Every year, around Valentine’s Day, messages start circulating about how it should be a ‘black day’ because that was the day Bhagat Singh was hanged. Not only is it false – Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged on March 23, 1931 – but this running down of Valentine’s day is something Bhagat Singh himself would have disapproved.
That’s because the cold hearted revolutionary who did not shy away from violence for the attainment of India’s freedom, was actually a soft hearted human being who not only fell in love, but also justified the importance of the emotion of love in the life of a revolutionary.
It is said that when Bhagat Singh’s parents found a girl from him, he refused to get married because he wanted to devote his life to the country. He is said to have even run away from home. That has given the impression of Bhagat Singh as a dedicated revolutionary with no time for love.
The truth is: he was a romantic because only romantics dream grand dreams for their nation’s future. And he was not far from the calls of the heart.
On December 17, 1928, After killing Assistant Superintendent of Police J P Saunders responsible for the murder of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh and Rajguru were on the run. They went to the house of their comrade Bhagwati Charan Vohra whose wife Durga Devi was incidentally the first to volunteer for this assassination assignment but was turned down by Sukhdev.
That morning, pretending to be a couple with Bhagat Singh wearing European clothes and with Durga Devi’s son Sachin while Rajguru played a servant, the three escaped from the police dragnet in Lahore. The four travelled for the next few days in train to reach Calcutta. During this journey, having all the time in the world, Bhagat Singh would open up before Durga Devi who bore the same revolutionary spirit in her.
He would fall in love with her, even though she was the wife of a comrade. Though Bhagat Singh kept his feelings to himself, and nothing happened between the two, the spirit of beautiful love would touch his revolutionary heart and influence him.
In his meticulously researched book on Bhagat Singh ‘The Martyr’, journalist Kuldip Nayar writes, “For Bhagat Singh, matters of the heart were important. A revolutionary could not be devoid of human feelings, which, in fact, is what made him different from a terrorist. To him, human emotions mattered greatly for this is what saved the radicals from senseless violence. Bhagat Sigh did not want the revolutionaries to be devoid of emotion or sentiment and turn into wooden gods.”
Kuldip Nayar further compares the characters of Bhagat Singh and their group’s chief strategist Sukhdev, “Bhagat Singh’s human approach betrayed romanticism, Sukhdev would say. It made a revolutionary soft and sentimental. How different were the two? One never turned his back against mercy. The other considered it a hindrance in the way of the elimination of the enemy. When engaged in a fight, Bhagat Singh favoured as little damage as possible. Sukhdev knew no limits.”
It is to Sukhdev, who would later accuse Bhagat Singh of becoming soft, that Bhagat Singh would beautifully elucidate his thought on love. In a letter written to him on April 5, 1929, Bhagat Singh would write, “…you asked me one thing, whether love ever proved helpful to any man. Yes, I answer that question today. To Mazzini it was. You must have read that after the utter failure and crushing defeat of his first rising he could not bear the misery and haunting ideas of his dead comrades. He would have gone mad or committed suicide but for one letter of a girl he loved. He would become as strong as any one, nay stronger than all.”
Further on he writes, “As regards the moral status of love I may say that it in itself is nothing BUT PASSION, not an animal passion but a human one, and very sweet too. Love in itself can never be an animal passion. Love always elevates the character of man. It never lowers him, provided love be love. You can't call these girls — mad people, as we generally see in films — lovers. They always play in the hands of animals passions. The true love cannot be created. It comes of its own accord, nobody can say when. It is but natural. And I may tell you that a young man and a young girl can love each other, and with the aid of their love they can overcome the passions themselves and can maintain their purity.” Obviously, he was referring to his love for Durga Devi.
Bhagat Singh further goes on to say, “At present it [love] is not bad, rather good and useful to man. And moreover while rebuking the love. I rebuked the love of one individual for one, and that too in idealistic stage. And even then, man must have the strongest feelings of love which he may not confine to one individual and may make it universal.”
What Bhagat Singh is saying here is that it is this feeling of love for an individual, the romantic sort of love, which when transferred to the love of a larger group of humanity, of the nation or of the world, could have a person work miracles.
The lives of the greatest of women and men in this world, has been proof of this. When instead of just loving someone from the opposite sex, they have also transferred it to make it more inclusive and turning it into a love of others as well, they have changed the world.
Bhagat Singh himself is proof of that. A patriot like him is rare in the annals of the world. So much so that he laid down his life willingly for the love of his nation.
What made Bhagat Singh different from most of his colleagues and contemporaries was the love in his heart which at least once manifested in the love of a woman which taught him a tenderness missing in most revolutionaries.
If Bhagat Singh were alive, he would have approved of Valentine’s Day and every expression of love a human being has for another.
(Satyen K Bordoloi is a writer based in Mumbai. His written words have appeared in many Indian and foreign publications.)
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