NEW DELHI: After the euphoria generated in September that Lahore’s Fawara Chowk in Shadman Colony will be named after freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, a majority of the Lahore city government members now oppose the move.
Fawara or Shadman Chowk (shown in the above picture) stands at the execution ground of Lahore Central Jail where Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged on March 23, 1931.
The jail was demolished in 1961 to pave the way for Shadman Colony. The Fawara Chowk stands exactly on the spot where the three freedom fighters were executed 82 years ago.
After civil groups from both India and Pakistan managed to get the Lahore city government to proclaim the chowk as Bhagat Singh Chowk, the majority of city government members now oppose the move.
While six people support the renaming of the chowk, 13 people oppose it on the grounds that since Pakistan is a Muslim country any roads or chowks should be named after Muslims, not Hindus or Sikhs.
The Express Tribune reported that the district coordination officer (DCO) had decided to put on hold the plan to rename the chowk and forwarded the matter to a committee set up as part of a project to revitalize Lahore.
After the decision to rename the chowk was announced, journalist Kuldeep Nayar, Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Chaman Lal, members of the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch and the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) and Bhagat Singh’s family had welcomed it as a great gesture by Pakistan.
“We – civil society activists from both India and Pakistan – held candlelight vigils at this location every year on the anniversary of the execution. Many times, we renamed it ourselves, with a signboard proclaiming it as “Bhagat Singh Chowk,” the group had said in a statement after the Pakistani decision.
“We also took our demand to Pakistan’s political leaders. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party rules Pakistan’s Punjab province, gave us hope that our demand would be met. We are happy that the hope was fulfilled, and that too on the special day of Bhagat Singh’s 105th birth anniversary.’’
The statement added, “This year too for the first time, Bhagat Singh’s birth anniversary was celebrated at Dyal Singh College hall in Lahore on September 28 by the Pakistan Labour Party, and 23 more organisations. Speakers described Bhagat Singh as the representative of the struggling masses in all of Asia. The organisers also demanded the setting up of a museum at Bhagat Singh’s birthplace in Chak no. 105, Lyallpur Bange in Faislabad district.
“Advocate Iqbal Virk, who is now the occupant of the house in which he was born, participated in the function and offered all cooperation.
“It was unfortunate that a 27-member Indian delegation, which included Bhagat Singh’s nephew Kiranjit Sandhu, and the author of several books on the martyr, Prof. Chaman Lal, could not attend the jointly planned anniversary as they were not issued visas. But the subsequent news of the renaming of the Chowk has more than compensated for that.’’
But in order to craft an Arab identity on its South Asian roots, Pakistan, since dictator Zia ul-Haq’s time, has been renaming its cities and other places after Arab leaders. Lyallpur was renamed Faisalabad after Saudi King Faisal.
The Lahore Stadium was renamed Gaddafi Stadium after the late Libyan dictator Gaddafi supported Pakistan’s nuclear quest during the second summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Lahore in 1974.
On the other hands, Sikh and Hindu monuments and important places are either in dilapidated condition or being renamed.
Van Radha Ram, a town in Kasur district which carried the name of the father of Sir Ganga Ram, has been changed to Habib Kot. Hindu Bagh, a town in Balochistan, has been renamed Muslim Bagh.
There have also been attempts to change the name of district town Toba Tek Singh, but the authorities have failed so far because of its same-name famous work by Sadat Hasan Manto.
Interestingly, there is a strange link between Bhagat Singh and the Bhutto family of Pakistan.
When Bhagat Singh was being tried in 1930, no magistrate reportedly came forward to try the national hero. The British rulers finally roped in a loyal magistrate named Nawab Muhammad Ahamd Khan or Kasuri (because he came from Kasur city of Pakistan). Kasuri signed the death warrant of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev and the three heroes were hanged on March 23, 1931.
And this magistrate Kasuri was shot dead in 1975 at the same spot where he had ordered the three national heroes’ hanging in 1931. And the man who had allegedly ordered Kasuri’s shooting was the then Pakistan prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was hanged by military dictator Zia ul-Haq in 1977 for this alleged crime.