BHAGAT SINGH: LEADERSHIP ASSESSMENT
Bhagat Singh (28 September 1907 – 23 March 1931) was an Indian socialist considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. He is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the word "Shaheed" meaning "martyr" in a number of Indian languages.
His legacy prompted youth in India to begin fighting for Indian independence and he continues to be a youth idol in modern India, as well as the inspiration for several films.He gained widespread national support when he underwent a 116 day fast in jail, in demand of equal rights for British and Indian political prisoners.Together with Batukeshwar Dutt, he undertook a successful effort to throw two bombs and leaflets inside the Central Legislative Assembly while shouting slogans of Inquilab Zindabad (this particular excerpt is talked about in detail as a sign of his judgement).
One of the best ways to understand the entire history behind Bhagat Singh for today's generation, is through this well documented film, which talks about his early life and his leadership skills at the time of independence:
This is one of the first documentations of the great courageous leadership of Bhagat Singh, and there have been many other movies that have tried to portray his leadership, and what it meant for the country.
The following section talks in detail of his exemplary leadership before India achieved its independence, and breaks it down depending on the 7 leadership characteristics of Vision, Courage, Determination, Integrity, Symbiosis, Judgement and Charisma.
This section only tries to judge his leadership qualities based on the characteristics. The following analysis in no ways tries to demean or lessen the huge role played by him in the process of independence for India, and he shall forever remain a great leader, who sacrificed his life for the country.
Bhagat Singh was the leader for the youth. When the rational thinkers and the old confided in Gandhi, the youngsters of India with their raging blood preferred to rest their beliefs on Bhagat Singh. That said, Bhagat Singh was known for his courage, radical measures, and ardent revolts, rather than his Vision for India's independence.
He did not seem like a man who had planned each and every revolt or bombing based on his plans for the country's independence. He was a young man who wanted to show his anger at the state of affairs in the country, and was brave enough to show it by his radical measures. He wanted independence, but did not know how to do so, or at least, felt that 'scaring' the British away with his bombings would do so.
While his revolts were very famous and popular with the youth, it can be argued that its impact on India's independence was not so much, and hence, he was the not the most Visionary of leaders.
Courage and Determination
If there was one thing Bhagat Singh was well-known for, it was his courage and determination. During the times of turmoil when the entire youth of the country was raging with anger, but was being 'forced' to follow on the path of non-violence by Gandhi, Bhagat Singh had the courage to revolt against the British, without thinking of the consequences, in order to voice the feelings of the entire nation.
One of the examples of this is a version of his tortures in jail, documented in film:
This is one of the many acts of courage and determination shown by him, that he resisted torture and still carried on the path of revolt in order to get independence for his country. The video is used to show the levels of his courage, and though on film, it is believed that it is very similar to the real life incidents, where Bhagat Singh was captured and tortured for weeks, and when he kept on resisted, he was finally hanged in order to silence his revolt, and hence, died as a martyr for the country. Thus, he ranked very high on courage and determination.
Bhagat Singh had no personal gain in his actions. For a man who ended up revolting and sacrificing his life, it means that he has dedicated his entire life to the country. And Bhagat Singh had done the same- he had considered himself as a servant to the country, and aimed only to serve the country by revolting against the British, and creating a stir among the Indians so as to act against them, and act fast.
Thus, being a revolutionary and a martyr, it is clear that he had high levels of integrity. All his actions were for the good of his country, and he only wanted to voice the feelings of every youth in the country.
Bhagat Singh was, what one might call, a very courageous and determined leader, who did not care whether he had the support of anyone in his actions. Even though the fight he was fighting was that of the Indian independence, he was not afraid to act in a small group with Batukeshwar Dutt and Sukhdev, his companions in revolt, and with the advice of a few others. He single handedly caused a stir within the British ranks, showing that every young Indian was capable of such rage and revolt, emphasizing the power of the common man.
Since he did not act in large groups, he is not known for symbiosis. Also, given his impulsive and explosive nature, it is highly unlikely that he was a symbiotic person. That said, due to his popularity and high charisma, people believed in him and seemed to follow him despite his explosive nature.
When it comes to Judgement, Bhagat Singh might not have been the most rational of thinkers. He is known to have been a revolutionary, with radical measures. The crux of his followers came from his charisma and his radical ways rather than the thought about clever judgments he made. He wanted to be in the fray at all times, and thus, conducted several attacks on the Britishers, which might not have been the best of judgements, but pleased the youth due to its aggressive nature.
The 1992 Assemby Bomb throwing incident proves to be a good example:
The British government decided to implement the Defence of India Act 1915 to subdue the rise of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh in the country, as it gave the police a free hand. Thus, influenced by a French anarchist who bombed the French Chamber of Deputies, Bhagat Singh proposed to the HSRA his plan to explode a bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly, which was agreed to. Initially it was decided that his co-partners, Batukeshwar Dutt and Sukhdev would plant the bomb; however later the plan was changed. On 8 April 1929, Singh and Dutt threw two bombs inside the assembly rushing from Visitor's Gallery. The smoke from the bomb filled the Hall and they shouted slogans of "Inquilab Zindabad!" ( which means "Long Live the Revolution!") and showered leaflets claiming that the act was done to oppose the Trade Disputes and the Public Safety Bill being presented in the Central Assembly and the death of Lala Lajapath Rai. Gandhi, once again, issued strong words of disapproval. This act was impulsive and not well thought but done in anger. Nevertheless, it caused a stir and won the hearts of the common youth.
Here is a simulation of the incident in the form of a movie clip:
Due to the active methods of Bhagat Singh's revolt against the British, he was very famous among the youth. He was considered as a true Indian fighter, who was ready to sacrifice his life for the country, and also possessed the rage of the youth as he wanted the Britishers dead rather than simply out of the country, something which was the main focus of Mahatma Gandhi.
In the words of Subhas Chandra Bose: "Bhagat Singh had become the symbol of the new awakening among the youths ...". Nehru himself acknowledged that the popularity of Bhagat Singh by saying, "He was a clean fighter who faced his enemy in the open field ... he was like a spark that became a flame in a short time and spread from one end of the country to the other dispelling the prevailing darkness everywhere." Four years after Bhagat Singh's hanging, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Sir Horace Williamson, wrote: "His photograph was on sale in every city and township and for a time rivalled in popularity even that of Mr. Gandhi himself". This was the persona and charisma of Bhagat Singh.
From the more struggling martyrs of that era, Bhagat Singh is the most talked about, due to his impeccable charisma. The following documentary on him is just an example of how loved, popular, remembered and cherished he is, by the Indians:
Thus, we have assessed Bhagat Singh as a leader in all of the seven leadership characteristics. Given the fact that he was a martyr, representing the youth and the common man, he showed high amounts of Courage, Determination, Integrity and Charisma, and low amounts of Vision, Symbiosis and Judgement.
- Gaur 2008, pp. 54–55
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- Ralhan 1998, pp. 438–439
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- "Leaflet was thrown in the Central Assembly Hall, New Delhi at the time of the throwing voice bombs". Letter, Writings and Statements of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his Copatriots. Shahid Bhagat Singh Research Committee, Ludhiana. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- Singh & Hooja 2007, p. 137
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