Publisher: Oxford University Press
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I started 2012 with a vow to diversify my reading. The focus was not only to increase nonfiction, but also to read new authors. In that regard, 2012 was definitely a year well spent. The books that stand out are Manu Joseph’s “The Illicit Happiness of Other People” Shehan Karunatilaka’s “Chinaman” and Junot Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”. All of these books absorbed me and more importantly reaffirmed my belief in the power of fiction.
However the book that really got me going was something that I read in early January. One of my first non-fictions of the year, ‘The Trial of Bhagat Singh: Politics of Justice’ by A.G. Noorani completely blew me away.
The cover of the book shows Bhagat Singh in European attire and has his letters in Urdu. I knew right then, that this book was different. Of course, Mr. Noorani’s name also sufficed to increase my regard. And indeed, the book was different. This book helped me to look at Bhagat Singh’s case on a purely legal basis, on a political angle and then in the murky interplay between the two. Besides, it was a treasure trove of historical documents and facts regarding to Bhagat Singh’s life and the Lahore Conspiracy Case, such as the fact that Jinnah was among the very few who defended Bhagat Singh.
Issues of violence aside, this book is interesting in its parallel to oppressive governments worldwide. New laws were created specifically for his case, and the right of appeal was taken away. Even these laws were not passed in a correct way; they were mere ordinances, which thus put the entire trial as biased, especially considering that the ordinance itself was valid for just over 6 months.
We live in a world today, which increasingly discourages violence and yet is increasingly conflict ridden and filled with dogmas. This book shows us how Bhagat Singh was willing to learn, reflect and relearn from his mistakes, without being a blind adherent of any ideology. This is what I take from the book; the need to introspect and the ability to act on those ideas.
This book has a strange power. It makes one see reason. Nowadays, most of us pay lip service to Bhagat Singh and his actions. However, most of us forget that he was a staunch secular in an era of religious dogmas, an activist on his own rather than through proxies, and a tower of principles. He was also 23 when he was killed.
The true import is not only Bhagat Singh’s life, which is both exemplary and inspiring, but the seeming relevance that it carries even today. A.G. Noorani beautifully recreates this intellectual strength that Bhagat Singh possessed and shows how it is necessary to think and rethink our ideas and beliefs and not remain dogmatic. That possibility of change and the value of inner strength and conviction is what I have taken from the book.
I believe this book is an essential read, especially for those looking to create a difference.