Monday, March 27, 2017
BY LAL KHAN
On March 23rd 1931 Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary icon of the liberation struggle was assassinated through the gallows in the Lahore jail by the British imperialists. In the official and the unofficial historiographies the real facts of the people’s struggles and the folklore heroes who fought are expediently suppressed. Bhagat Singh’s legacy has been the victim of such censorship.
Inspite of these sanctions and distortions Bhagat Singh’s struggle and message have continued to inspire millions throughout the subcontinent. His revolutionary struggle became so potent that it even threatened the leadership of the native bourgeois leaders. The orders of his execution by the Viceroy of India at the time, Lord Irving had a tacit approval of Ghandi.
A few days later the Indian masses were inflicted with the harrowing corollaries of the Ghandi -Irving Pact. Bhagat Singh’s legacy is tarnished and distorted on both sides of the Radcliff line by the reactionary politicians and intelligentsia to mould the history to distract the toiling classes from treading the path of his revolutionary legacy.
In Pakistan the religious and conservative right condemn Bhagat Singh as a kaafir and a terrorist. His Sikh ancestry is abused and ideological convictions deprecated to undermine his inspirational struggle for successive generations. What these obscurantist masters of our ethics and morality forget is the historical harmony of the ordinary people with different faith backgrounds in the subcontinent for ages. There are innumerable anecdotes that exhibit this affinity.
A moving example was of the fifth Sikh Guru Arjun waiting impatiently in Amritsar for Mian Mir to arrive from Lahore and lay the foundation stone of the Golden temple. The right wing analysts reject any role of Bhagat Singh in the struggle against imperialists not only because it is a source of unity of the people of across religious divisions but also because of there volutionary conclusions of lifelong struggle that socialist ideas were the only way-out from this exploitative system imposed by the Raj.
In India the portrayal of Bhagat Singh is no less incongruous. The Sikh fundamentalist Khalsa’s have turned him in to turban wearing devout Sikh and the reactionary fundamentalist Hindutva of BJP used his iconic figure to justify their nationalist chauvinism. Weeks before the 2014 election Narindera Modi, was invited to launch a book on Bhagat Singh. Modi’s invitation for the book’s inauguration was only made possible by the manipulation and bribery of Singh’s far relatives. Political parties representing diverse sections of the reactionary Indian bourgeois employ Bhagat Singh’s out of context quotes for their own vested interests.
It is true that Bhagat Singh began his struggle as a revolutionary nationalist fighting British imperialists. However his ideological evolution in the heat of struggle brought him to the conclusion that without a socialist revolution there can be no genuine independence for the masses.
Bhagat was profoundly inspired by the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 in Russia. He diligently studied the works of Marxism, Lenin and contemporary revolutionaries. In his writings, Bhagat rejected class collaboration. He wrote in ‘Outlines of a Revolutionary Programme: A Letter to Young Political Activists’. “If you are planning to approach the workers and peasants for active participation, then I would like to tell you that they couldn’t be fooled through some sort of sentimental rhetoric. They will clearly ask you what your revolution would give them, for which you are demanding sacrifice from them. If in place of Lord Reading, Sir Purushottam Das Thakur becomes the representative of the government, how would this affect people? How would a peasant be affected if Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru comes in place of Lord Irwin? The appeal to nationalist sentiments is a farce.”
He also laid bare the real role of Ghandi and the Congress, “What is the motive of Congress? I said that the present movement would end in some sort of compromise or total failure. The real revolutionary forces have not been invited to join the movement. It is being conducted only on the basis of a few middle class shopkeepers and a few capitalists. Both of these classes, specifically the capitalists, cannot venture to endanger their property. The real armies of the revolution are in villages and factories, the peasants and workers. But our bourgeois leaders don’t dare take them along, nor can they do so. These sleeping tigers, once they wake up from their slumber, are not going to stop even after the accomplishment of the mission of our leaders.”
The message that Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt sent to the Punjab Students Conference on October 19, 1929 symbolised their maturing revolutionary clarity. “Today we cannot ask the youth to take to pistols and bombs... The youth will have to bear a great burden in this difficult time in the history of the nation... They have to awaken the millions and millions of slum-dwellers of the industrial areas and villagers living in worn-out cottages...”
On February 2, 1931 writing of the turning point in his revolutionary career, Bhagat Singh stated, “I began to study, my previous faith and convictions underwent a remarkable modification.
The romance of the violent methods, alone which was so prominent among our predecessors, was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith. The revolutionaries know better than anybody else that the socialist society is the only destiny for human emancipation.”
Bhagat Singh along with his comrades in arms Sukhdev and Raj Guru were hanged, their bodies mutilated and later burnt in the wee hours of that tragic March night at the Central Jail in Lahore. The Central Jail was demolished and no memorial or commemorative plaques of these valiant revolutionaries exists at the site. Yet their revolutionary message lives on.
It could not be wiped out from transcending generations. Bhagat Singh was voted the “Greatest Indian” in a poll by the India’s leading magazine India Today in 2008, ahead of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Mohandas Gandhi. There are rich lessons to be learnt and courage attained from Bhagat Singh’s heroic legacy of struggle in life and death by those striving today to transform this system of drudgery, tyranny and misery.
Jamaat-e-Islami is a political organization which appears to rule the hearts and minds of a majority of urban people in Pakistan despite their dismal electoral performance. This statement would be heartening for a supporter of the Islamist party still struggling to make a dent in the secular wall of Punjab and Sindh.
