Bhagat Singh was born on 28 September 1907. We know him as a martyr and a nationalist par excellence but, lately, we have also learnt of his intellectual capabilities as a young man. Some of my own efforts have helped to unravel his intellectual evolution through his writings, many of which have surfaced during the past few decades. On his birth anniversary, we should celebrate him not just as a martyr but also as a young revolutionary ideologue who left behind an intellectual legacy, instilled with the ideals based on socialism, pluralism, rational and critical thinking, and a cosmopolitan worldview.
These ideals inspired his writings as well as his actions. Let me discuss today the first platform he created as a young man: the Naujawan Bharat Sabha. Bhagat Singh founded the Sabha in 1925–26, in Lahore, with the collaboration of young comrades such as Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Sukhdev, Dhanwantri and Ehsan Ilahi. The Sabha was also patronised by many left-wing Congress leaders of Punjab, such as Satyapal, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Kedar Nath Sehgal, Pindi Das and Lal Chand Falak. Bhagat Singh felt the need to have an organised body that could undertake a serious mobilisation of the youth, based on agreed upon ideological principles.
What were these principles? According to a 1928 membership form reviewed by the colonial authorities, the Sabha had a well-defined political programme that included the following objectives: