It looks as if the powers that be in India have achieved what the colonial rulers failed to do. The British rulers tried to kill the spirit of Bhagat Singh and his comrades and failed. They only killed them. We have killed the memory of this heroic bunch of men.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. It has passed almost unnoticed. No official functions to mark the occasion. No commemorative postage stamp, no portrait or statue to honour them and remember with gratitude the ‘supreme sacrifice’ of a band of young men committed to the cause of freedom.
Another occasion is close at hand and plans don’t seem to be afoot to celebrate that either. Next year is the 150th anniversary of the First War of Indian Independence. We were taught about it in the terms in which the British colonial historians referred to it – the Sepoy Mutiny. (sipaayi dange in Kannada, the language in which I had my school education). The name itself tried to trivialise the great uprising that resulted from a spontaneous upsurge of nationalist and anti colonial feelings. Since it had its origins in the colonial army, it was easy for them to refer to it as a mutiny, a mere a matter of discipline and quell it.
Wonder why this neglect of these historic occasions and their anniversaries? Is the revolutionary spirit passé? Is the idea of people thinking and who might be inspired by these events and stand up to authority too subversive for the people who hold power and who they hold it for?
This neglect and relegation of these heroes and the heroic events sound all the more intriguing since not too long ago the self styled nationalist forces tried to usurp the legacy of Bhagat Singh and hijack his memory by highlighting his nationalism and down playing his revolutionary and humanist ideology. They tried to portray him as a hot-blooded nationalist, long on action and short on ideology, and use his memory for their own designs. But then, there were people who revered the memory of this heroic young man and samples of his writings surfaced which made his sympathy for the working classes and the fact that his ideology was based solidly on these sympathies became crystal clear. Thus the kidnap attempt failed!
I have to give credit where it is due. These thoughts were triggered when I heard of a recent talk given on this subject and a gist of it.