Freedom fighter Bhagat Singh was executed by the British on March 23, 1931. As a child, Sardar Singh idealized Gandhiji. However, his growing frustration with the nonviolent method and his desire to free India from British domination by any means necessary drove him to lead a coup against the foreign British government which had installed itself on Indian soil and sapped the Indian people of income and livelihood, though they never lost their spirit. In this March 29, 1931 bulletin in Young India, Gandhi pays tribute to Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom. At the same time, Gandhi pointed out that Bhagat Singh’s method, though noble in its ideal, could not win a secure and lasting peace for the embattled Indian nation. In the realization of true freedom, that is, freedom of the soul, Gandhiji asserted, means and ends must coincide.
As we approach the 73rd anniversary of Gandhiji’s own assassination, then, we cannot afford to forget that though Nathuram Godse assassinated him on 30 January 1948, the greatness of Gandhiji’s soul, his mahatmaship, is such that it bids us to forgive Godse as Gandhiji forgave even General Dyer for the latter’s atrocities during the Jallianwalabagh Massacre. As the Mahatma remarked, “it would be sin for me to serve General Dyer and co-operate with him to shoot innocent men. But it will be an exercise of forgiveness or love for me to nurse him back to life, if he was suffering from a physical malady” (Young India, 25 August 1920). In saying so, he implied that though Dyer had killed the bodies of the Jallianwalabagh Martyr, he would never be able to slay their souls, their atman.
ON THE MARTYRDOM OF BHAGAT SINGH
Bhagat Singh and his two associates have been hanged. The Congress made many attempts to save their lives and the Government entertained many hopes of it, but all has been in a vain.
Bhagat Singh did not wish to live. He refused to apologize, or even file an appeal. Bhagat Singh was not a devotee of non-violence, but he did not subscribe to the religion of violence. He took to violence due to helplessness and to defend his homeland. In his last letter, Bhagat Singh wrote –” I have been arrested while waging a war. For me there can be no gallows. Put me into the mouth of a cannon and blow me off.” These heroes had conquered the fear of death. Let us bow to them a thousand times for their heroism.
But we should not imitate their act. In our land of millions of destitute and crippled people, if we take to the practice of seeking justice through murder, there will be a terrifying situation. Our poor people will become victims of our atrocities. By making a dharma of violence, we shall be reaping the fruit of our own actions.
Hence, though we praise the courage of these brave men, we should never countenance their activities. Our dharma is to swallow our anger, abide by the discipline of non-violence and carry out our duty.
—Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, March 29, 1931