Memories survive

March 26, 2023

Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary, lost his life fighting against the British

Memories survive


aisalabad is known mostly for its textile industry but it is also the birthplace of a revolutionary hero, Bhagat Singh.

Bhagat Singh was born on September 28, 1907, in Chak 105, Bungay village of Lyallpur (now Faisalabad). He was hanged to death on March 23, 1931, at the age of twenty-three. His ancestral home and school stand to this day.

After the Partition, Bhagat Singh’s home was allotted to the family of Saqib Iqbal Virk who now looks after it. He says that in 1947, the house was allotted to his grandfather, Fazal Qadir. “The two rooms built in 1890 have been preserved the way they were built by Bhagat Singh’s parents.” Bhagat Singh’s ancestral residence and school were declared cultural heritage by the district government in 2014. Nearly Rs 10 million was spent on the restoration and renovation. According to Saqib Virk, people from all over the world come to see the birthplace of Bhagat Singh. He says he is proud to host visitors who come to pay tribute to Bhagat Singh.

Bhagat Singh’s tijoree (safe), spinning wheel and a berry tree he planted are still there and are considered valuable assets by Saqib Virk.

Virk says that he bears the cost of maintaining this house. He says that if the government wants to take over the heritage site to renovate it, he will not ask for any compensation for it.

Most of the people of the village who had seen Bhagat Singh or knew about his sacrifices for the freedom movement are no longer in this world. However, village elders still remember Bhagat Singh as one of their own.

Muhammad Afzal, 62, was born in this village. He says that he had heard from his elders that Bhagat Singh was a great sympathiser of the poor. “During the British era, villagers were banned from cutting trees. Bhagat Singh opposed this ban and told the villagers that they were the real owners of the resources and that the British had forcibly occupied them.”

Memories survive

Muhammad Siddique, 75, is a retired government employee. He says that Bhagat Singh was a rare example of consistent struggle for freedom at such a young age. “Bhagat Singh used to say that this country is ours, the land is also ours, and that he does not accept the British rule. Eventually, he sacrificed his life in that struggle.” He says that Bhagat Singh and his family used to participate in public welfare work. “They built the first school in the village, where Bhagat Singh also studied. For the convenience of the people, two Janj Ghars (wedding halls) were built where weddings were held free of charge. Visitors were also given free accommodation and food. There were three ponds in the village for which water was approved; most of the trees on the road leading to the village were also planted by them.”

According to Siddique, his elders used to commend the Sikhs who had once lived there and the way they had established a good community welfare system. Those who came later, he says, were unable to maintain that system.

In the classroom where Bhagat Singh used to sit and study, pictures of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Muhammad Iqbal as well as Bhagat Singh are displayed. Muhammad Umar, a teacher at the school, says that he and other residents of the village feel proud that they are residents of Bhagat Singh’s village.

He says that until a few years ago, on the occasion of Bhagat Singh’s birthday, a ceremony would be organised at his ancestral home, in which the villagers and people from other cities of the Punjab would participate. Similarly, on the death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, candles were lit in his ancestral home and tributes were paid. However, during Covid years (2020-2022) Bhagat Singh’s birthday and anniversary celebrations were stopped.

This year, too, on Bhagat Singh’s death anniversary on March 23, no ceremony was held in his village. But a few people gathered at his birthplace and paid tribute to Shaheed Bhagat Singh by lighting candles.

In 2014, Bhagat Singh’s native village Chak 105 Bungay, Sir Ganga Ram’s native village Gangapur, Mirza Sahib’s village Danaabad, Ahmed Khan Kharl’s village Jhamra and Khushpur, a village known as Vatican City of Pakistan, were declared historical villages and a plan was made to restore the historical buildings by the Lyallpur Heritage Foundation. However, due to non-availability of funds, the project has not been implemented so far.

The writer has been associated with journalism for the past decade. He tweets @naeemahmad876

Memories survive