Revisiting Bhagat Singh: Ideology and Politics

Extracts from Revisiting Bhagat Singh: Ideology and Politics by Datta Desai as published on

As stated in “Why I am an Atheist?” a boy from a Sikh family with Arya Samajist background who regularly did his prayers and chanting of Gayatri Mantra twice a day, turned into a complete atheist by 1926. His atheism was not merely an act of negating   religion mechanically. If we go through his various writings on “Kooka Revolt”, “Anarchism”, “Religion and our Freedom Struggle”, “Communal Riots & the Solution”, “The problem of Untouchability”, “Different thoughts of New leader” and scattered statements in various other articles and documents, we can get a glimpse of the mind of an intellectual who is trying to grasp the complexity of religion, society & politics in the then existing Indian context with a Marxist understanding which was rare even among the stalwarts of our  freedom struggle including those from the Left in that decade.

He analyses the concept of God and religion, not only his well-known article ‘Why I Am An Atheist’ (1930) but also prior to that in one of his articles written on ‘Anarchism’ (1928). In these writings, his emphasis is on the exploitative and iniquitous character of these concepts and the social institutions based on them, and how religion becomes an instrument in the hands of feudal and capitalist vested interests and the ruling classes. He also touches the other side of this problem. The origins and the need of God and religion for the human beings and the society lies in their lack of scientific understanding of the nature, environment and society, and the lack of power to control their own life, society and destiny. He discusses how God and religion become useful myths to the people living in hardships and for the man in distress.

Finally, it cannot be denied that Bhagat Singh was a rebel against the foreign despotic rule over the country, not one who took to arms in order to subvert democratic government working according to the rule of law and will of the people. In this context, his article on ‘Anarchism’ needs a mention. While discussing the political movements in Europe and Russia, he draws our attention to the fact that the revolutionaries who were trying to bring about a political change through peaceful means were compelled to resort to anti-state ‘terrorist’ actions as it was the state repression that made it impossible to conduct any peaceful and open political activities.36

 In his ‘A Letter to the Young Revolutionaries’ he makes his ideological position distinctly clear, where he says – “Apparently I have acted like a terrorist. But I am not a terrorist. I am a revolutionary who bears much concrete and specific ideas of a long-term programme…”37 and then he states, “We want a socialist revolution, for which the indispensable foundation is a political revolution. That is what we want. The political revolution means the transfer of the state (or to put it bluntly, the power) from the hands of the British to the hands of the Indians, and that too, those Indians who are at one with us as to the final goal. To be more precise, it is necessary that the power be transferred to the revolutionary party through the efforts of the common people. After that, to proceed in right earnest is to organize the reconstruction of the whole society on the socialist basis….”



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