Renaming the Shadman Square: In fond memory of Bhagat Singh

One of the most influential revolutionaries of the Independence movement of India, Bhagat Singh seeks recognition in Lahore. The Lahore Jail, where Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were sentenced to death on 23 March 1931 is today known as Shadman Roundabout.

The jail building was dismantled and it gave way to a residential cum commercial complex, which has become talk across the both sides of the border. However, the central roundabout is still marked as a Bhagat Singh memorial.

Shadman Square Bhagat Singh Chowk Lahore
Road to Shadman Sqaure, Lahore

Long ago, a group of sane people in Pakistan, who wanted to pay tribute to this son of undivided India, asked the Lahore administration to rename the Shadman Chowk after Bhagat Singh and honor him.

These activists, NGO’s, and political leaders toiled real hard to get the job done. After making them wait for ages, the Lahore administration finally broke its silence. On the ‘auspicious’ event of Bhagat’s 105th birth anniversary, they announced the decision of renaming the Shadman Square to ‘Bhagat Singh Chowk’ on 27 September 2012.

However, we do not live in an ideal world, not in Pakistan at least. As soon as the decision was announced, religious outfits started shouting at the top of their voices. Some said it was a conspiracy by RAW, some said it was against the ideology of Pakistan, some said it was against Islam, and so forth.

Convener Tehreek Hurmat Rasool (THR), leader of over two dozen religious parties declared to launch anti-government movement in the event of anyone signaled to think of changing the name of the Shadman Square.

‘Hurmat Rasool Chowk’ is the new name given to the square by these religious outfits and they want the government to announce the name officially or be ready to face the brunt. Sh Naeem Badshah, leader of Jamiat Ahle Hadith said that Sikhs killed ‘more’ muslims during the partition and thus naming a square after one would hurt the sentiments of Pakistanis.

And the Sikh in question here is Bhagat Singh, who inspired thousands of people on both the sides (there was only one side back then) to join the Independence Movement.

The same Sikh, who died in Lahore at the age of 23 years so that people in Lahore could live freely, with pride and honor.

And, the very same Sikh, who didn’t know that his brothers were going to snatch his Lahore from him and make a mockery of his great sacrifice.

On 17th November, the Lahore High Court put the decision to rename the Chowk on hold. The next hearing is scheduled on 29 November to decide the future course of action.

Shiraz Hassan, a journalist based in Pakistan writes, “‘Hindus are cunning and Sikhs are fools’, that’s what Pakistani’s have been taught in their schools. The question is and remains, why the government is so helpless? Does demanding something peacefully has no effect? Can’t we demand anything which in reality is not actually against the ideology of Pakistan (as being claimed by the radicals) or the so-called two nation theory?

During my visit to Pakistan, I saw a young ‘muslim’ guy wearing Bhagat Singh tee in Lahore.

Everyone I met there knew about Bhagat Singh. How could they not know him? He lived, studied, and died in Lahore, how could they afford not to know him?

Shadman Square Bhagat Singh Chowk
Photo: Shiraz Hassan

Bhagat Singh trended in Pakistan (Twitter) for days. The educated youth strongly supports this initiative and they are holding protests against the nonsense that is being put forward by the religious outfits.

If the idea of renaming is against the ideology of Pakistan, then who are these young Pakistanis’? Agents of RAW?FBI?

The auto-rickshaw guy I met at the Shadman Square said to me, “Je Bhagat Singh ni hunda, te kuch vi ni hunda“. I got to know later that the auto guy was a school dropout; he had to quit his school in the sixth standard.

Probably he knew that Bhagat Singh was not a terrorist. Thank God, he didn’t study in India. (ICSE calls Bhagat Singh a terrorist)

Bhagat Singh would not have thought that his very own Lahore would not like to name a chowk after him.

Although I believe that Bhagat Singh, who willingly sacrificed himself at the age of 23 would not have cared about symbolic recognition, yet for the lesser mortals like us, it is important to grant due acknowledgement to his sacrifice.

It is important to acknowledge, accept, and say thanks. It is important to understand that we must oppose the extremists, on either side of the border. We have been fooled for so long in the name of religion that it has successfully metamorphosed us into what we have become today: sadly, voiceless masses.

Today, the Indo-Pak relationships call for an honest recollection of our history. The need of the hour is to objectively judge contributions of ‘Icons of Freedom Struggle’ and recognize the same. Renaming the square is not going to solve any issue on its own but it can become a stepping stone to discuss ‘serious issues’ with a positive frame of mind.

And hopefully, Bhagat Singh can become an Ambassador of Change, once again.

Shiraz Hassan blogs here

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