In the days to come we will be remembering the ideals and aims of Bhagat Singh and his close colleagues and fellow-maryrs a lot. Many people and leaders will be gathering to pay their homage to him and fellow-martyrs Rajguru, Sukhdev, Chandra Shekhar Azad , Jatindranath Das, Bhagwati Charan Vohra and others whose courage and commitment can never be forgotten. However even as people and leaders gather on or around the martyrdom day of 23 March to pay their homage to these great freedom fighters, questions will remain regarding the extent to which the most important ideals and commitments of Bhagat Singh are still being honored. Given the reality of our situation most questions are likely to arise regarding the extent to which the present leadership or the ruling regime or some of its most important persons have moved away from these important ideals of equality and justice, inter-faith harmony or communal harmony, respecting and advancing the rights of workers and farmers, encouraging youth to work among workers and farmers, resisting imperialism at all levels .
Paying homage and respect is good, but isn’t it much more important to try our best to advance the aims and ideals for which these great freedom fighters struggled? Should not our leaders who gather to pay homage at least strive to avoid glaring violation of these ideals in their policies and actions?
Bhagat Singh and his colleagues were very clear that while ending the colonial regime may be the most important objective for the time being , the ultimate aim is to create a society based on justice and equality and this struggle will continue even after the British colonial rule ends. What is the reality now? Inequality has been rising at unprecedented pace in recent years and more wealth is now concentrated in the hands of a few billionaires than even before. While Bhagat Singh and his colleagues were committed to a socialist path of economic equality and honoring the rights of workers and farmers, our country is now moving further away from a socialist path than ever before and all aspects of a socialist society are facing relentless attack in the form of aggressive policies of disinvestment, privatization, paving the path for big corporate interests to dominate the economy (including those areas in which the public sector earlier held a significant place). Laws relating to farmers and workers are being changed in such a way as to harm their interests. While Bhagat Singh and his colleagues called upon youth to live and work for the rights of farmers and workers, those who do so now are increasingly more likely to be victimized , as also those who try to protect natural wealth and environment of the country from the onslaught of the richest and most powerful corporate interests ( as is evident from several recent examples of imprisonment of activists ).
Bhagat Singh and his colleagues were opposed most firmly to colonial rule in India but in addition they had a clear understanding of the wider role and reach of imperialism and the continuing need to resist these. But what is seen more and more in recent times is increasing collaboration with interests of imperialism. Bhagat Singh spoke in great admiration for fraternity at world level, so greater solidarity at world level among all those committed to justice is certainly needed and there has to be an overarching and very broad concern for the welfare of people and all forms of life all over the world, but an enduring message of Bhagat Singh which remains very relevant today is to be careful in identifying imperialist interests and to continue to oppose them, instead of collaborating with them. In practical terms this involves building a unity of developing and poorer countries, instead of trying to find a compromising role as a follower role of big powers and blocks. The lowest point for India came when big gatherings were organized to support and welcome Trump and Trumpism. This is a far distance away from the days when India had emerged as a leader of the non-aligned movement.
Bhagat Singh was very firmly committed to ideals of inter-faith harmony, or communal harmony. India has a rich tradition in this and the most famous spiritual teachers of India, who attracted the greatest following, are those who gave a clear message for this, teachers or gurus or saints like Sant Kabir and Guru Nanak. But the ruling regime and its millions of supporters have today moved further away from this ideal than at any other time in the post-independence history of India.
It is a tribute to the enduring greatness of Shahid Bhagat Singh and his close colleagues in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association that their essential messages remain so relevant today; essential messages based on unity based on inter-faith harmony, giving respect and adequate opportunities to dalits and those sections of society who suffered historical injustice ( and despite this contributed bravely to nation in many ways in difficult times), giving the greatest importance to promoting equality and justice as well as rights of farmers and workers and hence creating a socialist society an economy based on this, resisting imperialism and striving to create a world based on peace, fraternity and justice. These essential messages of Bhagat Singh still remain entirely relevant for us but the main problem is that the leadership and the ruling regime are far removed from most of these ideals. Hence for those who sincerely believe in these ideals, it is still a time of great struggles to realize these ideals.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. Prof. Jagmohan Singh is Chairman, Shahid Bhagat Singh Centrenary Foundation and Chairman, All India Forum for Right to Education. He is also nephew of Bhagat Singh and has devoted his life to spreading ideals and aims of the great freedom fighter.