We’re such a nation of nit-pickers. And when the subject is the portrayal of freedom fighters, boy, we simply are the nit-pickmeisters of them all. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued an advertisement marking Martyrs’ Day. A nice, touching gesture, we thought, remembering the day in 1931 when Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar were hanged to death for the murder of Deputy Superintendent of Police, J.P. Saunders (instead of the intended target, chief of police J.A. Scott).
It turns out now that some navel-gazers are upset about the government’s Martyrs’ Day ad depicting Bhagat Singh in a red turban as opposed to the yellow one as shown in the original painting from which the picture in the ad is lifted from. Some members of his family are also upset that he was shown in a turban at all, stating that he “wore a European-style hat”. Surely, the shaheed was not always wearing a “European-style hat”? Another disaffected voice was upset that he was shown wearing a patch of beard. The fact is that he did have a beard which he shaved while escaping from the police in Lahore after the assassination of Scott. But that’s like telling a Gandhi-bhakt upset on seeing the young Mahatma in a European style suit that he did wear more than khadi at some point in his life.
The bottomline: in a bid to claim ownership of such a national icon, everyone does their bit to point out how they know more about him than the other. Next, we’ll find someone upset when someone highlights the fact that the author of the pamphlet Why I Am An Atheist Bhagat Singh found the belief in God ridiculous and a sign of human weakness. Imagine one of our patriotic lot quoting their hero’s words, “I have chosen to deny the existence of a god... since I find god to be irrelevant.” Now, that’ll be the day.