Spreading propaganda: How Haryana govt is insulting Bhagat Singh to honour a BJP leader

Ever heard of a gentleman called Mangal Sein?

Try searching for a dozen people who have heard of him in Punjab. You would be lucky to find one.

 Spreading propaganda: How Haryana govt is insulting Bhagat Singh to honour a BJP leader

Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar.

Try looking for him on Google. This is what you get on Wikipedia: Mangal Sein (1927-1990) was a leader of Bharatiya Janata Party from Haryana and the deputy chief minister of Haryana from 1977 to 1979. He was elected to Haryana legislative assembly from Rohtak for seven times. He served as president of state unit of BJP an earlier of Jan Sangh.

For his "stellar" contribution to Haryana's saffron parivar, the Haryana government wants to name the Chandigarh airport, which also serves Punjab, as Mangal Sein International Airport.

What's wrong in naming the airport after a BJP leader, you could argue, reeling out list of places named after the Gandhi-Nehrus?

The problem in this case is, however, not the Haryana government's plan to ignore the Congress leaders. The despicable plan here is pitting a Sangh leader against an icon of India's freedom movement: Sardar Bhagat Singh.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, a former foot soldier of the RSS, wants to honour fellow Mangal Sein by rescinding an earlier proposal to name the airport after Shaheed-e-Azam Singh, one of India's greatest heroes and martyrs.

The BJP-led Khattar government recently wrote to the ministry of civil aviation to call the international airport after the Jana Sangh leader, arguing that he deserves the honour by virtue of being a seven time legislator from Rohtak — a Haryana town a few hundred km from Chandigarh.

The Centre too seems to be playing ball. According to The Tribune, in a written reply to a query on the renaming of the Chandigarh airport, the Centre said no decision has been taken because of lack of consensus between the state governments of Haryana and Punjab.

“The Punjab Government had recommended naming of International Civil Terminal Chandigarh as Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport, Mohali. In 2010, the Government of Haryana had also proposed naming the terminal as Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Chandigarh. In a subsequent letter, the Chief Minister of Haryana has requested naming the international terminal as Dr Mangal Sein International Airport, Chandigarh. The proposal was examined in consultation with the ministries concerned and the governments of Haryana and Punjab. However, due to non-consensus between Haryana and Punjab, the airport terminal could not be renamed,” the report quoted the government as saying.

Khattar's plan to pay obeisance to his ideological mentors has been slammed by almost everybody, except the central government, which is the final authority on naming of airports. For some reason, it has allowed the controversy to fester, allowing Haryana to divide the legacy of Bhagat Singh on political and geographical lines.

According to The Times of India, even Bhagat Singh's nephew Professor Jagmohan Singh has termed the Haryana government's proposal a sign of "narrow-minded approach of BJP". But, Khattar has refused to withdraw his contentious proposal.

The BJP has always been accused of trying to give its politicians the sheen of retrospective greatness, make their achievements look bigger than what they were. Having played an insignificant role in the struggle for Independence, it has often been eager to assign its ideologues a more prominent place in history.

When it has not been able to find suitable candidates for heroism from within the Parivar, the BJP has not been averse to usurping leaders from other parties and organisations.

As pointed out by Firstpost earlier, the search for heroes started with Sardar Patel, gathered momentum with Subhash Chandra Bose, BR Ambedkar and Madan Mohan Malviya. And now the BJP has spread its net wide— from proverbial Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

But pitting an unknown Haryana legislator — perhaps good enough to be honoured by naming a municipal ward in his hometown Rohtak after him — against an icon like Bhagat Singh signals a new low.

Perhaps Khattar can learn from Pakistan. In March this year, hundreds of people gathered at Lahore's Fawara Chowk to remember the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, who were executed in a jail close to the Fawara Chowk, reported Dawn.

The participants demanded that the square be renamed as Bhagat Singh Chowk because he was a was a hero of the Independence movement and was above religious affiliations.

Pity Khattar doesn't understand what Lahore does.

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2015 12:51:56 IST