Bhagat Singh Sandhu, was born in the year 1907 in Banga, West Punjab, present day Pakistan. Fittingly, Bhagat Singh was born at the same time that his Father and Uncle’s were released from jail. He was born into a family that had been acting both in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army, as well as Indian Independence movements, both organizations opposed British rule. The moment that may have arguably had the greatest influence on Bhagat Singh may have been in 1919, when he visited Jallianwala Bagh, mere hours after thousands of unarmed Sikhs were massacred by British soldiers. When he was 14 years old, he was among those in his village who began to protest in large numbers following yet another killing of unarmed Sikhs attending religious worship at Gurudawara Nankana Sahib on 20 February 1921. Eventually, Bhagat Singh would go on to join the Young Revolutionary Movement, advocating for the violent overthrow of the British rule in India. Eventually, he was arrested for fear of his wide influence over the youth. If anything proves one is a revolutionary to be reckoned with, it is that defining moment of being arrested. Some of Bhagat Singh’s favourite ideologies included anarchism and communism, something that many young people can relate to, even today. Singh regarded Leon Trotsky and Karl Marx to be among the most influential figures in political thought. Though he was an Atheist himself, Bhagat Singh is one of the greatest examples of proof that Sikhism is a religion, but its adherents and those born into it are a people. Sikhs have often been oppressed throughout history, and the main principles of Sikhism include meditation, seeking knowledge, and standing up for what is right. Bhagat Singh fought for his brothers and sisters, Sikh, Muslim and Hindu alike against the rule of the British in both East and West Punjab.
In December of 1928 in Lahore, Pakistan, what was probably the most defining moment in Bhagat Singh’s life took place. Singh, and an associate shot British Police Officer John Saunders, fatally wounding him. Singh had mistaken Saunders for British Police Superintendent James Scott, whom he believed to be responsible for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, an Indian nationalist leader. Following the shooting, Singh and several of his associates fled the authorities and used several pseudonyms to evade them. After many months on the run, Singh resurfaced in April 1929 with another one of his associates Batukeshwar Dutt. The two revolutionaries exploded two improvised bombs inside the Central Legislative Assembly building. While setting off the bomb, the two simultaneously rained leaflets from the balcony of the gallery on to the legislators below, shouted in protest and then willingly allowed the authorities to arrest them. This arrest unveiled Bhagat Singh as one of John Saunder’s murderers. Bhagat Singh gained the sympathy of the public after he, alongside fellow defendant Jatin Das went on a hunger strikes in demand for better prison conditions for all prisoners.
Bhagat Singh was convicted and subsequently hanged in March of 1931, at the young age of 23.
During his time in prison, Bhagat Singh continued to be an avid reader, with some of the last books he ever read being those written by Vladimir Lenin.
As I was writing this piece, it came to me that Bhagat Singh was the same age as I am today, when he was hanged. It really puts my life in perspective for me and forces me to think about what I have achieved on the front of seeking freedom for all. We as young people are capable of much more than we know, let Bhagat Singh be an inspiration to us all when it comes to free thought, speech and action!
Inquilab Zindabad! (Long Live Freedom!)