Mai rang dey…

Sarabjeet D Natesan

Author: Sarabjeet D Natesan

Date: Mon, 2018-03-05 14:49

In one corner of my cupboard in my room in Chennai is a prized possession. Not an ornament of gold, not a designer watch, not a diamond necklace and surprisingly not even a book.  It is a painting. Painted by and gifted to me by a dear friend, Iqbal, of our collective hero, Shaheed Bhagat Singh.  For us, he was a superhero; our childhood made sure of that. He was an egalitarian. A brave man. An honest man.  A man of vision.  A man on a mission.  There will never be another. And to him our collective gratitude of sowing the seed of freedom and liberty in our minds. Perhaps no one else has invoked such charm, such love, such admiration as him. His quest for an independent India was born, when at the age of 12 he visited the Jallianwala Bagh hours after the massacre led by General Dyer. He brought back a handful of blood-soaked mud so as not to forget the gruesome sight and experience. Born to a Sandhu Jat Sikh family, he gave up his faith and became an atheist because he could not understand the open Hindu-Muslim hostilities in India at that time.  From Adam Smith to Karl Marx to Hugo, to Dickens, his readings were wide and inspiring.  His ideology was based not on vitriol and contempt but on knowledge and information.  And at an age where most of us are unclear and unsure of what we are and what we want to be, he was ready to die for the nation.

Basant or spring in India is associated with the color yellow, a time when flowers bloom, when the earth is bathed in the colours of mustard and skies are blue and winters are receding. Yellow is the color of fertility, and in agrarian societies, the significance of spring cannot be overstated.  It means harvest of grains, of sustenance and of life.  It also means replanting and continuance of bounty and once again, of life.  The aspirations of spring are happiness, bravery, and gratitude at having survived another harsh winter.

Yet, yellow is also the colour of sacrifice.

It is said often, that while marching courageously to the gallows at Lahore Central Jail, on March 23rd, 1931, Bhagat Singh, RajGuru and Sukhdev raised ‘Inqulaab Zindabad’ slogans and sang, ‘Rang de basanti chola, mai rang de, rang de basanti chola’.  Written in 1927, the words of this song were penned by by Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil with 18 other revolutionaries and freedom fighters; Ashfaqullah Khan, Khatri, Thakur, Roshna and others who were incarcerated in Lucknow Central Prison for the Kakori Train Robbery. This iconic song was written for the spring season, for renewal of hope and metaphorically spoke of the aspirations of the multitude and their yearning for freedom.  The significance of this song is immense.  It united an entire nation.  It spurred the freedom struggle afresh and it alluded to sacrifice of self, of service to the nation and also the glory of martyrdom, and yet made light of it, calling themselves, a highly determined group of freedom fighters, a band of joyful friends in search of justice, liberty and choice.

And its words left no one behind. It implored the eternal mother, mother of all, provider of all; to renew the colours of life and also poignantly, loss.

Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev were 23 years old and Rajguru a mere 22, when the trio was hanged to death on charges arising from the shooting of John Saunders and bombing the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi.  Such was the palpable fear of a public outcry that the hanging was advanced by 11 hours.   And three young lives were snuffed out because the mighty British Empire felt threatened.  In doing this, it denied them the due process of criminal jurisprudence.  They were not given an opportunity to defend themselves and the judgments were passed ex-parte. Reportedly, no magistrate at the time was willing to supervise the hangings as was required by law. The execution was supervised by an honorary judge, who also signed the three new death warrants, because the original warrants had expired. All the while and till today, affirming our beliefs that governments, big and small are often scared and unable to deal with any kind of rebellion. 

As we stand at the crossroads of destiny and history and as another 23rd March approaches, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves where our purpose lies.  Reawaken our senses and make sense of this nation of ours, to reaffirm our faith in the secular, socialist, republic that we call India and our home? Or turn our youthful spring into an eternal winter wasteland, to tear apart the fabrics of our morality, thoughts and being?

Once again, the Mai waits, desolately yet in eternal expectation, to stitch the tattered essence of India, to bind us all as one.

This time with a yellow thread.

