Friday, October 5, 2012

81 years later, Lahore’s tribute to its greatest martyr

We compliment the leaders of Pakistan on renaming Shadman Chowk in Lahore as Bhagat Singh Chowk. This gesture will greatly strengthen the India-Pakistan peace process. 

Pakistan civil and political groups had long demanded the renaming of the Chowk. It was once the execution ground of Central Jail, Lahore and the spot where Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged on March 23, 1931. 

In 1961, the jail was demolished to make way for a residential area called Shadman colony; Shadman Chowk was built over the execution ground.

We — civil society activists from both India and Pakistan — held candlelight vigils at this location every year on the anniversary of the execution. Many times, we renamed it ourselves, with a signboard proclaiming it as “Bhagat Singh Chowk.”

We also took our demand to Pakistan’s political leaders. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party rules Pakistan’s Punjab province, gave us hope that our demand would be met. We are happy that the hope was fulfilled, and that too on the special day of Bhagat Singh’s 105th birth anniversary.

This year too for the first time, Bhagat Singh’s birth anniversary was celebrated at Dyal Singh College hall in Lahore on September 28 by the Pakistan Labour Party, and 23 more organisations. Speakers described Bhagat Singh as the representative of the struggling masses in all of Asia. The organisers also demanded the setting up of a museum at Bhagat Singh’s birthplace in Chak no. 105, Lyallpur Bange in Faislabad district.
Advocate Iqbal Virk, who is now the occupant of the house in which he was born, participated in the function and offered all cooperation.

It was unfortunate that a 27-member Indian delegation, which included Bhagat Singh’s nephew Kiranjit Sandhu, and the author of several books on the martyr, Prof. Chaman Lal, could not attend the jointly planned anniversary as they were not issued visas. But the subsequent news of the renaming of the Chowk has more than compensated for that.