NEW DELHI:In news away from the headlines, Haryana Chief Minister and RSS pracharak Manohar Lal Khattar has withdrawn the decision of his predecessor Bhupender Singh Hooda to name the Chandigarh International airport after Bhagat Singh.

He has instead proposed that the airport should be named after RSS pracharak Mangal Sen and not as Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport. This decision might not have come to light had it not been for an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha by Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, a grandson of former chief minister of Punjab-Beant Singh who had been killed by Sikh separatists during the Punjab movement. Punjab has, however, refused to agree to the change.

ANSWERED ON: 03.12.2015

Change of Name of Chandigarh Airport
Will the Minister of
CIVIL AVIATION be pleased to state:-
(a) whether the Government proposes to change the name of Chandigarh airport;

(b) if so, the details thereof and the reasons therefor; and

(c) the time by which it is likely to be done?


Minister of State in the Ministry of CIVIL AVIATION (Dr Mahesh Sharma)

(a) to (c): A proposal was received from State Government of Punjab for naming of International Civil Air Terminal, Chandigarh as "Shaheed-EAzam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport, Mohali". In 2010, Chief Minister of Haryana had also proposed for naming of International Civil Air Terminal, Chandigarh as "Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Chandigarh". In a subsequent letter, Chief Minister of Haryana has requested to name the airport terminal as "Dr Mangal Sein International Airport, Chandigarh". The proposal was examined in consultation with concerned Ministries and State Governments of Haryana and Punjab. However, due to non-consensus between State Government of Haryana and Punjab, the airport terminal could not be renamed.”

Though shocking for many, it is not so for those, who know that Haryana chief minister has appointed Dinanath Batra as state government’s main educational advisor in minister’s rank, he has his sense of history shaped by such advisors! Though younger elements even in the BJP may also be asking: ‘who is this Mangal Sen?’

In 2009, when Chandigarh airport was to be expanded as an international airport the Punjab Assembly decided through an unanimous resolution to name the airport in Mohali after Bhagat Singh. The Haryana government in 2010 consented to the name but insisted that instead of Mohali, the town be identified as Chandigarh. The Manmohan Singh government, for some reason, kept the notification pending because of which the present Haryana government has decided d on the change in favour of the RSS pracharak.

Manohar Lal Khattar’s recommendation does not surprise secular political activists, rather it proves their long argued point that RSS/Hindutva has no love lost for revolutionaries and it eulogize them just to hit their political adversaries, particularly Congress party for not giving them due respect. ‘Panchjanya’-RSS Hindi mouthpiece had come out with special Bhagat Singh issue in year 2007, to mark his birth centenary. It tried to appropriate Bhagat Singh legacy while criticizing Prof. Bipan Chandra and me for underlining Bhagat Singh’s socialist revolutionary credentials. It has been even claiming falsely, that Bhagat Singh had met Bala Saheb Deoras in Nagpur.

Now Khattar’s decision, has simply proved the deception of RSS/BJP/Hindutva, in claiming or appropriating the legacy of Bhagat Singh and freedom struggle in any form. Interestingly Khalistan supporter Simranjit Singh IPS (retd. SSP) has also opposed the airport being named after Bhagat Singh’s calling him a ‘murderer’ of a police officer! One can see how all religious fundamentalists are close in their thinking!

Religious fundamentalists are insulting Bhagat Singh by using a distorted portrait for publicity, rather than the four photographs. Both the state and central governments have also done this, with the photographs of Bhagat Singh being dispensed with in favour of a badly painted portrait

It is not for first time that Bhagat Singh or his legacy has been subjected to insults, neither is it going to be last. They were called ‘murderers’, ‘mad men’ in and outside the Central Assembly by some of our national leaders at that time. Yet the same kind of people went on to eulogise them after their martyrdom.

It was Jinnah who had spoken in compassion for them, when Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries were observing long hunger strikes in jail. There is no record of any RSS or Hindu Mahasabha man speaking a word in favor of Bhagat Singh or his comrades during their revolutionary activities or at their execution by the British colonialialists. It was only the Congress (Leftists/Socialists/Forward Bloc) and the Communists who had real relations with these revolutionaries during the freedom struggle. The right wing within the Congress party denigrated the revolutionaries, as is being done by RSS/BJP/Hindutavites now. Even a memorial for the three revolutionaries at Ravi Banks in Lahore in 1931 after their martyrdom, planned by Naujwan Bharat Sabha was scuttled by these Congressmen by using Bhagat Singh’s father Kishan Singh, who himself was Congressman, with the false and deceptive assurance that Congress party itself will build grand memorial for three revolutionaries in Lahore, which was never done till 1947.

Ironically it is the civil democratic groups of Pakistan, who are now trying to build a memorial at the execution site of Bhagat Singh as Bhagat Singh Chowk. His birthplace in Chak No. 105, Lyallpur Bange has already been turned into a memorial with the Pakistan Government sanctioning more than 8 crores rupees to build it.

M L Khattar’s insult to Bhagat Singh and practically all struggles for freedom at the time has not been taken kindly. Not only Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu has threatened an agitation over it, Akali MP Prem Singh Chandumajra has also spoken very forcefully on the issue. Dr. Dharam Veer Gandhi, AAP Lok Sabha member from Patiala is also going to raise the issue forcefully, as seems to be the decision taken by the CPI(M) and other political parties. Janata Dal(U) MP and Spokesman K C Tyagi has condemned the Haryana government’s decision in strong terms. More so as the insult comes from the RSS and likeminded affiliates who played no role in the freedom movement, and many of whom were in league with the British colonialists of the time.

Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh have been found to be the two most popular icons of India by many surveys. Dr. Ambedkar has a constituency and no one dares to insult him or his legacy, but Bhagat Singh seems to have no constituency despite his popularity. His natural constituency –the Left- does not seem to be that sensitive about the need to protect his legacy and the history that is invaluable.

(Chaman Lal is retired Professor from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and author/editor of many books on Bhagat Singh, including his documents in Hindi, Punjabi and English. }