One of the reasons to demonstrate that is the complete lack of checks and control over their band of young fascist goons, the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT). Any given elected civilian government and even the military establishment are heavily under the influence of their ideological supremacy. They promise to establish Sharia in Pakistan despite having already influenced the theocratic elements in the Pakistani constitution. This in other words means that we are a work in progress to reach the excellence of the Islamic State (in Iraq and Syria).
The IJT are in the news again for disrupting a cultural event in the public educational institution Punjab University held by a secular Pashtun student organization PSF. This obviously resulted in a clash that has seen many injured and the environment of calm and peace destroyed for thousands of students in Lahore. Yes, this is Punjab we are talking about.
This is not for the first time of course and it surely would not be the last. Just a simple internet search about news related to them should suffice. Exhibit A.
I wish it would be the last straw that would have us say that enough is enough.
The pioneers of violence in student politics and the prime factors resulting in the creation of counter fascist (not counter-fascist) secular movements like APMSO, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (Islamic Student Organization) has remained a menacing force in politics in Pakistan. The Islami Jamiat Talaba pretending to be representative of a democratic party and democratic values, always resort to violence for a reason. Because they actually work on a theocratic logic (which is never democratic) and are trained to silence everyone that holds a different world view. Because that is just the way religion works.
Also, it is about time we stop buying the same arguments about the alleged democracy of their mothership, the Jamaat-e-Islami, because that is precisely how they work as well. At least they promise Sharia in their manifesto in addition to what we have in Pakistan. Their so-called democratic process of electing an Emir is the biggest farce you are ever going to see.
Offering us the worst of the both worlds, the IJT is a mixture of toxic Islamist ideology and second hand anger fueled by misplaced male hormones, a trait they share with their secular brethren. This group of goons, just like the undemocratic party they represent, should be immediately banned from participating in politics nationwide, in educational institutes at least. And there are valid reasons why.
Ask yourself this question honestly. How many times have you heard that the activists of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba have disrupted cultural and educational activities? While I know that the secular and progressive student unions do not have a clean sheet to offer as well, and I am not a fan, there is simply no parallel when it comes to the history the Jamiat enjoys. And that too, completely unchecked. Even in the overwhelmingly theological International Islamic University Islamabad, the organization (which enjoys a complete totalitarian control there) has been known to disrupt mixed gender conferences in its relatively and nominally secular business school.
I know a lot of my friends would disagree and I would understand, but I was relieved that student unions were banned by military dictators during my days in college. Because that offered the students some peace due to the break in regular violence. Still in those days, the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) enjoyed unchecked influence not only in institutions heavily funded by Muslim majority Gulf states but also in various public secular institutions like the Punjab University.
They had always been a major force in the Karachi University at least. They introduced weapons and violence in the politics of Karachi under the secure guidance of our state which kick-started the sh*t-storm the city is in today. But even that is a smaller and long forgotten crime in comparison to the good work they are doing every day.
The biggest reason to ban the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) is simply the fascist, authoritarian, and totalitarian ideology they are poisoning the minds of our youth with. They abuse the freedoms offered by the democratic process to push their theocratic agenda and aim to make Pakistan a far more frightening state than Iran or Saudi Arabia. I know a lot of people would jump to attack this piece as endorsing undemocratic ideas, but sadly the IJT and their sympathizers do not know the first thing about democracy. Yes, even the political party of Adolf Hitler won a popular vote election and then suspended democracy. So, just having an election is not democracy, unfortunately.
Like other authoritarians such as Communists, fascists and Nazis, the Jamaat-e-Islami, IJT, and their ideology are the very anti-thesis of democracy, make no mistake about it.
I know the title of this piece is kind of ridiculous because any time to ban the IJT nationwide is good and it should have been done long ago. And of course, whenever a ban on student unions is indeed put in place, the solution is to punish everyone for their crimes.
Because why discriminate against totalitarian theocrats?
Thanks to them, we have a theocratic constitution anyway.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari said on Sunday that his party would not allow the ruling PML-N to steal the upcoming elections in connivance with returning officers.
‘We are fully prepared for 2018 elections as my son, daughters and I are in the political arena. In 2013, our hands were tied (a reference to threats to PPP rallies in Punjab by the militants), but now we will tell them (Sharifs) how to contest elections’ said Zardari.
Addressing a jubilant crowd of party workers at the residence of Nadeem Afzal Chan in Lahore, he expressed that he would enlist the help of other political forces in a bid to thwart rigging.
‘PPP was never defeated. In the last election, it was defeated by ROs. To ensure transparent and rigging-free elections in 2018 we will contact other parties,’ Mr Zardari said, adding that now the PPP would tell how an election is contested.
Asif Zardari, who is currently in the country after spending over one and a half years in self-exile maintained that the provincial capital would welcome him in much the same manner as it welcomed Benazir Bhutto when roads were choked as party workers swarmed to catch a glimpse of their leader.
He asked the workers to replace the slogan ‘Ek Zardari sab par bhari’ with ‘Ek Zardari sab say yari’.
A delegation of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry also called on PPP co-chairman and exchanged views regarding the current economic condition of the country.
Mr Zardari said foreign loans had been taken on exorbitant rate which was not good for the country’s economy, adding that both traders and farmers were suffering because of wrong policies of the PML-N government.
“The benefits of lower oil prices are not being passed on to the people. PPP will come to power again and open more trade avenues with China,” he said.