‘Bhagat Singh’s image being distorted’

November 13th, 2008 - 11:33 am ICT by IANS  

Somnath ChatterjeeChandigarh, Nov 13 (IANS) Seventy-seven years after he was hanged by the British, Bhagat Singh’s family and several eminent persons say he has been wronged even after death as officialdom continues to distort the image of one of India’s best known martyrs.The biggest criticism so far has been over a statue of Bhagat Singh installed inside the Parliament House complex in New Delhi Aug 15 this year.

“The statue installed inside parliament does not match Shaheed Bhagat Singh. It is not even one percent of him,” Abhey Sandhu, Bhagat Singh’s nephew who lives here, told IANS.

“The beard, moustache and face look like that of a 50 or 60-year-old man and not of someone aged 23 or 24, which was his real age at that time. The statue looks like that of a fat person, over 100 kg in weight, while the martyr was only about 60 kg.”

Chaman Lal, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and editor of the complete documents on Bhagat Singh, has also shot off a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee objecting to the statue.

“Not only Bhagat Singh’s family members but even eminent freedom fighter Shashi Bhushan, who is also a member of the government of India’s programme implementation committee for the national anniversaries of Bhagat Singh and others and was present on the occasion (when the statue was installed), felt that it looked like that of a 50-60-year-old man and not of someone who was 23-24 years old,” Chaman Lal said in his letter.

“Kuldip Nayar, former member of the Rajya Sabha and author of a book on Bhagat Singh - ‘Without Fear’, has also taken exception to the present statue.

“Another author, Irfan Habib, who wrote a book on Bhagat Singh - ‘To Make The Deaf Hear’ - and which probably your good self has himself gone through felt that the statue looked ‘very bad’.”

Bhagat Singh along with revolutionaries Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged by the British March 23, 1931, for violent activities against the British government.

The 100th birth anniversary of the legendary freedom fighter was observed at his village, Khatkar Kalan, 80 km from Chandigarh, in September last year.

“For a very long period, Bhagat Singh’s ideas remained shadowed by various fishy interpretations and many paintings, particularly in Punjab, based on these shady interpretations came up. One of these paintings has been of Bhagat Singh wearing a yellow turban with a pistol in hand, confirming the colonial image of ‘a terrorist’,” an upset Lal has written.

“Some of us like Prof Bipan Chandra, Prof Sumit Sarkar, Prof Irfan Habib, myself and others, who have worked for many years to resurrect the real image of Bhagat Singh as a brilliant socialist thinker through his writings, feel cheated when some of these painted images take precedence over real pictures of Bhagat Singh.

“The Punjab government has been guilty of publishing a painted picture of Bhagat Singh as the real picture in the media in its official advertisements for the last more than three decades, including the advertisement issued Aug 15 this year,” an upset Lal wrote.

Sandhu and Lal say when correct photographs of Bhagat Singh of the 1920s are available, why should the distorted pictures be used by various governments.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had in September this year objected to the photo of Bhagat Singh with a hat being used on commemorative coins released in September by the government of India.

But Sandhu said: “India knows Bhagat Singh with the hat photo. The comments to have a turbaned photo of the martyr are unnecessary.”

Lal’s letter even said that the martyr’s family members were not consulted when the statue was installed in Parliament. He pointed out that for the installation of the statue, close relatives of the martyr were not sent invitation cards and had to collect them from the office concerned.

“This is nothing but disgraceful, though family members have been graceful enough not to make this fact public,” Lal said.

“If these amends are not made, I am afraid the youth of the country will always think why Bhagat Singh-like revolutionary patriots are wronged during their lifetime and also after their lifetime by the establishment of that period.

“Bhagat Singh is like a phoenix, though he may be buried and killed at the level of body or ideas, he will resurrect himself with renewed vigour.”

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted jaideep.s@ians.in)

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