In sharp contrast to Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s popular image as a gun-toting revolutionary, a recently released volume of his jottings in jail reveal the patriot’s scholarly leanings.
Titled ‘Bhagat Singh’s Jail Note Book’ and released here on Sunday, the 300-page volume traces for the first time every note from the books he read in jail, shedding light on his passion for poetry. It also busts myths surrounding the notebook through diligent research.
Speaking at the book launch, author Harish Puri, who has studied Punjab’s revolutionary movements, said: “Known among his comrades as an avid reader, Bhagat Singh managed to procure during his imprisonment a large number of selected works of prominent authors of his choice.”
The excerpts, notes and quotes from these books reflect not only his serious study, intellectual insight, and social and political concerns, but also include the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, William Wordsworth, John Milton, Omar Khayyam, Wajid Ali Shah, Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal.
“He was being tortured in the jail, yet they provided him with whatever he wanted to read and allowed him to keep a notebook to write at his will. This shows that even his oppressors knew of his exceptional intellect,” said Panjab University (PU) political science professor Ronki Ram.
The notes were written between September 1929 and March 1931, and the notebook was passed on to Bhagat Singh’s family after his death. Scholars have often debated why it was kept under wraps for more than 60 years.
“My conjecture,” said the book’s publisher Harish Jain “is that that his brother, Kultar Singh, kept it as a family heirloom without realising the importance of the work.”
“The writings of young Bhagat Singh reveal the amazing depth of his vision,” said Punjab and Haryana high court judge Ajay Tewari, who released the book. PU history professor Jasbir Singh said it was through his written word and not the gun-toting posters that today’s youth could learn more about the martyr.
The volume suggests Bhagat Singh read 46 books while in jail, as opposed to the claim that pegs that number close to 500. Rajinder Singh Brar, formerly of Punjabi University, Patiala, who anchored the book launch, said even in what the martyr chose to note and leave out, his revolutionary fervour was visible.
Bhagat Singh, who was born in September 1907, were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case along with Rajguru and Sukhdev, and the three were hanged on March 23, 1931, in the Lahore jail.
This volume is fifth in a series of books brought out by Unistar on the hanging of Bhagat Singh, with scholar Malwinder Jit Singh Waraich as its editor. “It took me a decade to trace the original quotes and include additional notes. It was a worthwhile journey through which I learned much,” said Jain.
Unistar has published 50-odd books on revolutionaries.