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April 2, 2019

Academics, activists laud Bhagat Singh’s struggle


April 2, 2019

A number of political and rights activists, intellectuals, students and people from other walks of life gathered at the National Trade Union Federation’s (NTUF) office on Sunday to commemorate the 88th death anniversary of renowned freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.

The NTUF organised a lecture titled ‘Bhagat Singh Shaheed: Revolutionary politics and ways of resistance’, in which Prof Dr Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, social expert and the dean of social sciences at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist), spoke about Singh’s struggle and the region’s contemporary politics.

Singh and his companions, Rajguru and Sukhdev, were executed by the British Raj on March 23, 1931, at the location currently known as Fawara Chowk in Lahore. He was 23 at the time of his execution.

Influenced by ideologies of the left, Singh was a young revolutionary and hero of the independence movement and was above religious affiliations, Dr Shaikh said. “Youth have a great role in revolutionary as well as reactionary movements,” he remarked. “On the one hand, we have the model of young Singh and on the other hand we have models of a student of Bahawalpur who killed his teacher and two youths of Ghotki who allegedly kidnapped and converted two Hindu girls.”

The expert was of the view that the planned deindustrialisation in Pakistan had dealt a deadly blow to the movement of resistance in Pakistan and further weakened the already feeble voice for peoples’ rights.

Revolutionary thinking is always present in every society and every era, he said, terming Mazdakism in Iran, the movement of Gautama Buddha against Brahmans, the dawn of Islam, the birth of Sikh religion and thoughts of Martin Luther as different phases of revolutionary thinking in different societies and eras.

Discussing the revolutionary movements in the Indian subcontinent, he said there was a long history of resistance of masses against injustice in the region and at least 23 resistance movements of peasants took place in India between 1720 and 1945.

Commenting on the current times, Dr Shaikh said the classical conditions for revolution were not there in Pakistan at present. “We have to see who our allies are and what form of political struggle would suit our objectives.”

He said the shape of resistance movements is changing in the whole word. To explain his point, he cited the Yellow Vests Movement of France, USAS which is the campus anti-sweatshop movement of American students, South Africa's Shack Dwellers Movement, and Delhi’s Aam Admi Party. He said these were the contemporary models of peoples’ resistance, which should be studied and adopted in Pakistan.

Dr Shaikh regretted that Pakistan had not witnessed any big labour movement since 1972. He said fizzling out of Pakistani journalists’ protest was another disappointing story.

It is a great challenge for getting political space back for revolutionary politics, he said, adding that viable alternatives needed to be adopted in order to succeed. Singh is relevant today because he had also adopted alternative political ways and means, the expert said.

NTUF Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor lamented that the rulers were trying to bend Pakistan to the slavery of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. He said there was no hope that the present political parties of Pakistan would resolve the problems of masses. He stressed the need for a political party of workers in Pakistan.

Writer Zubair Rahman, Home-based Women Workers Federation’s Zahra Khan, Sajjad Zahir, NTUF’s Riaz Abbasi and a large number of trade union leaders, political workers and civil society members also attended the event.

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