" Mera Rang De Basanti Chola

o mera rang de basanti chola mera rang de hai
o mera rang de basanti chola oye rang besamaan hai
basanti chola maai rang de basanti chola
mera rang de basanti chola

dam nikale is desh ki khaatir bas itna armaan hai
ek baar is raah mein marna sau janmon ke samaan hai
dekh ke veeron ki qurabaani apna dil bhi bola
mera rang de basanti chola
o mera rang de basanti chola mera rang de
o mera rang de basanti chola oy rang de basanti chola
maai rang de basanti chola

jis chole ko pahan shivaaji khele apni jaan pe
jise pehan jhaansi ki raani mit gayi apni aan pe
aaj usi ko pehan ke nikla pehan ke nikala
aaj usi ko pehan ke nikla ham mastano ka tola

mera rang de basanti chola
o mera rang de basanti chola mera rang de
 o mera rang de basanti chola oy rang de
basanti chola maai rang de basanti chola

-Ram Prashad Bismil

1927, Lucknow Central Jail. "


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Beautifully written.

Thanks a lot Tulsi, Appreciate your kind words.

A nice article ma'am. What I would like to add is that in recent times, the purview of outcry against the powers that be has changed. As a free and democratic country, the youth should be aware enough to raise the voices against any wrong-doing and not be afraid of the consequences. We have been given a great gift - freedom - and that should be used judiciously. We sometimes take it for granted. I feel our true sacrifice will be if we, as representatives of youth, can leave aside our prejudices and mould ourselves to become keen, respectful and connected people (not virtually) the next generation will look up to.

Definitely true, but we will also do well to remember that freedom is inclusive, non judgemental and leaves no one behind. And any fight created and won on religious and race lines will be lost just as easily. We have a lot of ground to cover if we want to leave a legacy behind.

Respected Mam, greetings! I must admit after reading through your blog, I felt quite emotional. On every 23rd March, many people including me miss the trio of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru and pay our homage for their martyrdom for our independence. As you rightly pointed out, we have deep impression on our minds about the life of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. When everyone looked upon Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders of the Indian National congress as their mentors for Indian freedom struggle, Bhagat Singh stood apart and developed his own thinking based on socialism. Any revolution has a base of ideology, devoid of which it loses its purpose and hence the sanctity. The fact that the idea of Bhagat Singh's revolution was based on strong base of ideology and vision, not only it dealt a massive jolt to the British government but inspired the contemporary freedom struggle all over India. The impact of which can be felt by the amount of influence it has caused over the generations post independence also. The ideological base of the revolution waged by Bhagat Singh and his comrades was so strong that it forced the British government to shed the shroud of pretentious and exposed it's real face of barbarism. While paying gratitude to the martyrdom of the great revolutionary, we must acknowledge the responsibility of generations post independence to realise the India based on the strong ideology that Bhagat Singh and revolutionaries like him inspired and laid down their lives for. That India is a cohesive progressive society. It is high time now, we should get our senses working and reflect on the teachings by them. We should never forget their sacrifices for the betterment of our country and mainly its people. In the end the eternal poem by Ram Prasad Bismil, each word of which drives the motivation to achieve the goal of realising the India of the dreams of our martyrs. Inqulaab Zindabad!!!! - Abhijit R Patil, PGEMP Batch No-65

Ma’am this article of yours brings tears to every Indians eyes. The Indian freedom struggle can never be told without mentioning the trio of bhagat Singh, raj guru and Sukhdev. These three young revolutionaries all laid their lives for the nation while they were in their early 20’s. What led three men from different parts of the country was a united idea i.e. An India free from the atrocities of the colonial power. The ruling party INC (Indian national congress) were a mere puppet in the hands of the British. They existed on paper as the sole representation of the Indian people but everybody knew that they had an agenda of their own. Bhagat Singh left the luxuries of his home and never once looked back. He was well educated and at such a tender age was able to communicate his views effectively. Bhagat Singh was imprisoned for bombing the central legislative assembly in Delhi, but what was left out of the news during that time was that the bombs had no shrapnel and the whole plan was devised in such a way to frighten the British and inform the rest of India to the concept of revolution. Bhagat Singh continuously fasted for 116 days demanding equal rights for Indians as British, whilst inside prison and never once ate food despite multiple attempts by the jail authorities to break his fast. Through this fast bhagat Singh gained nationwide acclaim and this shackled the roots of the colonial establishment. Fearing widespread agitation against the empire the British decided to hang the three ahead of the scheduled date. The sacrifice of the trio though was not forgotten by the public and also helped awaken the political leaders of that time. The British feared that more bhagat Singh’s and raj gurus were emerging daily and knew that their downfall was really near. The nation will always remain indebted to the real heroes of our freedom struggle and should never forget that they lay down their lives for us. JAI HIND!!!!

