Tuesday, 22 March 2016

23rd March 1931: A Colossal Loss

Eighty five years after he was hanged to death, Bhagat Singh remains an inspiration to the youth of two countries. While much has been said about Bhagat Singh and his vision of a free and equal society, to my mind there still remains a huge what if. What if Bhagat Singh had lived on?

The idea is not as far fetched as it may sound. Remember, he was not even part of the original conspiracy to throw bombs in the legislative assembly in April 1929. What if the Hindustan Socialist Republic Association had stuck to its original plan? Is it not conceivable that he might have managed to evade arrest? Let us also not forget that he was tried by a special tribunal specifically created for the purpose and that the evidence presented could have very possibly been refuted in an ordinary court of law.

And what if that had come to pass? For sure, Bhagat Singh was an intellectual with a depth of vision and maturity that was astonishing for a young man in his early 20s. Contrary to popular imagination, he was in favour of a mass movement and abhorred violence unless absolutely required. Its not inconceivable that he could have built a mass movement based on the creed of communal harmony and socio-political equality.  He certainly had two essential qualities to lead a mass movement: the ability to inspire others and clarity of vision.

Imagine Bhagat Singh at the vanguard of a socialist movement post independence (he would have been a few weeks short of turning 40 had he been alive on 15th August 1947). Would it be inconceivable that his party could have formed a formidable opposition to the Congress in the years after independence? Indira Gandhi, post 1969, increasingly relied on a socialist plank to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the voter. Could that space not have been appropriated by another truly socialist party? And what if that party had been Bhagat Singh's? 

To be sure, that involves a lot of alternate scenarios, but in an alternate universe, Bhagat Singh could have gone on to become a legendary politician. We might have remembered him today as a former Prime Minister, not as a heroic youth who was martyred at the young age of 23. Admittedly, its unlikely that we would remember him in the same heroic light had that happened- politicians seldom (if ever) enjoy that luxury. Nonetheless, India would have been better served by a selfless and visionary leader like him. Given the cynicism that set in during the Indira Gandhi years, it is possible that Bhagat Singh could have provided an alternate, cleaner model of governance.

My personal view is that the passing away of Bhagat Singh was a colossal loss to India. In an alternate universe, I would have him serve independent India as a visionary leader.

1 comment:

MS said...

Well written Ashok.