Burnaby proclaims Bhagat Singh Day

The City of Burnaby has issued a historic proclamation to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh, an Indian revolutionary who was executed by the British 76 years ago.

Singh was a prominent figure in the Indian freedom struggle. However, he differed with Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent means to achieve independence. Singh, an atheist who favoured a separation of state and religion, was involved in the murder of a British police officer and was hanged in 1931.

He was born on September 27, 1907, in Lyallpur, which is now in Pakistan. Today, many people on both sides of the border revere Singh as a martyr. Burnaby's proclamation notes that Canadians of both Indian and Pakistani heritage are proudly marking his birth centenary. While the Indian government is celebrating the event on a grand scale, Burnaby became the first Canadian city to proclaim September 27 as "Shaheed [martyr] Bhagat Singh Day''.

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan told the Straight that his council has earlier honoured Gandhi and other Indian heroes. Sav Dhaliwal, the only Indo-Canadian Burnaby councillor, pushed for the proclamation honouring Singh.

"The West knows a lot about Gandhi, but knows little about Bhagat Singh," Dhaliwal told the Straight . "As a progressive council, we did not want to let this opportunity go."

Meanwhile, a group of South Asian students, Radical Desis, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bhagat Singh's birth at Bonsor Community Centre in Burnaby on September 28.