The Responsibility of Inheritance I remember being glued to my television set every Independence Day and Republic Day, waiting to watch patriotic movies on Doordarshan. It was my most favourite thing about those days, apart from the fact that we did not have to attend school! It was from these movies, combined with my love for history and my mother’s empathetic storytelling sessions on India, that I developed an immense amount of love and respect for our freedom fighters. Over the years, I have watched almost all the movies made on our heroes, read articles on them and tried to relate myself with them. I looked upto them for inspiration. Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad were my role models. I remember making a sketch of Bhagat Singh in one of my art classes, and I was overjoyed when it was well appreciated. I have always wondered of what I would be doing had I been in their shoes. Would I have that courage and the determination required to take on such a huge responsibility? Would I be giving a false hope to the people? Would I be able to hold my tongue if I was on that ice slab instead of Bhagat Singh. The most astonishing part of these freedom fighters is not their contribution to the freedom struggle, but their realisation of their purpose in life at a very early age. It takes great courage to devote yourself to one cause, which will give you troubles at every stage. They were least concerned about the comfort of home, the love and care of family or individual dreams. The millennial today cannot even put aside their cell phones for more than a few minutes. Growing up, I aimed to be at least a fraction of them; maybe not suffer the entire pain and torture with a smile on my face, but definitely contribute towards the betterment of my country in any way possible. But here I am, the same age as the trio when they were hanged, having accomplished barely anything. Even today when I listen to their stories or hear the lines of ‘Mera rang dey basanti chola’ and ‘Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab humare dil mein hai’, I get goosebumps. There is so much to learn from their lives, but most importantly it is our duty to not let their sacrifices go in vain. With the varied resources and technology at our disposal, and especially the freedom that we have inherited, the youth of our country can do wonders in making India a welfare nation. It is high time that we understand our responsibilities and contribute in whatever little ways we can. I am ready to take a step forward, are you?

The blog reminded me of the movie The legend of bhagat Singh, one of the best movies I have watched till now. I read about Shaheed Bhagat Singh in text books. Just as other freedom fighters, I took him as another contributor to the independence of the country However, after watching the movie , I realized that he wasn’t just a freedom fighter , he was an idealist and visionary, in true sense. He was strategic , team builder , both follower and leader , cherishing and fighter. He knew what he wanted from his life . He never just portrayed the ideology , “ Die for martyrdom” , but believed in “ First do something substantial then die for the country”. We keep on quoting people who amass a lot of wealth and name in their twenties or early thirties, as successful . But , I consider nationalists such as Shaheed Bhagat Singh as successful . He achieved what he wanted , he had clear visions and he never regretted what he sacrificed in his life. Bhagat Singh is a real inspiration for me and our country. If he was alive for few more years , I think that the independence date of country would have shifted a decade earlier. He was fast , perfect and firm . His death on gallows is inspiring and legendary. He inspiring millions of Indians, without any electronic and social media . A word of mouth of his good deeds was all to inspire the youths from then to now. He never wanted name and fame or taglines .He just wanted the youth to be united for the cause. Though some historians attach the name of Bhagat Singh with violent freedom fighters , his violent deeds never hurt anyone. He knew that the ideals on which the country’s freedom fighters were running was too slow paced . More than that he was annoyed by the fact that in a country that has a rich history of winning wars by defeating the enemy with use of instruments that are termed as violent , a new approach of non – violence is just a getaway- a way of putting things on the next day. He wanted results without wasting efforts. He knew the ideology of non – violence is not going to long last, and it can be seen in today’s country. Though we claim to be an successful economy , our constant internal struggles combined with the external struggles are too much to show how prevalent ideals of non-violence are their in our heart. A balanced approach was necessary and Bhagat Singh’s methodology is a true example of it. I can keep on talking on him and his methods but what must stay is not the length and words , but the inspiration SHAHED BHAGAT SINGH gave us. He is immortal and so are his teachings. In his memory Mera Rang De Basanti Chola Mera Rang De Basanti Chola

