JUST SOUTH OF BAGH-I-JINNAH, in the heart of Lahore’s Shadman Colony, a fountain stands at the centre of an otherwise unremarkable chowk. No water flows from this dusty structure, though markings on its base betray signs of life. A name is inscribed in black spray paint—not the colloquial ‘Shadman Chowk’, nor the official ‘Choudhry Rehmat Ali Chowk’, but a dissident’s epithet: ‘Bhagat Singh Chowk’, scrawled in both English and Urdu.
The unsanctioned nature of this inscription seems appropriate for a man effectively barred from official history in Pakistan. ‘Bhagat Singh’ is not a name found on commemorative plaques; it does not appear in school textbooks or amidst the national stories promulgated by Pakistan Studies curricula. It evokes a figure allocated to India and Indian history: an atheist to some, a Sikh to others, but a figure necessarily outside the narrative of Muslim struggle curated by the Pakistani state.
The spray paint defies this partition of memory, suggesting this name still means something in Lahore. In spite of several attempted exorcisms, a stubborn spectre remains, bound to the city where Bhagat Singh lived his political life and faced his death on 23 March 1931.
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