The Notable People Bhagat Singh Touched During His Lifetime

Bhagat Singh had quite a charismatic personality, which everyone found very endearing, despite his very simple lifestyle.

Bhagat Singh was hanged by the British on this day, March 23, in 1931.

The following is an excerpt from Life & Legend of Bhagat Singh (A Pictorial Volume) by Chaman Lal.

It was quite evident that though British colonialism had managed to kill Bhagat Singh, his ideas had a wider reach. But it is indeed a
matter of fascination that a young man of mere 23 years and half was able to leave an everlasting impact on the history and society of such a vast nation. It needs to be understood by looking at the circumstances of his life; how people around him, viewed and perceived him. From his early childhood to the last moments of his life, he had come across people of varied background who had such vivid memories of this young man that one is just left wonderstruck!

‘Life & Legend of Bhagat Singh (A Pictorial Volume)’, Chaman Lal, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 2022.

Bhagat Singh had quite a charismatic personality, which everyone found very endearing, despite his very simple lifestyle.

Among the national leaders of those times, Bhagat Singh had interacted with all the top leadership of freedom struggle. Though there is no evidence of his interaction with Mahatma Gandhi. However, as Bhagat Singh had attended Belgaum (now called Belagavi) Congress with his father Kishan Singh in 1924, and during this time he was politically active through Naujwan Bharat Sabha; they might have crossed each other and Bhagat Singh probably would have paid his respects to him, as later also despite their differences, he always addressed him as Mahatma ji.

With the famous trio of Lal-Bal-Pal, Bhagat Singh was blessed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak when, as a child, he had accompanied his father Kishan Singh and uncle Ajit Singh to Congress session in Tilak’s life time before 1920. Kishan Singh was a long time Congress party activist and remained member of its highest body All India Congress Committee (AICC) for many years. Lala Lajpat Rai was a family friend as Lala Ji and Bhagat Singh’s uncle Ajit Singh had jointly organised Pagri Sambhal Jatta farmers movement in 1907
and both were externed to Mandalay-Burma in that movement.

Bhagat Singh was amongst the first joinees of National College in Lahore set up by Lala Lajpat Rai in 1921. He was one of the most active reader of Dwarka Das library, which was also set up by Lala ji, a year prior in 1920. They had a bitter-sweet relation as a few times Bhagat Singh and his associates had opposed Lala ji for his active association with communal organisations. During the 1926 Central Assembly elections, Bhagat Singh and his associates had supported Swaraj Party of Motilal Nehru. On one occasion, Lala ji had shut the doors of his bungalow on Bhagat Singh, yet during Simon Commission’s visit to India in 1928, Bhagat Singh and his associates, convinced Lala ji to lead the procession.

Bhagat Singh had very close relations with Nehru family, Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru, Kamala Nehru, Lado Rani Zutshi and Manmohini Sahgal Zutshi. There is evidence of both father and son funding the revolutionaries occasionally.

Both Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru had visited Lahore jail during their trial. The doors of Anand Bhavan were never shut for the revolutionaries. Although Bhagat Singh perhaps never visited Anand Bhavan, Chandrashekhar Azad and Yashpal had been visiting and were always welcomed. Kamala Nehru, wife of Jawaharlal Nehru, had been attending Naujwan Bharat Sabha’s conferences and was present at 27 March conference in Karachi too. Kamala Nehru along with UP Congress leader, Purushottam Das Tandon, had arranged Chandrashekhar Azad’s cremation after his martyrdom in Allahabad on 27 February 1931. Motilal Nehru had advised
revolutionaries to file petition in the Privy council against the judgement for Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.

Jawaharlal Nehru was an admirer of Bhagat Singh’s socialist ideas. Lado Rani Zutshi, niece of Motilal Nehru, went to jail with all her four daughters in protest against the death sentence to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.

Manmohini Zutshi, daughter of Lado Rani, was elected as President of Punjab Students Union set up by revolutionaries and she led the protests against the death sentence in colleges of Lahore. With Netaji Subhas Bose, Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries had a warm relations. Bose not only presided over Students Union conference in Lahore on 19 October 1929, he even visited the court to meet Bhagat Singh that day. Netaji Subhas Bose also organised a big rally in Delhi on 20 March 1931 to protest against death sentence. Madan Mohan Malviya had been in touch with the revolutionaries since Kakori case. He had pleaded to spare the lives of Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaq, Roshan Singh and Lahiri in 1927 and had again pleaded for commutation of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev lives on 14 February 1931 via telegram to Viceroy. Leaders like Motilal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malviya, Jinnah and Dewan
Chaman Lal had been taking up the causes of these revolutionaries in Central Assembly, Delhi from time to time.

Other national leaders, like Sarojini Naidu, and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay had been attending their youth and student conferences. Sarojini Naidu had even watched a play in which Bhagat Singh had played a major role and appreciated it. All leaders of Punjab Congress from Saifuddin Kitchlew, Dr. Satya Pal, Gopi Chand Bhargava, Bhim Sen Sachar, Maulana Zafar Ali, and Kumari Lajjawati were very close to Bhagat Singh. Subhadra Joshi, who remained a member of Parliament later, used to meet Bhagat Singh in court. She used to take food for him and chat with him during lunch. Once, Bhagat Singh had held her hands through the jail bars, which moved her immensely and she started shedding tears.

Among Ghadar party veterans, he had close relations with the likes of Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Baba Prithvi Singh Azad and Bhai Parmanand. Baba Bhakna and Bhai Parmanand were sentenced to death, but saved at the last moment, as their death sentence was turned to life imprisonment. Bhai Parmanand was Bhagat Singh’s history teacher in National College. Baba Bhakna, despite his old age, joined Bhagat Singh and his associates‘ hunger strike, foregoing his remissions for early release. Prithvi Singh Azad accompanied Durga Bhabhi in shooting a British officer in Bombay in September 1930.

Many class fellows or associates of Bhagat Singh in Naujwan Bharat Sabha or Punjab Students Union later rose to high political positions in Punjab and Delhi. Among Bhagat Singh own comrades, Kamal Nath Tiwari remained member of Lok Sabha for a long time. One of his associates in Naujwan Bharat Sabha, Comrade Ram Kishan even became Chief Minister of Punjab during 1964-66.

In Punjab, Amarnath Vidyalankar had remained Education Minister of Punjab for long time. In an interview to the oral history cell of Punjabi University, Patiala he told, “I knew Bhagat Singh very closely. He held study circles along with Principal Chhabil Das. He was very lively, cheerful and jolly. He used to crack jokes, but never hurt anyone with his jokes.”… “His ideology had become communist,
after reading communist literature.”

Chaman Lal, a retired professor from JNU, is an honorary advisor of Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre, Delhi Archives, New Delhi.