With whose principles of freedom struggle would you agree more: Mahatma Gandhi or Bhagat Singh?
I came across this question recently and was forced into a situation where I had to answer it. I pondered over it for a long time before attempting to write down my thoughts. A lot of us would be stumped if they had to choose. They were both radical in their own spheres. Both of them put their country before anything else. Both were willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. How then will you choose?
The principles that drove Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh were similar, if not same. The differences in their actions were governed by the choices they made. The differences in choices were in turn due to the difference in their backgrounds, basic personality and most importantly, age. The outcomes of those differences were results of circumstances.
Bhagat Singh attempted to kill the police chief who'd severly beaten Lala Lajpat Rai during the protests against the Simon Comminssion. He ended up killing J. P. Saunders, the Deputy Superitendant of Police. His decision to assassinate in response to Lala Lajpat Rai's death was prompted by anger and frustration, typical of the youth and driven by his take-action personality. He probably did not allow himself to think of the repercussions of his actions and its possible impact on the larger freedom struggle. When on trial, he admitted to the assassination which shows his conviction towards truth, a well known Gandhian principle. Also Bhagat Singh went on a hunger strike while in jail, a tool largely attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, to fight for prisoner rights.
On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi's insistence of non violence was a result of a more mature outlook and a better understanding of the people. His "Discovery of India" is a shining example of that. He was known to do extensive research on any subject before adopting it as a principle. It was after such extensive research that he closed on the concept of non violence.
Circumstances forced both these men to modify their principles from time to time. Mahatma Gandhi on one hand called off the Non Cooperation Movement after the Chauri Chaura incident in 1922. On the other hand he did not stop the Quit India movement despite individual acts of violence in 1942. Bhagat Singh was, likewise, driven by circumstances from non violent non cooperation to more radical ideologies.
The Jallianwala Babh Massacre did not occur in Gandhiji's community when he was a child. Similarly, Bhagat Singh was not sent to London during his impressionable years. To me therefore, both these personalities are an essential part of the freedom struggle. They both, together, completed the picture, a wise old man on one hand and an enthusiastic, often impulsive youth on the other.