‘TO MAKE THE DEAF HEAR’
75 years ago the British Raj judicially murdered Bhagat Singh, RajGuru and Sukhdev in Ferozepur, Punjab. With the hanging of these heroes, the British authorities intended to stamp out their revolutionary ideals. In death, Bhagat Singh has proved to be even more dangerous. By way of commemorating his great and inspiring contribution to the revolutionary movement in India, we wrote about his contribution in the last issue of Lalkar, including his use of the Court Trial in June 1929 concerning their bombing of the Central Assembly in April in protest against the Trades Dispute Bill. In continuing our salute to this great son of the people of India we reproduce below the statement of Bhagat Singh and B K Dutt which was read to the Court Session on 6 June 1929, concluding with the slogan that now resonates through all progressive meetings in India, Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live the Revolution).
We stand charged with certain serious offences, and at this stage, it is but right that we must explain our conduct.
In this connection, the following questions arise:
1. Were bombs thrown into the Chamber, and, if so, why?
2. Is the charge, as framed by the Lower Court, correct or otherwise?
To the first half of first question, our reply is in the affirmative, but since some of the so-called ‘eye witnesses’ have perjured themselves and since we are not denying our liability to that extent, let our statement about them be judged for what it is worth. By way of an illustration, we may point out that the evidence of Sergeant Terry regarding the seizure of a pistol from one of us is a deliberate falsehood, for neither of us had the pistol at the time we gave ourselves up. Other witnesses, too, who have sworn to having seen bombs being thrown by us, have no scruples in telling lies. This fact had its own moral for those who aim at judicial purity and fair play.
At the same time, we acknowledge the fairness of the Public Prosecutor and the judicial attitude of the Court so far.
Viceroy’s Views Endorsed
In our reply to the next half of the first question, we are constrained to go into some detail to offer a full and frank explanation of our motive and the circumstances leading up to what has now become a historic event.
When we were told by some of the police officers, who visited us in jail, that Lord Irwin, in his address to the joint session of the two Houses, described the event as an attack directed against no individual but against an institution itself, we readily recognised that the true significance of the incident had been correctly appreciated.
We are second to none in our love for humanity. Far from having any malice against any individual, we hold human life sacred beyond words.
We are neither perpetrators of dastardly outrages, and, therefore, a disgrace to the country, as the pseudo-socialist Dewan Chaman Lal is reported to have described us, nor are we ‘Lunatics’ as The Tribune of Lahore and some others would have it believed.
We humbly claim to be no more than serious students of the history and conditions of our country and her aspirations. We despise hypocrisy. Our practical protest was against the institution, which since its birth has eminently helped to display not only its worthlessness but its far-reaching power for mischief. The more we have pondered, the more deeply we have been convinced that it exists only to demonstrate to the world India’s humiliation and helplessness, and it symbolises the over-riding domination of an irresponsible and autocratic rule. Time and again the national demand has been pressed by the people’s representatives only to find the wastepaper basket as its final destination.
Attack of Institution
Solemn resolutions passed by the House have been contemptuously trampled underfoot on the floor of the so-called Indian Parliament. Resolutions regarding the repeal of repressive and arbitrary measures have been treated with sublime contempt, and government measures and proposals, rejected as unacceptable by the elected members of the legislatures, have been restored by a mere stroke of the pen. In short, we have utterly failed to find any justification for the existence of an institution which, despite all its pomp and splendour, organised with the hard-earned money of the sweating millions of India, is only a hollow show and a mischievous make-believe. Alike, have we failed to comprehend the mentality of the public leaders who help the government to squander public time and money on such a manifestly stage-managed exhibition of India’s helpless subjection.
No Hope for Labour
We have been ruminating upon all these matters, as also upon the wholesale arrests of the leaders of the labour movement when the introduction of the Trade Disputes Bill brought us into the Assembly to watch its progress. The course of the debate only served to confirm our conviction that the labouring millions of India could expect nothing from an institution that stood as a menacing monument to the strangling of the exploiters and the serfdom of the helpless labourers.
Finally, the insult of what we consider an inhuman and barbarous measure was hurled on to the devoted heads of the representatives of the entire country, and the starving and struggling millions were deprived of their primary right and the sole means of improving their economic welfare. None who has felt like us for the voicless down-trodden drudges of labourers could possibly witness this spectacle with equanimity. None whose heart bleeds under the economic structure, could repress the cry which this ruthless blow had wrung out of our hearts.
Consequently, bearing in mind the words of the late Mr S R Das, once a Law member of the Governor-General’s Executive Council, which appeared in the famous letter he addressed to his son to the effect that the ‘bomb was necessary to awaken England from her dream’, we dropped the bomb on the floor of the Assembly Chamber to register our protest on behalf of those who had no other means left to give expression to their heart-rending agony. Our sole purpose was “to make the deaf hear” and to give the heedless a timely warning. Others have as keenly felt as we have done, and from under the seeming stillness of the sea of Indian humanity, a veritable storm is about to break out. We have only hoisted the “danger-signal” to warn those who are speeding along without heeding the grave dangers ahead. We have only marked the end of an era of utopian non-violence, of whose futility this generation has been convinced of beyond the shadow of a doubt.
