Melbourne, March 23: The 85th death anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary icon of India’s freedom struggle, who attained martyrdom at the young age of 23, falls on March 23, 2016.

Alongwith Sukhdev and Rajguru, Bhagat Singh was hanged to death less than a week before the commencement of the Karachi session of the Indian National Congress, on March 29, 1931.

This culmination on March 23 began in the year 1928; marked by an anti-Simon Commission upsurge in India when Lala Lajpat Rai was severely beaten under orders of British police officer, ASP, J.P. Scott and Lajpat Rai later succumbed to his head injuries.

The whole nation was stunned and angry and young nationalist Bhagat Singh would not take this “national humiliation” lying down.

On 17 December, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Chandra Shekhar Azad undertook a plan to attack ASP Scott instead killing another police officer Saunders. On 8 April 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeswar Datta threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly Hall in Delhi after which, the duo was arrested. Bhagat Singh with Rajguru and Sukhdev were sentenced to death for the murder of Saunders in what became famous as the Lahore conspiracy case.

Shortly before his hanging, Bhagat Singh wrote that “They (the youth) should aim at a Swaraj for the masses based on socialism. That was a revolutionary change which they could not bring about without revolutionary methods…”

In 1920s Bhagat Singh extolled Netaji Bose’s ‘path’ as a “redeeming feature of the freedom struggle”.

Bhagat Singh, Rajguru & Sukhdev were hanged to death on March 23, 1931.

As the news of Bhagat Singh’s execution spread, India went into mourning. Processions of people overflowed the streets many going without food for days. Protestors wore black badges and shut down businesses to express grief.

That was India then in 1931;

Fast forward the clock to India in 2016;

  • Under the UPA (Congress-led) government, Bhagat Singh was described as a terrorist in an open learning book.
  • Today a former union minister of India, and Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor deems fit to draw a parallel between the martyr Bhagat Singh and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader, the controversial Kanhaiya Kumar.
  • CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury slams a move by Human Resource Development Minister of India, Smriti Irani to instal 207 feet tall national flags at central universities to signify a strong India, as ‘divisive’.
  • A memorial meet is organised at JNU for Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru where student Leader Kanhaiya Kumar is seen standing with Umar Khalid and raising the slogans against India.
  • It is seemingly just and pro-national “as deemed by pseudo-seculars” for JNU students to demand “azadi” or freedom for Kashmir, Punjab and Kerala.

JNU came under attack after the “memorial meet” was held on the university campus on February 9 against the execution of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar was then arrested in a sedition case on February 12 for allegedly raising anti-India slogans at the event.

Sidestepping party leader Shashi Tharoor’s remark, the Congress had to confirm ‘there was only one Shaheed Bhagat Singh and he was irreplaceable’. “I don’t know what Tharoor said but no one can replace Bhagat Singh, especially the boys of this generation. Only one Bhagat Singh can be born in this country, and he is irreplaceable,” leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ruling party in India, sought an apology from the Congress after former union minister Shashi Tharoor compared JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar with freedom fighter Bhagat Singh

“The remarks are an insult to martyrs. How can anyone make comparisons between them as Bhagat Singh had fought against British rule while Kanhaiya Kumar is an accused in a sedition case for raising anti-national slogans?” union minister Prakash Javadekar said at a press conference.

Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain asked, “If Kanhaiya is Bhagat Singh, what are Sonia and Rahul Gandhi?” adding “the way the Congress is making anti-national slogans, even Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru will be upset”.

BJP MP and Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal tweeted: “At the cost of repeating myself, I must say @shashiTharoor IQ is lower than his shoe size!”

Tharoor asserted that the situations were completely different for both the martyr and Kanhaiya Kumar, and the only parallel between the two was that they were young men in their 20s with Marxist ideals and passionate commitment to their country.

Tharoor made the comments regarding Bhagat Singh and Kanhaiya Kumar while giving a lecture on ‘JNU and Nationalism’ outside the JNU administrative hall.

The JNU controversy has stirred the nation’s conscience. And why not?

Yet India’s legal luminaries, the social glitterati and the pseudo-seculars see Kanhaiya’s sloganeering not amounting to sedition.

We fail to see that nationalism is not a legal point. It is the spirit of a nation called India.

Ramakrishna VenuGopal

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