When a hero isn’t honoured

Published: December 16, 2012
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We marginalise our minorities — even the heroes within them and even after death — has rendered all our claims of being moderate, liberal and enlightened false. PHOTO: FILE

We marginalise our minorities — even the heroes within them and even after death — has rendered all our claims of being moderate, liberal and enlightened false. PHOTO: FILE

The Dilkash Lahore Committee of the City District Government of Lahore (CDGL) has finally dropped the idea of renaming Shadman Chowk after freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, who was hanged there in 1931. The decision was taken, most probably, because of opposition by a rightwing religious group. It is now being renamed after Habib Jalib. The final development was a disappointing one, even though there had been indicators that it was the direction where things were headed. The religious party first issued statements against the proposal and then put up banners denouncing it. After news that the committee had approved naming the chowk after Singh, the group went to the Lahore High Court, saying that an Indian lobby and India-sponsored human rights activists were behind the suggested move. The court issued a stay order and then extended it.

The DCO had earlier approved the change in name. A committee member told this newspaper that none of the members opposed the proposal, and this included the two ulema on the committee. The Indian media had lauded the decision, appreciating Pakistan’s recognition of a man who had opposed the British rule without distinguishing between a Hindu and a Muslim struggle. Once again, it has showed how our government balks at the mere threat of trouble by rightwing groups. Our false notions of  ‘being true to our religion and our country’ have been exposed to the world all over again because of our actions. That we marginalise our minorities — even the heroes within them and even after death — has rendered all our claims of being moderate, liberal and enlightened false. What is distressing is that a step taken in the right direction has been retracted. It will leave behind no imprint. That we thought about honouring a freedom fighter is not something to be proud of. That we chose, once again, to let the reactionary right bully us and make the wrong decision for the wrong reasons is something to be ashamed of. That we did not have the strength to stick to our decision and stand up for what was right is mortifying. That we failed to honour a hero is a dishonour to us, more than anyone else.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Siddique Malik
    Dec 16, 2012 - 4:28AM

    Obsession with religion has caused some Pakistanis to become outright bigots, fanatics and deniers of truth and justice. Many other Pakistanis are too afraid to stand up to these bigots and fanatics. Even the judiciary dances to their tune. The net result is that history is being re-written in their words. A true son of Lahore gave his life while fighting the murderous colonialists, but today’s Lahore is too afraid to glorify that hero of freedom. Bhagat Singh, I am sorry, your Lahore has become so callous that it would not even recognize your bravery. You are a martyr of freedom, and I will always salute you when I pass that chowk, calling which after anything other than your great name is a shameful travesty.

    Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Dec 16, 2012 - 7:11AM

    Bhagat Singh has gone since long and he would have been turning in his grave if he knew that the country whose Independence he gave his life for stands mutilated. Not honoring him is really a favor to him and his cause. Being an atheist the havoc Religion has caused to his homeland would have pained him immensely. It is better to let his Soul rest in Peace.

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Dec 16, 2012 - 10:04AM

    I feel so ashamed. Though the feeling was good till it lasted. Seems we have a long way to go.
    I thought for a while that the mindset typified by desecrating the grave of Professor Abdus Salam is finally changing. Alas it was not to be.

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  • hasan
    Dec 16, 2012 - 10:06AM

    The only heroes we welocme are the thugs, inhuman, shameless barbarians like Qasim, Ghauri, Abdali who looted and destroyed our forefathers and this land… we dont have to honor any other heroes. we pakistanis have sold our motherland to the chinese and our people to the americans.. we are the worst of all who can even sell our family members for dollars.

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  • Akhter
    Dec 16, 2012 - 12:22PM

    Welcome to Pakistan, We have no one to blame but ourselves over the issue of subjugation to the Extremist views of the Right wing Religious bigots that rule our society.

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  • Dec 16, 2012 - 12:29PM

    this editorial if went un commented from Pakistani people will sadden further.

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  • Dec 16, 2012 - 2:52PM

    I dont think you guys should beat yourselves about this – we dont have the courage to name anything after Jinnah who barring partition was considered a mainstream leader – even our text books acknowledge his role.

    As long the chowk is not named after gaddafi…or the current turkish guy who is wooing pakistan.

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  • jagjit sidhoo.
    Dec 16, 2012 - 6:49PM

    Every country needs heroes for their youth to look up to and emulate . Not naming the chowk after Bhagat Singh will not affect him (he has done the maximum that any true patriot can do for his motherland), the loss is to the Pakistani youth who have lost a hero they can emulate.

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  • Brig Harwant Singh (Retd)
    Dec 16, 2012 - 8:30PM

    Bhagat Singh was defended by Mr MA Jinnah (Quid- e – Azam) while Mr MK Gandhi (Mahatma) declined to do so . Why blame some people now for refusing to honour his memory ?

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  • mrXYZ
    Dec 16, 2012 - 9:14PM

    bhagat singh was a hero (rebel) and maybe he did something good for the sub continent but according the history pakistan was established trough negotiations and argumentation and not trough revolt
    islam teaches to obey the ruling government and not go for revolt unless they do you harm or interfere in your religious matters such as stop you worship Allah etc .
    during the british rule people had more liberty in religious matters than nowadays in pakistan or india their lives were more secure the people had no reasons to revolt .
    demanding liberty or a separate homeland for muslims and hindus is another thing .
    that is why quaid azam succeeded because he took a civilized and rational way to get freedom.

    there should not be such an big issue about bhagat singh there are lot of other heroes of our nation and if some people consider him as a hero thats fine they dont need a chowk named after him to be recognized as a hero .
    And for our youth there a lots of ideals for them to look up if they really want to follow them .

