The dictionary meaning of martyr is “A martyr is someone who suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, or refusing to advocate a religious belief or cause as demanded by an external party”. Somehow western linguists have linked martyrdom with religion whereas the history of martyrdom in the world has been the persecution and death of people due to their belief in certain political ideas specially related to the vision of a nation or a world which is different from or antagonistic to the idea of the ruling classes. The martyrdom of sardar Bhagat Singh, Sikhdev, Rajguru, Ashfaqulla, Ramprasad Bismil and hundreds of other freedom fighters needs to be understood in terms of what was their world view, how they felt about their nation and what their dreams for humanity at large were.
Bhagat Singh was a socialist revolutionary who was hanged along with his comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev on 23 rd March 1931 by the British Government in India on the charge of waging war against the colonial rule. In December 1928, Bhagat Singh and an associate, Rajguru, fatally shot a 21-year-old British police officer, John Saunders, in Lahore, British India, mistaking Saunders, who was still on probation, for the British police superintendent, James Scott, whom they had intended to assassinate. They believed Scott was responsible for the death of Indian nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai as a result of having ordered a lathi charge in which Rai was injured, and, two weeks thereafter, died of a heart attack. As he exited a police station on a motorcycle, Saunders was felled by a single bullet fired from across the street by Rajguru. Lying injured on the ground, he was then shot up close several times by Bhagat Singh. The postmortem report showed eight bullet wounds. Another associate of Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, shot dead an Indian police constable, Chanan Singh, who attempted to pursue Singh and Rajguru as they fled. Later Azad was also shot dead by the Imperial police.
What makes Bhagat Singh and his associates different from other freedom fighters was their world view about the nation and the humanity at large. He was inspired by Kartar Singh Sarabha and Bhai Parmanand who were founders of Gadar Party. He was a socialist and had read Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Trotsky. In his last testament, "To Young Political Workers", he declared his ideal as the "Social reconstruction on new, i.e., Marxist, basis. Bhagat Singh wanted complete independence from the British rule as well as all those forces that enslaved human mind. His concept of complete independence meant that no one will be obsessed with God or religion, nor will anybody be crazy for money or other worldly desires. There will be no chains on the body or control by the state. This means that they want to eliminate: the Church, God and Religion; the state; Private property etc which make people exploit others for their profit. Bhagat Singh was an atheist and wrote a very famous essay titled “Why I am an Atheist”. Today when we remember him, it would be pertinent to read and reread his writings to understand his world view.