We have used the expression utopian non-violence, in the foregoing paragraph, which requires some explanation. Force when aggressively applied is “violence” and is, therefore, morally unjustifiable, but when it is used in the furtherance of a legitimate cause, it has its moral justification. The elimination of force at all costs is utopian, and the new movement which has arisen in the country, the dawn of which we have given a warning, is inspired by the ideals which guided Guru Gobind Singh and Shivaji, Kamal Pasha and Riza Khan, Washington and Garibaldi, Lafayette and Lenin.
As both the alien government and Indian public leaders appeared to have shut their eyes to the existence of this movement, we felt it is our duty to sound a warning where it could not go unheard.
We have so far dealt with the motive behind the incident in question, and now we must define the extent of our intention.
No Personal Grudge
We bore no personal grudge or malice against anyone of those who received slight injuries or against any other person in the Assembly. On the contrary, we repeat that we hold human life sacred beyond words, and would soberly lay down our own lives in the service of humanity rather than injure anyone else. Unlike the mercenary soldiers of the imperialist armies who are disciplined to kill without compunction, we respect, and, in so far as it lies in our power, we attempt to save human life. And still we admit having deliberately thrown the bombs into the Assembly Chamber. Facts speak for themselves and our intention will be judged from the result of the action without bringing in utopian hypothetical circumstances and presumptions.
Despite the evidence of the government expert, the bombs that were thrown in the Assembly Chamber resulted in slight damage to an empty bench and some slight abrasions in less than half a dozen cases. While government scientists and experts have ascribed this result to a miracle, we see nothing but a precise scientific process in this incident. Firstly, the two bombs exploded in vacant spaces within the wooden barriers of the desks and benches; secondly, even those who were within two feet of the explosion, for instance, Mr P Rau, Mr Shanker Rao and Sir George Schuster were either not hurt or only slightly scratched. Bombs of the capacity sworn to by the government expert (though his estimate, being imaginary, is exaggerated), loaded with an effective charge of potassium chlorate and the sensitive (explosive) picrate, would have smashed the barriers and laid many low within some yards of the explosion.
Again, had they been loaded with some other high explosive, with a charge of destructive pellets or darts, they would have sufficed to wipe out the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly. Still again we could have flung them into the official box which was occupied by some notable persons. And finally we could have ambushed Sir John Simon whose luckless Commission was loathed by all responsible people and who was sitting in the President’s gallery at the time. All these things, however, were beyond our intention and the bombs did no more than they were designed to do, and the miracle consisted in no more than the deliberate aim which landed them in safe places.
We then deliberately offered ourselves to bear the penalty for what we had done and to let the imperialist exploiters know that by crushing individuals, they cannot kill ideas. By crushing two insignificant units, a nation cannot be crushed. We wanted to emphasise the historical lesson that lettres de cachet and Bastilles could not crush the revolutionary movement in France. Gallows and the Siberian mines could not extinguish the Russian Revolution. Bloody Sunday, and Black and Tans failed to strangle the movement of Irish freedom.
Can Ordinances and Safety Bills snuff out the flames of freedom in India? Conspiracy cases, trumped up or discovered, and the incarceration of all young men who cherish the vision of a great ideal, cannot check the march of revolution. But a timely warning, if not unheeded, can help to prevent loss of life and general sufferings.
We took it upon ourselves to provide this warning and our duty is done.
During the trial Bhagat Singh had been asked in the Lower Court what he meant by the word ‘Revolution’. In answer to that question, he said:
‘Revolution’ does not necessarily involve sanguinary strife nor is there any place in it for individual vendetta. It is not the cult of the bomb and the pistol. By ‘Revolution’ we mean that the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice, must change. Producers or labourers in spite of being the most necessary element of society, are robbed by their exploiters of the fruits of their labour and deprived of their elementary rights. The peasant who grows corn for all, starves with this family, the weaver who supplies the world market with textile fabrics, has not enough to cover his own and his children’s bodies, masons, smiths and carpenters who raise magnificent palaces, live like pariahs in the slums. The capitalists and exploiters, the parasites of society, squander millions on their whims. These terrible inequalities and forced disparity of chances are bound to lead to chaos. This state of affairs cannot last long, and it is obvious, that the present order of society in merry-making is on the brink of a volcano.
The whole edifice of this civilisation, if not saved in time, shall crumble. A radical change, therefore, is necessary and it is the duty of those who realise it to reorganise society on the socialistic basis. Unless this thing is done and the exploitation of man by man and of nations by nations is brought to an end, the suffering and carnage with which humanity is threatened today cannot be prevented. All talk of ending war and ushering in an era of universal peace is undisguised hypocrisy.
By ‘Revolution’, we mean the ultimate establishment of an order of society which may not be threatened by such breakdown, and in which the sovereignty of the proletariat should be recognised and a world federation should redeem humanity from the bondage of capitalism and misery of imperial wars.
This is our ideal, and with this ideology as our inspiration, we have given a fair and loud enough warning.
If, however, it goes unheeded and the present system of government continues to be an impediment in the way of natural forces that are swelling up, a grim struggle will ensue involving the overthrow of all obstacles, and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat to pave the way for the consummation of the ideal of revolution. Revolution is an inalienable right of mankind. Freedom is an imperishable birth right of all. Labour is the real sustainer of society. The sovereignty of the ultimate destiny of the workers.
For these ideals, and for this faith, we shall welcome any suffering to which we may be condemned. At the altar of this revolution we have brought our youth as incense, for no sacrifice is too great for so magnificent a cause. We are content, we await the advent of Revolution.
‘Long Live Revolution’
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