Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Bhagat Singh: promoting terrorism?

On March 23 this year, when most Pakistanis celebrated the 70th anniversary of Pakistan Resolution, some observed the death anniversary of Bhagat Singh (1907-1931) who had been hanged on charges of terrorism on the same date in 1931. Especially under the present circumstances of Pakistan, a few questions may need to be considered objectively and dispassionately.

Bhagat Singh was a member of HSRA, a leftist terrorist organization in India in the 1920s (“when expediency will demand it the Party will unhesitatingly enter into a desperate campaign of terrorism,” said the party’s manifesto; see Wikipedia entry). In 1928, Hindu leader Lala Lajpat Rai succumbed to injuries suffered from baton charge by police during a public protest and Singh set out to avenge him by assassinating the police chief but the bullet killed another police officer instead. Singh fled the scene and later threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly that did not kill anyone but created some terror. He got arrested and defended his position throughout his trial. He was convicted for murder and hanged on March 23, 1931.

In India, Singh is celebrated as a hero. Among Marxists, his pamphlet ‘Why I am an Atheist’ is especially popular as a tool for promoting atheism among youth. Pakistan too has an association with him, since he was born in a village near Lyallpur (now called Faisalabad) and got executed in Lahore. In September 2007, Lt Gen (Retired) Khalid Maqool (governor of Punjab in the Musharraf era) addressed a birth centenary seminar on Bhagat Singh, paid tribute to him and promised a memorial (see Daily Times).

Showing due respect to Bhagat Singh as an icon respected by our neighboring India is one thing. Preaching his ideas to our own youth and presenting him as a role model for Pakistanis are different matters altogether. The country is being accused of harboring terrorists. The international media, especially Indian media, often seems to be giving an impression as if most Pakistanis harbor a longing for becoming suicide bombers. What kind of image shall we receive if at this time some of our lobbies are found to be promoting a “hero” whose recorded statement after throwing a bomb in the assembly was, “We are sorry to admit that we... have been forced to shed human blood. But the sacrifice of individuals at the altar of the 'Great Revolution'… is inevitable.”

The implications are:

  • Is this the kind of image we desire to be associated with Pakistan?
  • Is this the message we want to give to our youth?
  • Precisely why did India release not one, but two, biopics about Bhagat Singh defending terrorism soon after 09/11 (both movies were released on June 7, 2002)?

However, the biggest question is that at a time when the country is already combating terrorism, why on earth we need to promote terrorism? We may compare the following excerpts from the pamphlet distributed by Singh after bombing the assembly with the video messages released by the militants of today:

"It takes a loud voice to make the deaf hear, with these immortal words uttered on a similar occasion by Valiant, a French anarchist martyr, do we strongly justify this action of ours… In these extremely provocative circumstances, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, in all seriousness, realizing their full responsibility, had decided and ordered its army to do this particular action… We are sorry to admit that we who attach so great a sanctity to human life, who dream of a glorious future, when man will be enjoying perfect peace and full liberty, have been forced to shed human blood. But the sacrifice of individuals at the altar of the 'Great Revolution' that will bring freedom to all, rendering the exploitation of man by man impossible, is inevitable. Long Live the Revolution."

Really, do you have to promote terrorism?


ReeBz said...

I've never heard about Bhagat Singh,it may be the result of my poor knowledge about history, but i also never noticed anyone promoting his ideology with his name in Pakistan.If some one is doing so, he is a must-wrong and leading us towards destruction which we should realize and condemn.
But i believe that India is always hostile towards its neighbors and a big promoter of terrorism.We all know what sort of lectures are given by Indian extremist parties to their youth which only creates more hatred towards Pakistan.Just have a look at it, and notice that even this young girl is vomiting out her extreme hatred and anger towards Pakistan
This is the right time to review our selves and where we are going to..

Ahmad Safi said...

Although it's true that Freedom fighter on one side is considered Terrorist by the opposite side, we should never forget that Islam was the only religion to define the ethics of war and those ethics do not include killing of innocent people. Right at the on set of Islam, we were advised not even to hurt the environment by burning the crops/trees of the conquered or poisoning their water resources... How could we ever justify killing innocent people classifying them under collateral damage?

If we are true to our ideology then yes we should not promote any act of terrorism, past or present.

During the Freedom movement, our Great Leader Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah never resorted to or advised any action which would be illegal or punishable by law. This is the reason he was never put behind the bars or dragged into a political law suite hence proving that peaceful strategies could also be effective in achieving goals. Law must be upheld.

Thanks for pointing out the lesser known facts.


Connie L. Nash said...

Assalamu 'alaikum - while I'm here most briefly I am so glad to see you here Dr. Safi!

I am quite interested in this pragmatic and humane matter and have visited the same not long ago in studying the two major heroes of the Crusades. How sad to recognize more clearly then that those terrible long-lasting wars were provoked in large part by our "christian" Pope of that time. Then and now we certainly are hurting in religious leaders even while there have been along the way and even now some great ones and exceptions!

Certainly there are many lessons from that time for our own and you bring up several.

"Islam was the only religion to define the ethics of war and those ethics do not include killing of innocent people. Right at the on set of Islam, we were advised not even to hurt the environment by burning the crops/trees of the conquered or poisoning their water resources... How could we ever justify killing innocent people classifying them under collateral damage?"

My immediate responses would include the question to you and others here...would the many youthful "warriors" across the board - US and even who we call "terrorists" not at least in some cases also be considered "innocent" in that so many are so poor and are there because they want in some way to protect their families or survive, eat, be patriotic in some way? I understand that a large portion also of the Taliban are there because when the poorest of families returned to Swat area with nowhere else to go, the families were told to either send one male family member into their Taliban warriors or they would kill a family member. So what choice do these poor families have?

And I understand Islam doesn't allow torture either anymore than does the true interpretations of the best of the Christian and Judaic scriptures (might be same for Buddhists and Hindu at best?)

Also, I keep wondering is how war with drones and many other weapons can be allowed in our time since there is likely at least 1 out of ten killed who are civilians and many of these innocents including children...

Same with the terrible destruction in recent Gaza terrorism...

So, I keep wanting to know why we all don't have some attention-getting discussions cross-cultural and cross-faith regarding something other than another crusade (even if it's over oil and water greed and other kinds of control this time?) See my recently re-activated No more Crusades at blogspot dot com and feel free to submit ideas...I do want to make it more and more focused on these various issues and include our various and mutual histories/teachings.

At any rate, I am wishing this discussion will continue for some time in order to get back for the same since we are here among friends with so much in common towards peaceful desires and actions on various levels.

Brief off topic note for Dr. Safi:

While I may have your attention, Dr. Safi, is it possible here somewhere at RR and/or to me directly you could give the full information about purchasing and whatever you'd like to share on "House of Fear" as I'd like to get out the far I am unable to find any bookstore or online publisher (outside of someone said India amazon?) who is able to order in the US.

Also, do you allow your preface to that new publication to be printed on a blogpost? On mine or at least here at RR? Sorry for delay in response to that!

I may likely see some Pakistani families soon and would love to get them this information in person at least...

Excuse the off topic item here...feel free to delete this part of note or all - if you wish, Shafique Sahib. :)

Allah Hafiz

Connie L. Nash said...

Dr. Safi,

Just after I posted the comment mostly to you, I realized I failed to give you my best and newer email:

Khuda Hafiz