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Durable Link to this BlogWednesday, June 04, 2008

Bhagat Singh and Gandhiji

Presently I am writing a biography of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya (1903-1988), the great freedom fighter, globe trotter, Social reformer, Revivalist of Indian handicrafts and a writer of repute. I am writing about her in Konkani language, which also happened to be mother-tongue of Kamaladevi. Her memories "Inner Recesses and Outer Spaces", throws light on many important events of Indian freedom struggle, as also on National leaders with whom she had close contact. Sardar Bhagat Singh whose sketch on Kamat Potpourri was widely appreciated and whose centenary observed recently, was sent to gallows for no crime except his intense patriotism. The whole nation mourned his hanging, and sang Bhagat Singh’s glory for years to come. Kamaladevi sheds light on the efforts of Bapuji to save the youngster's life, which has not received the publicity it deserved.

Bhagat Singh Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi

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Bhagat Singh had been accused of being involved in the death of the police officer Saunders, who had done Lala Lajpat Rai to death for no other crime except intense patriotism, and for which Lalaji had earlier been transported to a prison in Mandalay in Burma. No charge against him was ever pronounced. A wild story had appeared in the London Daily Express, charging him with plotting with the Amir of Afghanistan to overthrow British rule in India! Some Indian friends had then instructed an Attorney at Law in Bombay, Dikshit Sunder Das, to serve a legal notice on this newspaper and then take legal action for publishing the canard. The lawyer sent a letter to Lalaji in Mandalay prison for his authorization for this. The letter was withheld from the prisoner and Lalaji had to lie rotting in Mandalay prison. Lalaji's death by a cruel lathi blow had roused the country to fierce rage, leaving a particularly deep wound on Bhagat Singh's emotions.

To me, Bhagat Singh was one apart from the normal run of terrorists and I believed he deserved to be treated differently. I therefore gave notice of an amendment to the resolution for the deletion of the "dissociation" part.

Acharya Kripalani opened a discussion with me on this move of mine. Ever since my visit to Khadi Ashram at Meerut, which he was conducting, we had become close friends.

"Are you very insistent on your proposals?" -- he asked me and when I replied in the affirmative, he gave a deep sigh. Then he added: ‘I wonder if you are aware that Gandhiji pleaded very hard with the Viceroy to save Bhagat Singh, though it was outside of the purview of the talks. He pressed forward every plea he could think of. He is in deep anguish and your omitting a portion of the resolution on the plea that it is a left handed tribute will only increase his sorrow over what he feels is his failure to save Bhagat Singh. Of course it is for you to decide according to your own conviction.’

All this was new to me. Gandhiji of course never accepted the righteousness of capital punishment. My mind swung into a whirl. I became extremely depressed. If some one like him who abhorred violence had fought for the victim’s life and lost, what was the virtue I was trying to uphold? I felt too numb and inarticulate. So when Panditji called out to me before mounting the rostrum, to be ready with my amendment, I simply shook my head.

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See Also:
• Mahatma Gandhi on Bhagat Singh

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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