Bhagat Singh famously declared himself as an atheist in a Marxist essay he wrote in 1930, barely a year before he was hung to death by British colonial authorities for assassinating a high-profile cop. Bhagat Singh, along with his ‘comrades’ Rajguru and Sukhdev, was executed today in 1931. His death anniversary is commemorated across
the nation like of any true independence revolutionary figure.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted out,
Remembering Bhagat Singh, Rajguru & Sukhdev on the day of their martyrdom. India will never forget their courage & sacrifice.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 23, 2017
(Narendra Modi, Twitter)
But would our current crop of right-wing leadership have got along with the prodigious revolutionary had they been contemporaries?
Bhagat Singh’s pioneering essay on atheism, “Why I am an atheist,” may offer a few answers. Singh recounted that he started out as a follower of religion, influenced by his father who was an Arya Samaji. The self-professed ‘socialist’, however, did mention that he always had his doubts about religion.
“I was brought up under the care and protection of my father. He was a staunch Arya Samaji. An Arya Samaji can be anything but never an atheist,” Singh said in his essay. Singh wrote that his father encouraged him to say his prayers daily and religion later inspired him to grow beard and ‘kais‘ (keeping long hair as per Sikh
“I can say that my belief in God was firm and strong. I grew a beard and ‘Kais’ (long head of hair as a Sikh religious custom). In spite of this I could not convince myself of the efficacy of Sikh religion or any religion at all, for that matter. But I had an unswerving, unwavering belief in God.”
Bhagat Singh’s faith in God started to waver when he joined the Revolutionary Party, which he said was a beginning of his personality transition from a “romantic revolutionary” to a “realist. The young leader wrote that his thinking about God underwent a radical change after he studied anarchist and related Leftist literature by Bakunin, Karl Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, all of whom he said were ‘atheists.”
“By the end of 1926, I was convinced that the belief in an Almighty, Supreme Being who created, guided and controlled the universe had no sound foundations. I began discussions on this subject with my friends. I had openly declared myself an atheist.”
His essay concluded on a decisive note as he took to criticizing idol worship and religion.
“Society must fight against this belief in God as it fought against idol worship and other narrow conceptions of religion.”
And that’s how a young revolutionary from a devout family turned into an atheist icon.