More often than not, you would see the statues and busts of Bhagat Singh either in hat or in turban. In some statues, he is there with his comrades like Rajguru and Sukhdev, who were also hanged on March 23,1931.
However, you would not see his any statute with Batukeshwar Dutt. Both threw bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly hall ( now Parliament house) on April 8,1929.
What is also intriguing is that the statues of Bhagat Singh remain intact and safe. Nobody thinks of vandalising or damaging it. This is indeed remarkable given the fact that we have a very poor record of taking care of the statues of our icons. We damage it. Just google it and you would find that even the statues of father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi and dalit icon Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had to face the fury of disgruntled elements several times. There is no guarantee that they would not be damaged in future.
Gandhi’s statutes have been damaged both in India and outside India. In the recent times, merchant of hate vent their anger against Gandhi in America, Britain, Canada and Ghana by damaging his statues. In the month of June, 2022, Gandhi’s statue situated at a public park in Ramman Mandi in Bathinda in Punjab was vandalised. After vandalising the statue, the unidentified miscreants took away its face.
And B R Ambedkar is not lucky enough to survive the attacks on his statues. The statue of key architect of India’s Constitution was found disfigured in different parts of the country from time to time. Last year in the month of April, the disfigured statue of Dr Ambedkar was found in Noida’s Chhijarsi village under the Sector 63 police station limits area. A new statue was installed in place of the disfigured one with the help of residents though.
Returning to Bhagat Singh and his statues, one only feels that India still revere him as he sacrificed his life for the cause of India that too when he was so young. Further, he was a thinker and had a dream for India that is fair and equal to all the citizens irrespective of caste, creed and religion. He dreamed of an India where we value our Indian identity rather than our religious identity. He did not consider freedom to be confined to political bonds. Rather, he believed that economic and social freedom was equally important.
But, allow me to say that other national icons too have similar vision for India. Yet, they are not idolised in the same way as he is still idolised and people have no malice against him or his thoughts. That could be one reason that his statutes have never been damaged. They evoke feeling of reverence as and when one see them. However, there cannot be any debate that those who damage the statues of national icons must have some mental health issues. They cannot be normal human beings. Otherwise, how can you vandalize the statues of those who have given their blood, sweat, tear and toil for the country? There is a space available for disagreements in any mature society. The dissent and alternative views must be respected by one and all. If you have no respect for all these virtues of a democratic society, then only God can help you.
While, the statues of Bhagat Singh remain safe from the eyes and hands of sick people, they generate a different kind of debate, at times very acrimonious too. The debate revolves around hat or turban in his statues. Prof. Chaman Lal of JNU, who has been researching on the life and times of Bhagat Singh since long, says that in the statutes where he is shown with turban is unacceptable.“Bhagat Singh was wearing hats since April, 1929. His picture with hat was clicked at the Ramnath Photo studio in Kashmiri Gate, Delhi. Just a couple of days before he threw bomb in the Central Legislative assembly. Therefore,it is sacrilege to show him with turban in statues.” In the statute that was installed in Parliament in 2008, he was wearing turban. However, he is also shown with hat in many statues. However, some say the use of the turbaned image was equally fine as the more recognised photo of the freedom fighter wearing a hat was only a disguise to evade arrest.
And last word came from none other great sculptor Ram Sutar, who had made the statues and busts of Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh. Says, “ My heart bleeds when I read that some mad guys have damaged the statues of national figure. But, I make the statues as I am asked to make.”
(The author is an eminent bi-lingual writer and columnist. He is based in New Delhi)