Friday, November 16, 2012

Shaheed Bhagat Singh - seeking recognition in Lahore

A banner is placed at Bhagat Singh Chowk (Shadman Roundabout) against its renaming, calling it an attack on ideology of Pakistan. [Photo by: Faisal Saeed]

Bhagat Singh wasn’t just an ordinary citizen of British India. He was a son of Punjab, a true freedom fighter. The guiding principle of his life, in his own words - "My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore, there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now...”

However, since the partition of India, and the inception of Pakistan in 1947 the higher authorities tried their best to distort the history and men who made history. “The Hindus are cunning, the Sikhs are foolish” - is the lesson we have learned since our independence. The situation became more critical after the Fall of Dhaka and takeover of General Zia ul Haq. The Afghan Jihad in 1980s also dealt a big blow to the comparatively tolerant society in Pakistan, and finally, at the end of Afghan Jihad in late 1980s, the cat came out of the bag and we are now still repeating what we saw thirty years ago.

Radicalized, intolerant and extremist factors, loaded with arms, started roaming freely in the society. Sadly, this growing radicalization of the Pakistani society , has still not been put under any check and balance .

Bhagat Singh - who raised his voice against the British imperialism, who was a son of our soil, who gave his life with his comrades Sukhdev, Rajguru, Chandershekhar Azad, Rampradad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Hussain for this cause; Bhagat Singh and his martyred comrades – who stood tall and mighty for the unity of oppressed nations of the Indian sub-continent - still seek their due recognition in Pakistan.

Anyone who remotely knows our history, would also know that Lahore and Bhagat Singh cannot be separated. Having studied in DAV College (now Islamia College), Lahore, Bhagat Singh delved into active student politics in and then went on to spend the rest of his life here till he breathed his last.

He, along with his comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case and ordered to be hanged on 24 March 1931. But he was executed 11 hours in advance on 23 March 1931. They were hanged on 23 March 1931 at 7:30 pm in Lahore jail.

For many years writers, poets, intellectuals, students and civil society had been demanding to rename the place as Bhagat Singh Chowk. Every year they organize a peaceful gathering at Bhagat Singh Chowk (Shadman Roundabout). Photo by: Shiraz Hassan

Old building of Lahore Jail, is popularly recognized today as Shadman Roundabout and its nearby areas. The old barracks of the jail has been demolished and turned into a commercial/residential area. However, the central roundabout of Shahdman is still marked as the place where Bhagat Singh was hanged, as a memorial.

For a very long time now, the sane voices of the Pakistani society, the progressive people ideologically inclined towards socialism, knowing the importance of this landmark had been demanding to rename this very place as Bhagat Singh Chowk, to pay tribute to the great martyr of the Indian Independence movement. Their efforts bore fruit and luckily the city district government of Lahore issued the orders of renaming of Bhagat Singh Chowk, very recently.

But, as expected, it is neither shocking or surprising to observe that the radical and fundamentalist elements of our society has treated this attempt to change the name as a challenge to the teachings of Islam and against the ideology of Pakistan.

Hence, in a matter of days post the Government’s decision, we are seeing banners against the renaming of Shadman chowk to Bhagat Singh chowk flooding the area!.

In a statement issued by the Tehreek-e-Hurmat Rusool(PBUH) it has been warned that the “government would not be allowed to take uncalled for decisions in the country of Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal.” Earlier city district government also received threats from Jamat-ud-Dawa against renaming of Shadman roundabout to Bhagat Singh Chowk.

Its a message (read threat) loud and clear, to the authorities that they will go to any level for “their” demands. The sane voices of society were fighting to rename this place to Bhagat Singh for many years. But no sooner than their voices were listened to, by the powers that be, and a much awaited welcome step taken at long last, it is all over. Crushed.

Another banner can be seen at Chowk, 'forcefully' naming it Hurmat-e-Rusool(SAWW) Chowk. [Photo by: Ammar Aziz]

The question is and remains, Why the government is so helpless? Does demanding something peacefully have no effect? Can’t we demand anything which in reality is not actually against the ideology of Pakistan(as being claimed by the radicals) or the so-called two nation theory?  

For our plight and the current state of intolerance and ignorance in our society, the textbooks churned out by our academia is also responsible to a large extent. Our children were and are systematically taught that Hindus and Sikhs are our enemies, and hence Bhagat Singh was a Sikh, he is a natural enemy of Pakistan. This distorted image is very easy to draw in impressionable minds, without much effort. Hence, it is imperative now that, we need to re-visit our history, the sooner, the better. As I said earlier, we are reaping today what we had sowed years ago and it will take another century to undo the wrongs and fatal mistakes committed in the last 50 years!

