Controversy over Bhagat Singh photograph at Indian Punjab CM’s office

A photograph of Bhagat Singh in Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's office has run into a controversy.

Even before the Punjab poll results were declared, Bhagwant Mann, had announced that if their party came to power, the photos of Bhagat Singh and Dr. BR Ambedkar would adorn the walls of government offices.

Monitoring Desk

Two days after the AAP’s Bhagwant Mann took over as chief minister of Punjab, the photograph of the revolutionary Bhagat Singh installed at his office has run into a controversy. Mann—who chose Bhagat Singh’s ancestral village, Khatkar Kalan in Nawanshahr district, to take his oath—has always idolized Bhagat Singh, expressing that he wants to create a Punjab that the freedom fighter had dreamt of. However, the basanti (yellow) turban Bhagat Singh is seen wearing in the photo is being objected to, primarily for the photo’s lack of authenticity. However, according to Bhagat Singh’s family, what should matter is his vision, not the color of his turban in the picture.

Even before the Punjab poll results were declared, AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal and the party’s chief ministerial face, Bhagwant Mann, had announced that if the party came to power, the photos of Bhagat Singh and Dr. BR Ambedkar would adorn the walls of government offices, moving away from the tradition of putting the chief minister’s photos.

Bhagat Singh-1Mann has been an ardent follower of Bhagat Singh, who was hanged by the British on March 23, 1931 in Lahore when he was just 23, along with his companions Sukhdev and Rajguru. Mann says that he dreams of creating an egalitarian Punjab that Bhagat Singh had dreamt of and sacrificed his life for.

Ever since Mann joined politics with Manpreet Badal’s erstwhile People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) in 2011, the comedian-turned-politician has been sporting a basanti turban and invoking Bhagat Singh in almost every speech, ending them with Inquilab Zindabad—a slogan originally used by freedom fighter Maulana Hasrat Mohani but popularized later by Bhagat Singh.

Sporting a basanti turban throughout, Mann took his oath as chief minister at Khatkar Kalan, instead of Raj Bhavan. “The golden rays of the sun have brought a new dawn today. Today the whole Punjab will take oath at Khatkar Kalan to make the dreams of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Baba Sahib come true. I am leaving for his native village Khatkar Kalan to stand as a guardian of the ideology of Bhagat Singh,” he tweeted on Wednesday, before leaving for the oath-taking ceremony. He also called on people to arrive at the venue wearing yellow—men in basanti turbans and women in yellow dupattas. The venue was swept in a basanti wave—with all AAP MLAs and Kejriwal wearing yellow.

Bhagat-SinghAccording to researchers, the photo installed is “not an authentic photograph” of the freedom fighter but merely “an imagination”. Chaman Lal, honorary advisor to Delhi’s Bhagat Singh Resource Centre and the author of several books on the freedom fighter, says, “We have clarified many times that Bhagat Singh never wore any basanti or kesari turban. It is all imagination. We have only four original photographs of him. In one picture, he is sitting with open hair in jail, another shows him in a hat and two others show him in a white turban. All other pictures showing him in yellow or orange turbans or even with a weapon in his hand are products of imagination. Some of them are paintings too. Political parties should talk about his ideology and discuss it with youths instead of using his name for their own benefits. Paintings created with imagination should never be used for official purposes. The Punjab government should put any of these four original pictures in the government offices instead of distorted ones. You cannot associate a particular color with a revolutionary just because it has been portrayed so in movies or paintings. Till date we do not have any original picture of Bhagat Singh showing him in basanti, orange or red color as being portrayed on social media these days,” says Professor Lal.


Courtesy: The Indian Express

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