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  • mrXYZ
    Dec 16, 2012 - 9:19PM

    @hasan:
    what do you mean by looters and shameless barbarian like qasim etc
    i think you should read the history of sub continent again u seem more like a depressed hindu to me than a pakistani ……

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  • Hemant
    Dec 16, 2012 - 10:02PM

    Respected Sir;

    Bhagat Singh gave life to his motherland, unfortunately Son Of Soil are engulfed in ‘Religious Divide’s. They have done nothing good for the people, the people on streets.

    British divided the motherland and had the last laugh.How many more years would take us to repair this mistake?

    If Germans can do it, Why cant we?

    Indian industry benefited after economic reforms of 1992.Otherwise, Indians would have still driven
    Ambassador’s and Fiats. Now, Indians work in Microns(1/100 th of a millimeter) and produce world class engines.This change was not anticipated ‘Before 1992’.

    If change is inevitable, Change should happen.I feel Religion is a personal matter and everyone has the right to practice & remain faithhfull to his religion.How to counter A mischief done by British & Americans? Cant Pakistanies Rise above this hurdle to give a Fitting reply to British & Americans who have only used them for 70 long years.Recommend

  • Raza Khan
    Dec 16, 2012 - 10:29PM

    How narrow minded we are? Not fit to be a part of global village!

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Dec 17, 2012 - 12:02AM

    @jagjit sidhoo.:

    You are spot on as always without malice.

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  • abu-uzhur
    Dec 17, 2012 - 12:49AM

    @mrXYZ:

    Ahmad Shah Abdali attacked India 5-6 times , once on invitation of Shah Wali Ullah , each time his soldiers entering homes and putting to sword tens of thousands of people , raping women , taking thousands of
    men women and children as slaves to be sold in slave markets , leaving utter devastation
    and destruction behind . He was impartial in his massacres, desecration of women , and plunders . Muslim men women and children were as much victims of his barbarity
    as Hindus and others .
    Yes , we do need reading our history without prejudices , and stop idealising butchers rapists mass murderers as our heroes .

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  • Siraj
    Dec 17, 2012 - 12:54AM

    I cannot understand.. How Bhagat Singh is a hero of Pakistan?? He may be a hero of subcontinent before partition, but how can one claim that he is a NATIONAL HERO of Pakistan? If someone says Yes, he is. Then tell me please what he did for Pakistan? I am willing to talk logically.

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  • gp65
    Dec 17, 2012 - 1:24AM

    @deep :”I dont think you guys should beat yourselves about this – we dont have the courage to name anything after Jinnah who barring partition was considered a mainstream leader – even our text books acknowledge his role”

    I suppose ring to pre-1930 Jinnah who was a Congress member not the post 1937 Jinnah who promoted divisiveness on religious grounds and called for theDirect Action Day. IT is those actions due to which he is not respected in India, Also unlike most other Congress leaders who spent years in jails to fight British occupation and people like Lala Lajpat Rai died facing lathi charge (which incidentally Bhagat Singh avenged by killing Colonel Saunders) , Jinnah has not spent even a day in jail

    But Indi ahas several places named after Iqbal and Tarana-e-Hind is sung on every Republic dayand is honoured as a national song. Plus there are streets and even cities named after Muslim rulers (Aurangabad, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad). If course we also have Tatanagar. Askok chakra is on our national flag though he promoted Buddhism and Ranjit trophy is the largest domestic sports event in India named after a Sikh king. India has never considered the religion of a person in determining whether they should be honoured or not. If Shahid Bhagat SIngh was not a Muslim, he wasn’t a indu either – he was an atheist born in a Sik family.

    While in may areas India and Pakistan have similar problems (poverty, illiteracy, hunger) – when it comes to using religion as a yardstick for everything, you cannot compare India and Pakistan. . .

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  • Siddique Malik
    Dec 17, 2012 - 1:34AM

    @mrXYZ:
    How can you call a way that caused the murder of one million innocent people and forced migration of 15 million — to this day history’s largest forced migration — “civilized and rational”? Also, you are wrong and Hassan above is right: Muhammad bin Qasim and other marauders who invaded India were butchers, fanatics and terrorists.

    Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

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  • Siddique Malik
    Dec 17, 2012 - 7:19AM

    @Siraj:
    You say that you are willing to talk logically, but the point you raise is laced with illogic. India’s history before partition is the joint legacy of both Pakistan and today’s India. If heroes like Bhagat Singh had not shown the bravery they showed, all Indians would have suffered. Your illogic means you feel no pride for those who defied the colonialists order not to assemble in Jalianwala Bagh and those who challenged the colonialists during the war of independence of 1857. Bhagat Singh was from Lahore and he gave his life for India — there was no Pakistan yet — and that also included Lahore. For Lahore not to recognize the bravery of its true son, Bhagat Singh, is truly shameful. This is what religious obsession does to a society. It makes people immune to truth.
    Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.Recommend

  • shakrullah
    Dec 17, 2012 - 9:12PM

    We must have the courage to see our problem : Can we treat both Ghazi Ilm Din
    Shaheed and Bhagat Singh , almost contemporaries , as our heroes ? We have
    to resolve contradictions in our thoughts and beliefs .

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Dec 18, 2012 - 6:50AM

    @mrXYZ: You got to be kidding. Oh yeah, show me your heroes, I suppose General Zia was one of them. You people taking religion too far, look at your country, rampant corruption for the last so many decades and then you call yourself Muslims. I was raised in Mardan and things were different, we respected others who were not Muslims like me but they were Friends to me and could have stood up for me if needed so. Hypocrisy rules Pakistan now and I don’t see an end in sight, going down slowly till there will be no Pakistan for the so called Muslims. We are the laughing stock and butt of the jokes around the world. Wake up and stand up for your rights, don’t emulate Saudis, they are the lackeys of Americans, don’t you forget that.

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