Bhagat Singh the intellectual

Published: March 29, 2012
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Singh’s writings should be seen as an example for leaders to create a coherent vision for the nation-state. PHOTO: EXPRESS

A lesser appreciated aspect about Bhagat Singh, who was executed on March 23, 1931, was his intellectual prowess. In the greater context of subcontinent politics and history, Singh’s socio-political understanding showed a very nuanced and detailed insight into the future of India and the importance to transform society.

The tragedy, in the context of a Pakistan that lacks an academic culture, is that Singh’s legacy has been used to reaffirm the state narratives set in place. For some reason or another, history before 1947 has been studied in limited scope within Pakistan. In reality, Singh’s writings should be seen as an example for leaders to create a coherent vision for the nation-state.

His ideological rise was accompanied by a diverse reading list. He was well-versed in Marx, Lenin and other radical literature but also studied people such as Tom Paine, James Mill, Dostoevsky, Sinclair and a host of other authors. His available writings show a wide sophistication on a wide variety of topics.

Singh wrote:

“If you do not mean this revolution, then please have mercy. Stop shouting ‘Long Live Revolution’. The term revolution is too sacred, at least to us, to be so lightly used or misused. But if you say you are for the national revolution and the aims of your struggle is an Indian republic of the type of the United State of America, then I ask you to please let known on what forces you rely that will help you bring about that revolution.”

The greater point in Singh’s legacy has to be the emphasis that a leader should provide a long-term vision for a nation which something Singh does quite aptly through his writings. In this sense, he was far ahead of his time, dreaming of a reconstructing society in a way which a status quo ruling elite does not dominate a political system.

Further, his views on religion, economics and society provide a greater insight into the long-lineage of feudal and class domination in the subcontinent.

At a time when leaders and politicians talk about change, the relevance of this discussion is uncanny. Today, the one constant feature has been that most progressive forces continue to be stifled and suffocated. Revolutionary and radical thought as a result has been negated by a status quo that is bent upon providing compromised solutions.

As a result, the legacy of Bhagat Singh should not be limited to being simply revolutionary but also an intellectual par excellence.

 

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sher.khan

Sher Khan

A Lahore based reporter for The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.