August 15, 1998
Akhilesh Mithal

Bravo! Bhagat Singh


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Amar Chitra Katha
-- Bhagat Singh

Picture from Kalranga Archives
Bhagat Singh



After his dramatic surrender in the Central Legislative Assembly, Bhagat Singh announced that the bombs let off and the bullets fired were not for killing or injuring. They were to create loud enough noise for “the deaf to hear.”

The idea was to penetrate the stuffed ears of the British. Bhagat Singh and Bakuteshwar Dutt were arrested at Dillee. Rajguru and Sukhdev were arrested in Lahore. The two were making bombs when a faint streak of sulphur flowing down the drain was noticed by the ever vigilant British spies.

Muhammad Saeed, in his Lahore, A Memoir published by Vanguard of Pakistan, writes: “When brought to the dock they (Bhagat Singh, Bakuteshwar Dutt, Rajguru and Sukhdev) flouted all court etiquette; sometimes they boycotted proceedings; at others, advanced impossible terms; and yet, on other occasions, resorted to hunger strikes and were brought to court on stretchers.”

“...they were sentenced to death. It was reported in the papers that when the news was carried to the unruffled revolutionaries in jail, they were playing cards. Bhagat Singh’s only reaction was to tell the jailer: ‘Now you will see, Sir, how the lovers of freedom lay down their lives.’

On the appointed day, the British authorities considered the normal practice of hanging the condemned men in the early hours of morning as being too risky. The revolutionaries were led to the gallows in the evening and hanged at three minutes past seven thirty.

”The three revolutionaries died gallantly and with a poise begotten of unswerving commitment. Bhagat Singh left not only a brave memory in the minds of the nation but also a message written on the wall of barrack No.14.

This message has been quoted by a police officer A B Awan in a book called Across The River and Over The Hills. The text of Bhagat Singh’s message reads:

“I make no secret of the fact that it is but natural for me to desire to remain alive. But I can live only under certain conditions. I refuse to live in prison or on parole. My name has become the focal point of the party of revolution and its sacrifices have placed me on an elevated pedestal. This pedestal is so high that if I survive by being spared, I will not be able to live up to that standard. My weaknesses are not generally known and the public is unaware of them. If I manage to cheat the gallows, they will be exposed for all to see. It may be that the revolutionary fire in me will cool down. It may be even extinguished.

"But if I am hanged like a brave man, with a smile on my face, Indian mothers will encourage their children to emulate my example. Our hangings will substantially add to the numbers of martyrs in the cause of the freedom of the motherland, so much that it will be impossible any longer for the satanic powers of Imperialism to resist the Revolution.Of course there is one thing which even today leaves me uneasy. I have not been able to accomplish a thousandth part of what I aspired for the country and for humanity. Could I but live, I could fulfil some of these tasks and be happy. It is only out of this desire to be able to serve that I wanted to escape the gallows. Otherwise I consider myself the most fortunate man. Really I am very proud of myself now. I have got the better of all my desires. Now I am feverishly waiting for the last rest. I desire that it may be expedited.”

The last request made by Bhagat Singh and his companions was that they be spared the regulatory handcuffing and fetters. The brave sons of India also wished not to wear the death cap, mandatory for those condemned to death by hanging.

Bhagat Singh walked in the centre with Rajguru on his right and Sukhdev on his left. It is reported that Bhagat Singh recited two Urdu verses before his death. One was:

Dil sey mur kar bhee neh nikleygee watan kee ulfut
Myree muttee sey khushbouey watan aayeygee.

(Even after I am cold in death, the love I bear for my motherland will remain in my heart. My very dust will waft the fragrance of my land.)

The other verse recited at the end by Bhagat Singh linked him to the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar,’ who perished in exile in Rangoon on November 7, 1862, after seeing 21 descendants executed for their role in the First War of Independence in 1857 and his city and palace devastated, destroyed and desecrated by the British. This verse read:

Naa kisee kee aankh kaa nour houn, naa kisee kay dil kaa qaraar houn
Joa kisee kay kaam naa aa sukay mein woah eyk mushtey ghubaar houn

(I am not the light of anyone’s eye nor the joy of even a single heart. I am but a fistful of useless dust which served no purpose whatsoever.)

A story about Bhagat Singh comes from an Ahrar worker who was jailed at the same time. This Ahrar volunteer was called Mirza Ghulam Nabi Janbaz and he was incarcerated in the Borstal wing of the Lahore jail complex.

His book, Karvan-i-Ahrar, narrates the Mirza’s encounter with the martyr. “In those days some prisoners accused of conspiracy against the British sarkar were lodged with us in the Borstal jail. Two others, Bhagat Singh and Bakuteshwar Dutt were in Central Jail. ”

“Every evening they were brought to our wing to play volleyball. They had a special ground prepared for them. Nobody else, political detenu or non-political prisoner was allowed to interact with them or even enter the enclosure.

The moment Bhagat Singh and his colleagues arrived under heavy police escort the other prisoners were locked in their cells.” “The normal lock-in time during summer was 7 pm. As Bhagat Singh came at 5 pm, our lock-in period increased by two hours a day. One day, I was singing Ashfaqulla Bismil’s poem:

Let the world remember the dying words of those whose life was dedicated to love (of freedom) Though the body can be bound and fettered, the spirit soars free.

My cell was behind the playground and the song must have been heard. After the game was over, they asked the jail superintendent, Colonel Chopra, to allow them to see me. A numberdar (trusty — long serving prisoner entrusted with prison duty) was sent to summon me to the jail Superintendent’s office.

As I arrived I saw young men in an European dress talking to Colonel Chopra. He turned to me and asked, “Don’t you know that singing is expressly forbidden in jail?”

“Yes sir,” I replied, “It is!”“Then what punishment do you propose for your misconduct?” “Whatever your Honour feels appropriate,” I replied. “Well,” he said, “Let us hear whatever it is you were singing.”

I immediately carried out the order. By the time I had finished the poem I noticed that tears had welled up in many an eye. I did not know who the gentlemen were!

Next day I was told that I was to again recite the poem to Bhagat Singh and his friends. From that day I was called to the Superintendent’s office as soon as the game was over. I was free to meet the batch of young revolutionaries whenever I wanted to.

They had developed a strong liking for me. Bhagat Singh was a noble and brave man. He had a very fine taste for good poetry and remembered a large number of verses from Urdu classics. His favourite verse those days, which he often hummed, was from Iqbal,

Dear friends, I am only a guest. My stay is brief. I am a candle that has burnt itself from the night upto the morning. I shall soon be blown out.

Bhagat Singh was now a hero and village bards sang songs celebrating his martydom. Going from Pasrur to Lahore via the newly constructed Narowal section, I heard a bard in tattered clothes sing on a Eiyktaara (one string lute):'

Rejoice O’ sister rejoice
For I shall soon swing on the gallows rope.

Here’s hoping that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will one day give due honour to the Bhagat Singhs of freedom struggle whose sacrifice has made it possible for all the countries in the sub-continent to throw off the yoke of British imperialism to become independent.

See Also

The Revolutionaries


Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-1999. All rights reserved.
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