New Delhi: March 23 marks 88th martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru, the three revolutionary heroes in India’s freedom struggle who were hanged by the British Raj for their alleged involvement in the killing of John Saunders. The trio confused Saunders with JA Scott, a police officer who was believed to have thrashed Lala Lajpat Rai during a lathi charge in October 1928. Considered as one of India’s most influential revolutionaries, he is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the word "Shaheed" meaning "martyr" in a number of Indian languages. India observes Shaheed Diwas on the day of their execution as a show of respect of its hero.
History claims that Bhagat Singh was construed and feared as a “gun-toting nationalist” by the colonisers. Infact, Singh had wanted to meet a soldier's death and requested the British authorities that he and his associates, Sukhdev and Rajguru, either be blown by a cannon or be shot dead instead of being hanged like criminals, which was not considered and his request rejected. Singh had even written to the Punjab Governor just before his execution that he and his associates had fought like soldiers to free their motherland from the British Colonial rule, they should be granted the honour of dying like soldiers.
However, the Punjab governor paid no heed to the request. Britishers not only hanged him before dawn, ahead of the scheduled time on March 23, but had also kept his body on the noose for about an hour. ''They were scared that the indomitable spirit of the martyr will spring back to life,'' Yadvendra Singh son of Bhagat Singh's nephew late Babbar Singh was quoted by UNI. The Superintendent and surgeon of Lahore jail—where the martyrs were executed in a hurried and hush-hush manner, quote similar facts in several literatures.
Prof K C Yadav and Yadvendra Singh involved with compiling a ten-volume series on the martyr told UNI that at least 22 people had on different occasions, described the last days spent by Bhagat Singh in Lahore Jail. Evidence reveal that Bhagat had stressed at that time that he wanted to embrace death so that the “sleeping conscience of his countrymen” be stirred, said Yadvendra Singh.
The man who sacrificed his life for India's freedom at the age of 23, not only struggled for the independence of the nation, but also had myriad vision for an egalitarian India. His thoughts on equal opportunity and social justice ring true even today. He had said, "There can be no equality, not even in politics and before the law, so long as there is glaring inequality in economic power."
Bhagat Singh also supported gender equality way ahead of his times. In his diary, he called marriage without equality a form of bonded labour even a legal form of prostitution. But then in the eyes of the Britishers he was a hot-headed 23 year old Marxist-Anarchist. Yadvinder Singh said, "On democracy, he wanted the 'right to recall' back then."
Himself sentenced to death, Bhagat Singh still supported capital punishment as a necessary evil. The young revolutionary had a vision for the free India that he so badly wanted but did not live to see. But in his own words Bhagat Singh says that his legacy will live on.