What Bhagat Singh said about terrorism

Print edition : May 27, 2016

“LET us be clear about this difficult question. The path of the bomb has been continuing since 1905 and it is a tragic comment on revolutionary India. Until now, we have not realised the use and abuse of this term. Terrorism is an expression of the absence of the lack of influence of revolutionary thought in our society; or repentance. In this way, it is an acceptance of our failure. In the very beginning, it was of some use. It changed the politics in a fundamental manner. It polished the thinking of young intellectuals; it gave self-sacrifice a vibrant form; and it gave an opportunity to show the reality and power of the movement to the world and our enemies. But it is not sufficient in itself. It [terrorism] has the history of failure across the world—in France, Russia, Germany, Balkan countries and in Spain—everywhere the story is the same… I would like to warn that the Irish model is not applicable here in India. Irish revolt was a popular revolt on the national level rather than sporadic incidents of terrorist activities in which gunmen were deeply associated with the people…

There is no need to appreciate the demon of terrorism. Terrorists have done a lot of work, and taught the world a lot. If we do not make mistakes relating to our aims and methods, it can be of use even today. Specially, in times of despair, terrorist methods can be useful in our propaganda drive but it is nothing more than fireworks and it should be restricted for special occasions and for a select few. A revolutionary should not be thrown in vicious cycles of futile terrorist activities and individual self-sacrifice. For all, the inspiring ideal should not be to die for the objective but to live for it and that too to live a purposeful and worthwhile life.

It goes without saying that we are not completely disassociating ourselves from terrorist activities. We seek complete appraisal of it from the viewpoint of the workers’ revolution. Those young men who are not fit in mature and silent organisational work can be used in a different manner. They should be freed from monotonous work to live their desired life. But the parent organisation should beforehand assess the impact of the party and its work, its impact on the masses and the strength of the enemy. Such kind of works can divert the attention of the masses from combative mass struggle to sharp and flamboyant work and thus can become an excuse to attack the very roots of the party. Hence, this ideal should not be carried forward in any circumstance. But the secret military department is not a curse. In reality, this is the frontline. The ‘firing line’ of the revolutionary party has to be linked to the base, which is the dynamic and progressive people’s party. There should be no hesitation to collect funds and arms for the organisation.”

Bhagat Singh

Pages 281-283, Bhagat Singh Ke Sampoorna Dastavez, foreword Kultar Singh; preface, compiled, and edited by Chaman Lal, Aadhar Prakashan, Panchkula, Haryana, 2004.

The translation has been done by Aditya Mukherjee and Mridula Mukherjee, Professors of History in JNU and co-authors of India’s Struggle for Independence.