Why He Was An Atheist: 23 March, 1931

Bhagat Singh Revolution

On this day in 1931, three revolutionaries were hanged by those in power. We all know them, remember them, but seemed to have forgotten the ideals they stood for. The revolutionary fervour that marked the conscience of these men is all but lost in the post-modern age of gluttonous consumption. It is time we looked back, and looked out of the shells we have so cosily created for ourselves.

“Lovers, lunatics and poets are all made of the same stuff,” Bhagat Singh wrote in his jail diary, and one senses that the poet and the revolutionary had coalesced into a whole in this one man. One of the most venerated theorists of the Revolution, he is eulogized worldwide for his sacrifices in striving to attain liberation from imperialism of the British. An undaunted hero of a people who were lost in the labyrinth of colonization, Bhagat Singh was successful in inciting a revolutionary fervour in the languid and torpor laden mindsets.

His ideology was radical and piercing, which did not heedlessly refute the reliance on violence. Born to a father who had an aggressive political stance against the colonizers, Bhagat Singh nurtured a growing desire to witness India free itself from the shackles of imperialism and adopt ideas of socialism and communism, like many of the revolutionary intellectuals of the time. Bhagat Singh experienced a transformative journey during the course of his struggle where his notions and ideals were constantly challenged and ultimately galvanized. He metamorphosed from being a Gandhian Nationalist to a Romantic Revolutionary, and then after coming under the influence of Terro Communism for a short period, finally became an unadulterated Marxist. His potent questions relating to the socio-economic relations strewn by the notions of secularism and atheism, religion and society, raised in the literary works he produced reflect on his mature understanding of India’s position during the time.

In his essay ‘Why I am an Atheist’, which was written during the last years of his life, Bhagat Singh took the discourse to a pragmatic, detached and argumentative pedestal. Despite his upbringing in an atmosphere enveloped in the Arya Samaj school of thought, he had the audacity to question religious norms and bring them to the altitude of being thoroughly exploitative in nature. He endorsed the opinion that God is a figment of imagination of a helpless human, who relies on this imaginary crutch in times of distress. He believed that it was imperative for man to forego the ancient ideals and stand proudly by the principles of realism, rationalism and be in tune with the times. He shunned the possibility of an understanding of religion stemming from vanity, and credited his thoughts to the copious amounts of reading he had undertaken. Even though his writings were criticized as blatant blasphemy, one was forced to acknowledge the revolutionary potential of his works which question each of the societal construct which is often taken for granted.

Bhagat Singh not only contributed in transcending the confines of colonization but also created a gigantic reservoir of challenging thought. Often, in the celebration of his martyrdom, the hues of revolutionary thought painted by him are disregarded. On the anniversary of his demise, let us not only pay reverence to his great sacrifices, but also appreciate the wholeness of his thought.

Radhika Chugh

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