning of the old order based on exploitation of man by man. Revolution, he declared, was to be made by peasants, workers and youth. He and the revolutionaries gave us the abiding slogan: “Inquilab Zindabad” or “Long Live Revolution”.
From all accounts Bhagat Singh wrote four books in jail. Unfortunately, the four books, smuggled out of jail, have been lost. Luckily, the pamphlet “Why I am An Athiest”, written a few weeks before his martyrdom, was smuggled out to his father, who published it in June 1931 in The People, a weekly established by Laja Lajpat Rai and edited by Lala Feroze Chand. This pamphlet has been included in the present volume.
The National Book Trust, India, is proud to present this selection of Bhagat Singh’s speeches, writings and letters to the people of India on the special occasion of his 100th birth anniversary as also to mark the 75th year of his martyrdom. This selection is being published in all Indian languages.
That Bhagat Singh was a great nationalist who sacrificed his life for the independence of the country is well known. But that he was, and saw himself as, a social revolutionary and a Marxist — and that too at a very young age (he was hanged when he was only 23) — and that he was developing as a major intellectual and thinker is not as widely known.
A number of factors contributed to the shaping of Bhagat Singh’s socio-political thought. First of all, Gandhi’s decision to suddenly suspend the Non-Cooperation Movement on the ground of the violent incident that look place at Chauri Chaura in 1922 disappointed many a youth of India. Most of the future revolutionaries, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, Surya Sen, Jatin Das, Chandra Sehkar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Shiv Verma, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Jaidev Kapur and a host of others had actively participated in the Non-Cooperation Movement. Gandhi’s slogan ‘Swaraj in one year’ had enthused them with the spirit of nationalism. Their high hopes that Gandhi’s first all-India movement had raised, however, got temporarily frustrated. They now started thinking of new ways through which they could achieve independence for India. ‘I he alternatives that the post Gandhian movement offered to them did not appeal. Neither the ‘No-Changers’ constructive programmes nor the ‘Swarajists’ politics to enter the Legislative Councils and to wreck the Constitution from within had much of an attraction for them. At the same time their burning desire to free the country from British imperialist stranglehold and to create a new social order continued to dominate their thought-process. In this search for new methods of struggle, they were drawn to the idea of violent means that the earlier generation of the revolutionaries had adopted. Bhagat Singh was also, in particular, inspired by the revolutionaries of the Ghadar Movement. He was also immensely influenced by the Ghadarites’ attempt to separate religion from politics and their international outlook. He was particularly inspired by the courage, self-sacrificing spirit and patriotism of Kartar Singh Sarabha, who had been sentenced to death at the tender age of 20 years. He adopted Sarabha as his role model and carried his photograph in his pocket.
The Russian Revolution (October 1917), undoubtedly, exercised great ideological influence on Bhagat Singh and his comrades. If the workers and peasants of a relatively backward country of Europe could successfully organize a revolution, then why could not the people of the colonial countries overthrow the imperialist stranglehold and bring about the desired social change. Bhagat Singh got fascinated by the new state. He undertook a serious study of revolutionary movements. Fortunately, literature on Soviet Union and the revolutionary movements in Italy, Ireland and Russia and the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin, were easily available in Lahore at the Dwarakadas Library, founded by Lajpat Rai. Bhagat Singh was the largest user of the Library from an early age. He devoured any writing on revolutions and also persuaded his comrades to do so. This study left Bhagat Singh and his comrades to look upon Socialist Russia as an ideal. That was the reason why the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, the public overground wing of the revolutionaries, celebrated ‘Friends of Russia Week’ in August 1928. During their trial the Lahore conspiracy case prisoners also celebrated the ‘Lenin Day’ in January 1930 in the court and sent their greetings to Moscow. Similarly, on the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, they sent their greetings to the people of the Soviet Union. The Russian Revolution and Marxism had .I major role to play in the transformation of the ideas of the revolutionaries particularly in their thinking on the role of the masses and the forms of struggle. With the passage of time, however, they developed radical socialist ideas and belief in mass it ion, rather than in individual heroic or terrorist acts, became their creed.
Starting in his teens as a believer in individual heroic action, Bhagat Singh had gradually emerged, especially after 1927, as .111 organizer of a mass movement of peasants, workers, radical youth and intellectuals. This he made clear in a statement in ‘1931. “Let me announce with all the strength at my command hat I am not a terrorist and I never was except perhaps in the beginning of my revolutionary career, and Tam convinced that we cannot gain anything through these methods.” But he was quick to add: “I do not mean to say that mere bomb throwing j not only useless but sometimes harmful,” (Emphasis added). Bhagat Singh and his comrades wanted to build a new social order based on Marxist/Socialist principles.
Bhagat Singh’s family background and his upbringing also played an important role in shaping his life and ideas. Bhagat Singh was born in a patriotic family on 27 September 1907 in lie village Khatkar Kalan, tehsil Banga, district Jalandhar, though his further, Sardar Kishan Singh, had shifted to Layallpur (now faisabad in Pakistan) sometimes before his birth. His family stood For patriotism, reform and freedom of the country. At the me of his birth both his father, Kishan Singh, and uncle, Swaran Singh were in jail. Another uncle of his, Ajit Singh, the famous revolutionary nationalist leader, had already been sent into exile outside India because of his nationalist activities among the peasantry. From his early childhood Bhagat Singh not only developed patriotic feelings but also got an opportunity to come I m contact with the revolutionary nationalist leaders who were frequent visitors to his house. When in 1919 the Jallianwala Bagh massacre occurred which left 379 innocent people dead and innumerable others injured, Bhagat Singh was studying at D.A.V. School, Lahore. The hurt and humiliation that India suffered left an ever-lasting impression on young Bhagat Singh. He was only twelve years of age. He went to jallianwala Bagh to collect a handful of the soil, blessed with the blood of the innocents, and kept it as a memento all his life. It was at the call of Gandhiji to leave government and government aided and recognized educational institutions that Bhagat Singh left D.A.V. school and joined the National School started by Lila Lajpat Rai and Bhai Parmanand. It was here that Bhagat Singh developed close contacts with Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Sukhdev and Yashpal. All of them actively participated in the Noncooperation Movement. However, a small incident in 1923 forced him to leave his home. Keeping in view the wish of Bhagat Singh’s grandmother, his father, Kishan Singh, arranged his marriage. Bhagat Singh objected to the arrangement and left his home. He left a letter for his father in which he wrote:
My life has already been committed to a noble cause — the cause of the freedom of India. For that reason comforts and worldly desires have no attraction in my life.
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