Graffiti: Bhagat Singh Chowk [Photo by Shiraz Hassan]

The radicals are knocking at our door, ready to take over our existence and our identity, by destroying our history, heritage and culture -  like the invaders Abdali, Ghauri, Ghazali and Nadir Shah did in the past, It’s time to act, it’s time to raise your voice, it’s time to say No to Extremism before it’s too late I urge you to look within, think hard and good, reflect and tell me, is it Impossible?


  1. A well-reasoned, nicely explained and persuasive piece. Progressive and objective. When one reads such articles, one feels there’s hope left still. I wish after reading this, many voices say, ‘No, I don’t think it is impossible’.. Kudos! Way to go!:)

  2. The article is logical, rational and very objective. Keep writing such articles as it provides the real picture of the History.
    Way to Go !! :)

    Manoj Kumar

  3. Sentimentally , rationally written article. Religion of Peace and brotherhood has been converted, by theses radicals.....Koi pahaad nahi toot padega if it is named as Bhagat singh Chowk, rather it will be seen as brotherhood amongst the faiths.All peace loving people are always helpless, and fanatics always have the last laugh

  4. Agree 100%. Shaheed Bhagat Singh is a hero for all of us regardless of the faith we adhere to. When will the government grow a spine and stand up to such dangerously narrow-minded groups?

    There's even a street in Iran named after the Irish Bobby Sands..

  5. Once again our great son of Punjab tortured by rigid mind Mullahs who try to put everything on scale of religion. I never understood why Punjabis is Pakistan r on verge of more isolation as far as history is concerned? For information of right wing rigid minded supporters, Lahore is abbreviated from Loh who was son of Rama also mentioned in old scriptures. If they are so scared of it, why cant they change name of Lahore who is also against idealogy of Pakistan, vision of Jinnah and dream of Iqbal? They should also move ahead and change names of Taxila, Rawalpindi and Multan who does have history mentions in old testiments. Its time Pakistanis esp ppl of Punjab to recognize history figures of Punjab Raja Poru (Porus), Gura Nanak Dev G, Lala Lajpat Rai, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Master Tara Singh due to soil of soils and forget bigtroy.

  6. A very interesting article which I would consider spot on.

    I agree with the author that we must revisit our history to rediscover the rich common heritage that we share and to also overcome the mistakes (brain washing of our youth) over the past 60 or so years.

    We much revisit all periods of our common history not only from the periods of independence but also the period of Bulleh Shah and even earlier.

  7. I totally agree too.

    Lahore may be largely muslim but the land never forgets its origins and ancestry. The whole punjab was divided into two due to brainwashing.

    Lahore has a Sikh aroma and had been capital of the Panjab for millenia. It still is in my eyes.

    Cities in India such as Amritsar were stripped off their muslim population where they belonged and displaced. Same happened in Lahore with the Sikhs who left for cities such as Delhi etc.

    Its an illusion that exists.

    One Panjab with different religions of the same land.

    Religion shouldn't get in the way.

    The roots of a plant are its origins and keep it nourished.

    Bhagat Singh True Son of Panjab

  8. Panjab should once more have a borderless system where both sides can move around freely. Although West and East Panjab are part of Pakistan and India, Panjab should be one movement even though its East and West territories are in the respectable countries it is in now.

    A family split in two isn't good.

    To me the territory now as Pakistan has more significant shrines to Sikhism than present day India. I feel more connected. Even though the subcontinent shouldn't have ideally split, lets keep Panjab one.

    Sadaa Panjab Ik Hona chaida.

  9. Yes, it is very nice to see that Shadman chowk is renamed as Bhagat Singh Chowk- the true freedom fighter against British Imperialism.Hats off!

  10. If Bhagat Singh Chowk is an attack on Nazriya Pakistan according to these Mullahs, what about the fact that Jinnah was an outspoken supporter of Bhagat Singh in the central legislature?

  11. Shiraz bhai! undoubtedly, beautifully written rational and logical way of writing history. Great thoughts.

    I am sure you've read the work on Punjab by Rajmohan Gandhi ji. If not, then do grab a copy of "Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten" (‘Understanding undivided Punjab vital for comprehending India, Pakistan’)

    I am sure you will like reading this interesting report "What would Gandhi do?" of Initiatives of Change on PeopleBuildingTrust