Hello Mam, A very well scripted blog with a lot of insights. I could not have agreed more and thus have some insights of my own which I would like to share to build on the blog. I would like to start with a quote said by Shaheed Bhagat Singh himself-“ It is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas. Great empires crumbled, while the ideas survived”. He was not only a freedom fighter, he was a thinker, a philosopher and an ideologue. At the young age of 20s, he had a monumental body of writings and essays which shook the nation’s conscience. Many of his works can be accessed at the website: Shaheed Bhagat Singh., but the list is much more than that. He was a prolific communicator, a thinker and a strategician. Bhagat Singh did not believe in differentiation on the basis of religion. He was an atheist as visible in his writings; and was a major factor in uniting Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims towards a common goal. He never used religious symbols, ideas or ideologies to justify his struggle. The idea of India as a single nation was widely propagated by him; which super-ceded the earlier idea of India as an amalgamation of separate nations. He was the first to proclaim the demand for India’s full independence in his writings in 1927. The Indian National Congress was then seeking partial autonomy as a protectorate under the British Empire. After the mass support for Bhagat Singh increased significantly, Jawaharlal Nehru was influenced by the idea of Bhagat Singh ("total independence"), which had earlier been rejected because of Gandhi's opposition to it. The proclamation of Purna Swaraj changed the entire nature of the independence movement. So, in a way we owe the entire demand for full independence of India to the seeds sown by Bhagat Singh in 1927. The strategy that he adopted by throwing bombs in the Central Assembly - ‘to make the deaf hear’ was a master-stroke. He sacrificed his freedom when he had a chance to run away just so he could speak loud and clear. His intensions were not to hurt anybody, but to surrender and get arrested, his statement during the trial got so much press that it invigorated the entire nation like no other revolutionary before or after him had. He fought for the equal rights in jail and went on hunger strike with fellow prisoners demanding equality in food standards, clothing, toiletries, and other hygienic necessities. Beside brutal attempts of force feeding by authorities he continued his the strike for 116 days which was like impossible under such brutal conditions. The poems he wrote like ( “Mera Rang De Basanti Chola”) inspired many to join the freedom struggle. The Basanti Colour became a symbol of Indian pride. Finally he has got death sentence in Lahore conspiracy case and happily sacrificed his life at the age of 23. He was the one who shook the pillars of British Raj at such a young age, even Viceroy goes mad on making decision on Bhagat Singh's death sentence and Britishers were so feared that the authorities scheduled to hang him a day earlier than ordered. On the last few days his colleagues in jail asked him that he should tell us, as still something could be done to avoid execution and he replied “I emphasize that I am full of ambition and hope and of full charm of life. But I can renounce all at the time of need, and that is the real sacrifice “.The slogan “Inquilab Zindabad” - Long live the revolution - was first raised by Bhagat Singh in the General Assembly of India. This slogan became a rallying point for all revolutionaries, the Indian National Army and is still gives goose-bumps in raising national fervour. Last and foremost, he left a legacy of ‘Revolution’, an idea that inspired people like Subhash Chandra Bose, fighters of thousands of Indian National Army. The armed struggle of Bose was one of the main reasons for India’s independence as mentioned by none other than Lord Atlee the prime-minister of U.K, the person who decided on India’s independence. Seeing the today’s Indian political situation one can rightly say that they have forgotten the contributions made by our great martyrs and freedom fighters for the betterment of our nation and mainly for its people. We cannot blame the politics alone, it’s us where we have to think beyond our materialistic comforts and greed and should start thinking for other people’s welfare too so that India can grow as one united nation which our great martyrs envisioned for our nation India in the very first place. Utkarsh Agarwal GMP 2018

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