People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 17

April 23, 2006

Bhagat Singh Memorial Day Observed

 Vivek Monteiro


IN keeping with the Party’s call to observe the 75th anniversary of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in a fitting manner, the Bhandup centre of the CITU, along with the DYFI and the AIDWA units, held a cultural programme of revolutionary and progressive music and poetry.

On this occasion, veteran actor and progressive personality, A K Hangal was felicitated for his lifelong steadfast commitment to Left, secular and progressive values. Hangal, who has never hidden the fact that he is a communist, is today in his 90s. In the days when Bhagat Singh was active in Lahore, he was a teenaged student in Peshawar, beginning his own involvement in the freedom movement.

The programme was presided over by Prabhakar Sanzgiri, president CITU Maharashtra state committee. Vivek Monteiro in his introductory remarks said that when demonstrations against George Bush were held with the slogans ‘Samrajyavad Murdabad’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, many might not have known that these slogans were bequeathed to the freedom movement by Bhagat Singh and his comrades, along with a third slogan ‘Sarvahara Zindabad’. Bhagat Singh was a towering intellectual who wrote at a very young age, with great depth, on a wide variety of subjects like communalism, secularism, socialism, caste exclusion, language, nationalism, imperialism --- and his writings remain of prime relevance to us even today, he said. He further stressed that this year, which also includes his birth centenary, should be observed by propagating as widely as possible his thoughts and ideals.

Hangal formally inaugurated the programme by garlanding the portraits of the martyrs. A tribute was paid to Comrade Safdar Hashmi. Writer Sudha Arora, then read excerpts from Bhagat Singh’s own writings, including his writings on communal riots, where he lauds the role of trade unions and the working class of Kolkata for coming out on the streets to oppose communal riots. 

Hangal was later felicitated by Sanzgiri. When Hangal rose to speak, he moved everyone by the first sentence itself. “I stand before you today not so much as an actor, but as one of you.  Much before I became an actor in films, I was a trade union worker and communist. I started my work in a tailoring shop at Karachi before partition. I was a founder member and organiser of the Karachi Tailoring Workers Union. We were demanding a weekly holiday, 15 days leave and implementation of the Shops and Establishment Act. We organised a one day strike on these demands. For that I was victimised and removed from my job.”

Hangal vividly remembered the day when Bhagat Singh was hanged. He was a young student in Peshawar at that time. The next day there was a public meeting in Peshawar, in which a Pathan poet recited a poem in Pushtu as a  tribute to the martyrs. The last line was “Sardar Bhagat Singh, Sardar Bhagat Singh.” When the poet reached the end of the poem he started weeping and with him everyone in the crowd wept that day. He called on the paticipants to take the ideals and thoughts of Bhagat Singh to the common people, particularly focussing on the young. A few days before he was hanged, Bhagat Singh was writing in his notebook. When asked what he was writing, he said it was about the Constitution of future free India. He knew he was to die shortly, but even then, he was not thinking about his own future, his mind was on the future of his country, said Hangal. 

Suman Sanzgiri, AIDWA leader also spoke on the occasion. Prabhakar Sanzgiri concluded the meeting saying that the ideals and writings of Bhagat Singh would be useful in taking secularism and progressive thought into the common masses.