Bhagat Singh is one of the only national heroes, perhaps after Gandhi, who is venerated across India. This could be attributed to his appeal as a martyr, which cuts across political ideologies. If only the same was true for his intellectual legacy as well. Many simply lap him up as a martyr, but few celebrate his political and social vision. This is not to undermine the sacrifice of Singh—or, for that matter, any martyr—but it is important to add that there was more to him than just shaheedi (martyrdom).
Singh left behind a corpus of political writings, underlining his vision for an independent India. He envisioned an India where the 98 percent would rule instead of elite 2 percent. His azaadi—freedom—was not limited to the expelling of the British; instead he desired azaadi from poverty, azaadi from untouchability, azaadi from communal strife, and azaadi from every form of discrimination and exploitation. Just twenty days before his hanging on 3 March 1931 Singh sent out an explicit message to the youth, saying:
“…the struggle in India would continue so long as a handful of exploiters go on
exploiting the labour of the common people for their own ends. It matters little
whether these exploiters are purely British capitalists, or British and Indians in