“Our country is in really bad shape; here are the strangest questions asked, but the foremost among them concerns the untouchables. For instance, would contact with an untouchable mean defilement of an upper caste? Would the Gods in the temples not get angry by the entry of untouchables there? Would the drinking water of a well not get polluted if untouchables drew their water from the same well? These questions are asked in the 20th century, which make us hang our heads in shame”.
Bhagat Singh wrote this in 1928, and he was aghast at the situation prevailing at that time. It will not be wrong to speculate that if he were alive today, he would still be aghast because the situation is almost the same. We have come a long way in India’s fight against the caste system, and we have been able to abate some of its effects too. But a long way is still to be covered as people are still asking strangest questions and getting involved in strangest debates, leaving aside the crucial topics necessary for the development of India.
Take the instance of the recent death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The actor died. People were not convinced with reports being shown in the media that the actor died by suicide. So, they demanded a C.B.I. probe, and it was granted. That should have been it because obviously debating about an ongoing case sounds right when done among friends, but when the National Media does so, it’s not good. And exactly this is happening right now. Nobody is asking the questions that need to be asked.
India’s GDP continues to shrink. Unemployment is on the peak. People are losing jobs. Families are under stress. Data is missing about migrant workers and health workers who got infected with COVID-19, the number of coronavirus cases is on the rise, farmers are on the streets, but no, NO-ONE-CARES.
Media is busy in upping their T.R.P. game. Politicians are busy diverting people’s attention to other useless issues. And people, people are busy being the puppets.
Questions need to be asked. Where did the government go easy? Where did the intelligence fail? Why was the government so ignorant and complacent regarding Coronavirus during the initial phases? Why didn’t it ramp up the medical facilities when it had time despite several warnings and suggestions from experts? Why were the migrant labourers left to die on roads? And still, the government boasts about taking care of all the migrant labourers. You know why?
Because we don’t ask the real questions. People in power need to be held accountable. It is not about being against or with the government. I personally think both the stances are equally harmful to the country. If you are with the government, you will not see any flaws, which is obviously detrimental to democracy. And if you are against the government, then you won’t ever see any merit in the government.
And also, both the stances defeat the whole purpose of elections. Elections need to be held on the basis of merit and flaws of the government, carefully and rationally observed and calculated. Taking sides would kill rationalism and would definitely defeat the whole purpose of elections.
So, questioning the government is not anti-national. It is a healthy exercise and helps the government too. Ask questions, but the right ones. This is what Bhagat Singh wanted from the youth of his nation.
Bhagat Singh founded the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Lahore in 1926, whose manifesto said, “Religious superstitions and bigotry are a great hindrance in our progress. They have proved an obstacle in our way, and we must do away with them. ‘The thing that cannot bear freethought must perish’.”
In 1928, Bhagat Singh was very much aware of the divisiveness of mixing religion with politics, and he wrote, “If religion is separated from politics, then all of us can jointly initiate political activities, even though in matters of religion we might have many differences with each other. We feel that the true well-wishers of India would follow these principles and save India from the suicidal path it is on at present.”
Reading his voice today seems like Bhagat Singh was talking about the current situation prevailing in 21st century India. Because, even today, many of us continue to aggressively mix religion with politics to promote political prospects. Today, when almost half of India’s population lives on less than $2 a day, the unemployment rate in the country is on the peak, autonomy of Independent pillars of the constitution is at risk and being questioned, women’s safety is a major concern, political leaders are supporting the accused rapists, transparency is being converted into opaqueness, we are more involved in asking questions such as, “Mandir banega ya Masjid”? (Will a temple be constructed or a mosque?)
We do not ask questions as, why are lynchings in India increasing? Why Is killing in the name of religion has become a new normal? Why are we having vigilante groups roaming around freely, with the support of the government? Who gives power to these groups to beat up common citizens of India?
Because in the past few years, religion has been so aggressively mixed with nationalism by the politicians that everything is a matter of concern of nationalism today.
“Tumhara dharm khatre mein hai, aur tumhe hi isi bachana hoga” (Your religion is in danger and you have to save it), provoking statements like these have been engraved into the minds of people so forcefully that people have started acting accordingly, and are now standing against their fellow citizens.
While one cannot also deny the fact India today was one of the fastest-growing economies (before COVID-19) in the world. And its economy has been continuously growing since 2014, but at the same time, communal harmony is also being threatened and disrupted, the constitution is being threatened, unity of India is being threatened since 2014.
And I think, that the growth of a country, which involves separation and division and death of its people, unemployment, poverty, opaqueness between government and people, the declining importance of the constitution, religious tensions, is not at all the kind of growth India needs.
Instead, it’s India’s biggest defeat.
This is not the kind of growth our freedom fighters envisaged.
This is not the kind of India Bhagat Singh envisaged.
Today, we need to remember the revolutionary ideas of Bhagat Singh. Mere admiration of his nationalism and ultimate sacrifice is not enough. In these tough times, his thoughts should inspire the people of India; it should inspire them to do something for the country; it should also inspire them to hold their loyalty towards humanity and nation and towards any political party or any politician.