By Santosh Bhartiya
Under the pretext of asking the Prime Minister, I would like to ask my fellow countrymen: have we all become selfish and thankless? Do we have any care at all about those who sacrificed their lives for our future? There were two categories of people who kept up the independence movement alive. The first category was the one which fought the British alongside Gandhiji applying non-violent methods, and who bore the brunt of British: beaten by lathis, mowed down under horse’s hooves and incarcerated into jails for years. Many of them, however, were alive until 15 August 1947 to breath in the free air of India. The second was that which answered the British bullets with bullets, and tried to expel them from the country through guns and lost their lives in the process. In the long run, many of them receded into oblivion as we hardly know about them. Post independence, successive governments took no interest in illuminating that part of history. But I have some names that I want to mention here.
We have the names of people who were hanged for challenging the British authority. They mounted the gallows smilingly, kissed the nooses and put them around their necks. A few of them found mention in books. Sometimes their names cropped up in general parlance but such instances are few and far between. It seems that people have forgotten them, which is a definite sign of ingratitude towards their sacrifices.
However, two inquisitive men from Haryana’s Jind district – Kuldeep Khandelwal, a local journalist and Madan Pal, a teacher – took upon themselves and went to the villages and houses of those who proudly mounted the gallows and kissed the nooses. They related their findings to me that under what precarious condition the descendants of martyrs live in the villages. It then occurred to me that in such condition how will they encourage someone to serve the country? No one has answer to this question.
The first name that bobs up to mind is that of Shaheed Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’.
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai
dekhna hai zor kitna bazu-e-qatil mein hai.
Waqt aane par bata denge tujhe aiy aasaman
Ham abhi se kya batayen kya hamare dil mein hai.
Pandit Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’ wrote these immortal lines, and Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev sang them while going to the gallows. Pandit Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’ did not get married. His mother lived in the village, and probably died in 1954. He had a brother, whose son died in absence of treatment. At present no one in his immediate family is alive and there is no trail of his house. Mr. Shiv Verma wrote in his book that he went to meet Bismil in Gorakhpur jail along with Bismil’s mother, pretending her son. Since that meeting he had lost contact with her. In 1954, when he came meet her again she had lost her eye sight. He said, “I asked, mother, do you remember when you went to Gorakhpur jail, there was child alongside you?” Then mother replied, “Are you Shiv!” Today there is nothing in memorial of Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’ which can say that such a great freedom fighter lived in such and such village, block, district or state.
Kuldeep and Madanpal have found Ashfaqullah Khan’s village in the same condition, the village of that great freedom fighter, who has kept honor of Muslim community afloat since long time. Their eyes welled up seeing the dilapidated condition of his grave. Not to speak of building a monument in his memory even his grave is not properly maintained – neither by the governments nor by the general public.
Family members of another revolutionary Pandit Raj Narain Mishra work at a brick-kiln, making bricks and sometimes carrying those bricks on their head. They said that no one ever come to enquire about their wellbeing. It seems that someone named Pandit Raj Narain Mishra never ever existed in the world.
Is it not the duty of the government and people at large to take stock of the family members and descendants (if any) of the martyrs? Is it not possible to build memorial of the martyrs to keep their names alive? And is it not possible to publish booklets on their inspirational life events and distribute them? Indeed, this should be done by governments, by both the state and the central government. But governments are unworthy, indolent and unappreciative – they are disinclined to look after those who laid their lives for the freedom of the country. For them such a person is more important who through unfair means earn money and fill their pocket.
But what ails the people? Why they have become unappreciative? I appeal to you that if there is such person around you who went to the gallows or endure bullets for the country, please let us know. We cannot do much, but at least we can publish their inspiring memories and acquaint people about their sacrifices. I hereby appeal to you if you find somebody around you, who spent his youth in prisons and taken part in Gandhiji’s freedom movement and if he/she is alive, please bend down to touch his/her feet and take blessings. That blessing will be equal to the blessing of God’s. For people who have spent their lives in prisons, have fought for the country selflessly, and did not know when the country will get free, it is our national and humanitarian duty to salute them. I would also like to appeal to the government to build memorial and publish books in the name of all such people.
Pandit Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’, Ashfaqullah Khan and Raj Narain Mishra are few examples. I am sure you names a martyr you remember, the conditions of whatever left behind in his wake will be similar to that of Pandit Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’, Ashfaqullah Khan and Pandit Raj Narain Mishra’s. We are becoming ungrateful and unjust towards them. I urge and pray (whether or not government does something), you must do something. At least pass some information to us about our martyrs, their families and freedom fighters who are alive, so that we can honor them by publishing about them.