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Was Bhagat Singh innocent? The British might have implicated the revolutionary in a false case

The controversy surrounding the death of martyr Bhagat Singh refuses to settle. The legend only grows bigger, and this time the fandom comes across from the border. Pakistan’s Lahore High Court reopened the trial of the freedom fighter on February 3, after a petition was filed by a certain advocate Imtiaz Rashid Quereshi.

An inside view of Bhagat Singh’s house at Beri-Chak No.105, in Pakistan.

The court ruled that the trial of Bhagat Singh in the Saunders murder case needs to be opened before a larger bench. Bhagat Singh, along with co-freedom fighters Sukhdev and Rajguru, were hanged on March 23, 1931, for the murder of British police officer John P Saunders.

It’s been nearly 85 years since 23-year-old Bhagat Singh was executed by the British, but Qureshi is undeterred. “I will establish Bhagat Singh’s innocence,” he said. In November 2015, Qureshi had filed a plea in Pakistan’s Lahore High Court. The petition was first heard in May 2013 by a single judge, who then sent it to the Lahore High Court to be examined by a larger bench.

Historical records: The death certificate of martyr Bhagat Singh (left) and a copy of the FIR of Saunder’s murder written in Urdu.

In 2014, Lahore Police provided a copy of the 87-year-old FIR to Qureshi. Quite surprisingly, the FIR of the murder of British police officer John Saunders, written in Urdu, doesn’t have Bhagat Singh’s name on it. The report was registered with the Anarkali police station on December 17, 1928 at 4:30 pm against two ‘unknown gunmen’. The case was registered under Sections 302, 120(1) and 109 of the Indian Penal Code.

In 1928, British officer JP Saunders was shot in front of the SSP’s office in Lahore

In what may seem like yet another conspiracy about the martyr’s death, Qureshi has claimed that Bhagat Singh was initially given life term. The British later sent the revolutionary to the gallows by implicating him in a false case. Apparently, the special judges handling Bhagat Singh’s case, pronounced him guilty without hearing the 450 witnesses. The revolutionary’s lawyers were not given any chance of cross-questioning the witnesses.

Qureshi intends to take over the Poonch House, where the trial of Bhagat Singh was held, and convert it into a museum. There are plans to declare Bhagat Singh’s house and primary school in Faisalabad (Lyallpur in undivided India), to preserve as a heritage house.

The Primary School at Chak No.105,  that Bhagat Singh attended, still exists in Pakistan

It’s surprising that no political party in India has showed any keenness to retrieve any of the documents related to Bhagat Singh. It’s not enough that our tribute to this great freedom fighter is limited to garlanding at public events. Like the recent classified documents of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, a deep interest is required from our political leaders to give the martyr his due.