Tuesday, March 22

Read the Revolutionary

What our beloved mere-23-at-death symbol of nationalism deserves is a little more attention, love not infatuation. Reading what he read and wrote could be the first meeting, suggests Aarish Chhabra in Hindustan Times
No matter what the difference between what they achieved and didn't, what Che Guevara is to the world, Bhagat Singh is to our country. The ideology is besides the point. What a young man of this generation seems more interested in is using these revolutionaries to feed his own self-image of a rebel, non-conformist.
And that's about it. Coasters, T-shirts, lifesize posters with a Bhagat Singh motif are in. I am a rebel, they cry out.
So, was Bhagat Singh a revolutionary in just that one, vague sense?
His love of anarchism and Marxism is well-documented; how many of us have actually read what he thought of the freemarket economic system? A college-goer walking in designer jeans bought with his land-baron daddy's money, topped with a fashionable Inquilab Zindabad T-shirt, is a picture of utter irony. Bhagat Singh stood for peasants' rights, for the rule of the proletariat. Never in a million years would he have desired to be the poster boy of trigger-happy, rich brats.
Also, the last I read him, he had clearly stated his lack of belief in god, and at times even expressed mild disappointment at prayers by people facing the gallows. Then why is it that even newspapers these days insist on using pictures of him only with a turban, never with the hat that was as much a trademark of his as the loosely tied turban. That he was born a Sikh can't be doubted, but whether he chose to die one has a different answer.
It's not that hard to figure out unless you want to use his picture alongside that of a right-winger who wanted a separate state based on religion. Using their pictures together is, again, reducing the Shaheed to a mere gun-toting extremist, revolutionary only in action, not thought, and certainly not a nationalist. It's his martyrdom day today, and there would be rallies at his native village Khatkar Kalan. Speaking from the daises would be leaders from different parties, with the single-minded goal of painting a one-dimensional picture of Bhagat Singh in the voter's mind. It's easy to see that these politicos would be feeding the young majority that loves its own rebel self-image.
But there's a Bhagat Singh much beyond that, whose family has said they are sickened by the use of his image on every political party's poster.
But blaming politicians alone proves no point; the whole generation shares the blame. What our beloved mere-23-at-death symbol of nationalism deserves is a little more attention, love not infatuation. Reading what he read and wrote could be the first meeting.
Don't be tempted to pick up placards and raise slogans demanding inclusion of all his writings in all textbooks. Why involve those who want to use your hero for votes?
Go to a library, use the internet. He is ours more than theirs, he is everyman's hero.
Just don't reduce your admiration to mere hero worship.
(The Bhagat Singh's picture above is of an unfinished painting by Australian artist Daniel Connel)

1 comment:

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