New archive centre in Delhi traces life of Bhagat Singh and his fight for freedom

Original documents and photographs related to freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s arrest, imprisonment and trial are now available for public viewing at Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre in Delhi Archives.

delhi Updated: Mar 24, 2018 18:18 IST
Parvez Sultan
Parvez Sultan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bhagat Singh,Archives,Freedon struggle
Delhi Archives in Qutub Institutional Area has created a dedicated section on Bhagat Singh.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

‘Political activities’ by students in a municipal school in New Delhi had raised the hackles of the Crime Investigation Department (CID). The agency, in its ‘confidential’ report dated November 5, 1930, sent to Delhi’s deputy commissioner, had said that students are ‘wearing buttons bearing the photos of Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, and other revolutionary leaders’ in classrooms.

The incident happened about a month after the special tribunal, set up to examine the assassination of assistant superintendent of police John Saunders, had sentenced Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru to death on October 7.

On March 23, 1931, the three were hanged at Lahore jail. This day is observed as Martyr’s Day in India every year.

“I have reliable source information that the authorities of MB High School, New Delhi (possibly NP Boys Senior Secondary School at Mandir Marg), are being very lax in regard to the political activities of their classes... it seems that the headmaster and Dola Ram, second master are largely responsible for this state of affairs though the former ordered the removal of the photos on November 3 after a very long delay,” said the note signed by the Superintendent of Police, CID.

This classified letter along with original documents and photographs related to the arrest, imprisonment and trial of Singh and Dutt in another case regarding the bombing of central legislative assembly (now known as Parliament House), are now available for public at the Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre at Delhi Archives in Qutub Institutional Area.

The facility was inaugurated on Friday by Delhi’s development minister Gopal Rai.

The function was attended by major general Sheonan Singh, a decedent of Singh, and noted historian and professor Irfan Habib, among others.

The centre houses about 2,000 books in various languages (including English, Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, and Punjabi) on the country’s independence movement and the life of freedom fighters. It has original records, digitised manuscripts and photocopies of documents about the freedom struggle including the Civil Disobedience Movement 1932, and photos of Singh and his family.

One of the rare exhibits at the centre is a file containing daily health records of Singh and Dutt while they were on hunger strike (at Mianwali and Lahore jail respectively) seeking better status of ‘political prisoners’ so that they could avail better facilities like quality food, literary journals, periodicals, and toiletries.

Their health updates were shared between the Delhi commissioner and the inspector general of prison, Punjab every day. “The jail authority would take their temperature twice a day in the morning and the evening and keep a tab on their blood pressure. Whenever their condition deteriorated, both were force fed. However, they would resist, says the documents,” said Ashutosh Kumar Jha, an assistant archivist at Delhi archives.

Original jail records, bearing thumb impressions of Singh and Dutt are also at the display at centre. “Our collection is sourced from various places like National Archives. The idea is to make available as much information to people interested in the freedom struggle and freedom fighters,” said Sanjay Kumar Garg, head, Delhi Archives.

Experts on the life of Bhagat Singh, professor Chaman Lal of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Kripal Chandra Yadav of Kurukshetra University also contributed to the centre from their personal collection.

First Published: Mar 24, 2018 18:14 IST