Fighting over legacy: Was Bhagat Singh nationalist or revolutionary?

The ABVP lays claim to Bhagat’s Singh’s legacy as ‘Rashtarvad’ or nationalism; the SFS projects him as an ‘inquilabi’ or a great revolutionary. 

punjab Updated: Sep 04, 2017 10:10 IST
Shub Karman Dhaliwal
Shub Karman Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Panjab University,Panjab University elections,Bhagat Singh
Members of PUSU, ISA and PPSpO during the panel announcement of their alliance at Student Centre, Panjab University on Chandigarh. (Karun Sharma/HT)

Putting student welfare issues on the back-burner, two student organisations have resorted to debating revolutionary Bhagat Singh’s true legacy. The question: Was Bhagat Singh a ‘rashtarvadi’ (nationalist) or an ‘inquilabi’ ( revolutionary)? This has become the new theme in the electoral battle on the Panjab University campus.

The Students for Society (SFS) has used Bhagat Singh’s image in their campaign posters, invoking his slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, meaning, ‘Long live the revolution’ in Urdu. However, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has taken up the mantle to prove that Bhagat Singh stood for nationalism and sacrificed himself to free the country of the foreign rule.

The right-wing student outfit’s campaign lays claim to Bhagat’s Singh’s legacy as ‘Rashtarvad’, the Sangh Parivar’s core agenda. The party is saying he was not a leftist as is being claimed by left-wing outfits. It is not a secret in PU that the ABVP and the SFS have no love lost for each other.

The SFS projects Bhagat Singh as a great revolutionary and have left no stone unturned in proving that he was an ‘inquilabi’, who embedded the slogan into the psyche of millions of Indians.

“Bhagat Singh, who gave up his life for freedom, would be happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because he continues to be a youth icon; but sad as the younger generation is divided over his legacy,” said a senior PU professor, who did not wish to be named, adding, “he would have never thought that a day will come when youngsters will fight over him to decide whether he was a ‘rashtarvadi’ or an ‘inquilabi’.”


The SFS is known for its unique campaigning style. They stage ‘nukkad nataks’ to propagate their agenda on campus. But the ABVP has also decided to counter the party by copying their style.

On Saturday, the ABVP staged a play, ‘Bhagat Singh Faraar’. In the play, Bhagat Singh is depicted to be dreaming. He arrives on the PU campus and is surprised to see students raising slogans ‘Awaaz do hum azaad hain’ and ‘Inquilab zindabad’. In a pensive mood, he starts saying he fought for azaadi, so why were they asking for it even after living in a democratic set up.

He turns around to see slogans being raised against the Indian Army where they were being called ‘rapists’. In a state of disbelief, he asks Rajguru and Sukhdev what was happening in these educational institutions. This was not the India they imagined.

However, Harman Singh, media secretary of the SFS, said, “The literary works of Bhagat Singh clearly mention that he was a socialist and was influenced by Marxist and Leninist ideologies and the Russian Revolution. The ABVP members have never read anything about Bhagat Singh and are just exploiting his name.”

First Published: Sep 03, 2017 10:04 IST