In your Beware, Ye Bureaucracy you called the British “the most tyrannical of Government of Governments in the world”. India’s third set of rulers, the saffron brigade is learning tyranny very well from its master.
Bhagat Singh was a revolutionary leader who fought for India’s freedom from British rule. He was a Marxist and diverse-read intellectual. In his short span of active life, he read Irish, British, U.S., Russian, Indian and European Literatures. At the age of 12, he bemoaned the massacre at Jallianwallah Bagh, one of the worst massacres done by the British in a fenced park, killing thousands of men, women and children.
It would impact Bhagat Singh throughout his life. In 1928, he shot John Sanders, a British police officer to avenge Lala Lajpat (another freedom fighter’s) murder.
After he shot him, he wrote “…but in this man has died the representative of an institution which is so cruel, lowly and so base that it must be abolished. In this man has died an agent of the British authority in India.”
‘To make the deaf hear’ he and his comrade B K Dutt tossed two bombs in the Central Assembly in Delhi, after which they offered themselves to be arrested.
He and his comrades shook the invincible empire so much so that the British wanted to get rid of them and martyred Bhagat Singh on March 23, 1931, aged 23.
This is an open letter to Bhagat Singh commemorating his revolutionary ideas, which are as crucial in current time as they were during the colonial period. His birthday was on Sept. 28.
Dear Comrade Bhagat Singh,
The British left India 70 years ago and as you said, a mere change of set of rulers — from white to brown, would not bring freedom to India, it did not. Now that I am writing to you almost a century after your martyrdom, I must inform you that Browns have been replaced by Saffrons, a color recognized as the color of the far-right Hindu nationalist government.
Your visions and ideas are still needed in present India especially due to the current administration of far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India.
Your martyrdom did not fail. The British government could only kill your body not your ideas. You taught us that dying with dignity is better than living with humiliation. You introduced us to “It takes a loud voice to make the deaf hear” and showed us “The Red Pamphlet.”
In it, you said the British government has been thrusting upon you “new repressive measures” — Public Safety, the Trade Disputes and the Press Sedition Bill.
According to you, these Bills were “humiliating farce”. In a similar fashion to the British, the far-right ruling dispensation of today’s India, after abrogating Article 370 from Kashmir on Aug. 5 2019, has used the farcical “Public Safety Act” against Farooq Abdullah, an 82-years-old leader of Kashmir who was born much before India had come out of the British clutches, to humiliate him.
In your “Beware, Ye Bureaucracy”, you called the British “the most tyrannical of Government of Governments in the world”. India’s saffron brigade are learning tyranny very well from its master.
I must take this opportunity to inform you that the far-right government has proposed changes to the existing labour laws in the country and as many as 44 existing laws are to be amalgamated into four codes in order to help the corporate giants flourish keeping at stake the lives of millions of workers.
In the 1926 Trade Dispute Bills, the British government in India banned any strike and considered it as revolt against the government. This subjected workers to rigorous imprisonment without a trial. No less arbitrary than the British, the fascists ruling India now demand a 42-day advance intimation if the workers want to hold a protest. Earlier it had to be 14 days.
A mathematical calculation would suggest that the saffron rule is now three-times more tyrannical than what the British were.
The country that you dreamt of has been muzzled and pushed into silence. Those who dare speak and follow you, are slapped with Sedition. In fact, the government has introduced an amendment to the already existing “anti-terror” laws.
It has amended the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and changed the meaning of “terrorism”.
According to principles of natural justice, any person until proven guilty by the law is innocent. Also, the onus is on the authority to prove that the accused is guilty. In a complete travesty of justice, the government with the support of the parties in opposition, Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), has passed the amendments bill. The law allows for an individual to be called a terrorist without FIR, charge sheet or trial. Where in the world that happens, dear Comrade?
When the British called you a terrorist, no matter how farcical, but they put you on trial. Now all these are outdated. A Bhagat Singh of today would not be fortunate enough to expose the government in its naked form.
What could be irony if not the state of Sedition in India?
Dear Comrade, you would be glad to know that I talked to your cousin Jagmohan Singh, who has been a renowned Professor in the country. He told me, “Sedition comes from the idea that the rulers and the ruled are the enemies of each other.”
Hundreds of people have been arrested under this archaic law merely for criticizing the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi or going against the party in power. Journalists and activists have been languishing in jails.
How can criticism of the government amount to sedition? One of the senior Judges of the Supreme Court told me that Sedition could have been abolished when the British left in 1947. How can an Indian commit sedition towards their own people?
I must inform you, dear Comrade, that it is the government, which, not only carried forward the rotten legacy of the British rather strengthened it from time to time.
If I could draw an analogy from what Professor Jagmohan said, it would be obvious that it is the ruler, who is the enemy of the ruled and not the vice versa.
Maybe more than ever, the country needs you.
Maybe it is time for you to come again, make “some loud voice to make the deaf hear”.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in India.