Martyrs’ Day, March 23
– September 27, 1907-March 23, 1931 –
In the dead of night of March 23, 1931, Bhagat Singh, Rajaguru and Sukhdev were executed by the British colonial rulers of the British Raj at the Lahore jail. Many others were taken to the gallows, many like them in their early twenties. One by one the revolutionary youths, workers and peasants saw their heroes martyred — yet the cry for the freedom of their people, which they sang of even while being led to the gallows, still moves the spirits of the Indian revolutionaries today.
Mahatma Ghandi, contrary to all the myths about him, played a despicable role. Right at the time the British rulers were imprisoning Indian revolutionaries and sending them to the gallows, he signed a deal with the British which gave the British the green light to execute the revolutionaries. On March 5, 1931, after prolonged talks between Gandhi and Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India, the Gandhi-Irwin Agreement was signed. The pact stated that “those political prisoners will be released who are undergoing imprisonment in connection with the civil disobedience movement for offences which did not involve violence… or incitement to such violence.” As a result of this agreement, the greatest heroes of the Indian people were to be slaughtered by the British executioners, while the followers of Gandhi were set free.
At his trial Bhagat Singh declared:
“None whose heart bleeds for those who give their life-blood in silence to the building up of the economic structure of the exploiter, of whom the government happens to be the biggest in this country, could repress the cry of the soul in agonizing anguish… Others have as keenly felt as we have done and from under the seeming sereneness of the sea of Indian humanity a veritable storm is about to break out. We have only hoisted the danger signal to warn those who are speeding along without heeding the grave dangers. We have only marked the end of the era of the utopian non-violence of whose futility the rising generation has been convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt. Revolution is the inalienable right of mankind. Freedom is the imprescriptable birthright of all. The labourer is the real sustainer of society. The sovereignty of the people is the ultimate destiny of workers. For these ideals and for this faith we shall welcome any suffering to which we may be condemned. To the altar of revolution we have brought our youth as incense, for no sacrifice is too great for so magnificent a cause. We are content. We await the advent of the Revolution. Inquilab Zindabad!”
It was the Indian martyrs who by their sacrifice immortalized the progressive and patriotic ideals of the Indian people, and today their spirit calls upon the people to carry the struggle through to the end.
Comrade Hardial Bains dedicated an entire book to the Call of the Martyrs in 1985 when he wrote on the Crisis in India and the Situation in Punjab at that time. An excerpt of Part III of this book follows:
Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the brave and honoured martyr of the Indian people, in his statements to the British colonial court that condemned him to death, pointed out with the true feelings and insight of a real patriot: “India’s struggle shall continue as long as a handful of men in power continue to exploit the labour of the common people for their own ends. Whether the exploiters are Indian, or British, or both in alliance, nothing shall halt the struggle…”
These prophetic words of the Indian patriot have been proven true by history hundreds and thousands of times over. The struggle he talked about with deep conviction and courage is still raging today — whether the exploiters be Indian or foreign or “both in alliance,” as is the case today, “nothing shall halt the struggle…”
The Indian people have deep love for Shaheed Bhagat Singh and for his comrades, Raj Guru and Sukhdev, who kissed the rope of the hangman with him for the real liberation of India. Attempting to cloak themselves in patriotic colours, the exploiters also speak of him. All the political parties of the big landlords and big capitalists evoke his name. They use the name of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, but they do not uphold what he fought for. Indeed, they vainly attempt to use his name in order to give their barbaric system credence. But nothing can justify the capitalist system, the foreign dependence, the remnants of feudalism and the exploitation and oppression that prevail today.
Lenin points out that:
“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the `consolation’ of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.”
All the revolutionary personalities, the true patriots who fought for the liberation of the peoples, had the overall aim of uniting the Indian people irrespective of their religious background, language, regional origin or gender. Indian political and social literature from the time of the invasion of Mohammed Bin Kassem is filled with calls for the unity of the people. One of the leaders of the First War of Independence called upon the people to “sink your petty differences and join hands… Rush to the battlefield, fight under one flag and with the free flow of your blood wash away the stigma of the English domination over Hindustan.” After the liberation of Delhi on May 16, 1857, Bahadar Shah Zafar proclaimed: “It is therefore absolutely essential that Hindus and Muslims should unite, work and fight not only to win wars but also to maintain peace and order on the home front… The contentment of the poor must also be secured.”
The revolutionaries who fought from abroad for the true liberation and independence of India, organizing themselves in 1913 into the Hindustani Ghadar Party, are referred to with deep love and respect as Ghadri Babas. They also fought for the unity of the people irrespective of religious or language, racial, caste or regional differences. They established Sikh Temples in Vancouver and other places not for the promotion of the aims of this or that religion or sect, but with the aim of the unity of all peoples irrespective of their religion in the sacred struggle for the liberation of India.
Shaheed Mewa Singh, who was executed by the Canadian bourgeoisie in Vancouver, and Shaheed Udham Singh, executed by the British colonialists in London, did not have religious aims. They fought for the true liberation of their brethren living in foreign lands. Not a single martyr fought for the supremacy of religion. Only the agents of the foreign and native exploiters have advanced sectarian and communal aims; their purpose is to destroy the unity of the people in their struggle to win complete liberation. In the past, the incitement of communal violence was the work of the British colonialists and their collaborators, and today it is the work of the reactionary Indian bourgeoisie and the U.S., British and other foreign imperialists, including the Soviet social-imperialists. The scale on which the Canadian bourgeoisie is deploying its resources to convince the people that India is divided among groups of warring fanatics is known to all. But the struggle is not and has never been for this or that religion, or for this or that religious aim. The struggle is for the complete liberation of India. The martyrs fought for the unity of the people to accomplish this goal and this goal alone. The enemies of the Indian people have always tried to impose other goals and to use religion to divide people, so as to divert and liquidate their struggle for real liberation.[…]
What shines like a beacon throughout the history of the Indian people is that regardless of religious and other differences, they have always found the strength and unity to carry forward the struggle for national and social emancipation. It is this historical tradition which the enemies seek to distort, blaming the people for the very communalist crimes which they themselves have committed.
The heroic uprising of the masses over the centuries has shaped the psychology of the Indian people, a psychology of revolt against all forms of enslavement, domination, exploitation, oppression, backwardness and ignorance. History has shown that this aspiration for freedom, independence and social progress is inextinguishable; it has withstood the assaults of the most formidable invaders and their native collaborators.
1. Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution, Chapter 1.
(The Call of the Martyrs — The Crisis in India and the Present Situation in the Punjab, Hardial Bains, Excerpt from Part III, Toronto, 1985)