Two days after Bhagwant Mann took over as the chief minister of Punjab, a photograph of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh in the CM's office has stirred up a controversy.
Critics have raised questions over the colour of the turban that Singh was seen donning in the photograph, claiming that it lacked authenticity.
Researchers and Singh's family members, however, want people to focus on Singh's visions and not the colour of his turban.
Mann, who took oath as Punjab CM in Singh’s ancestral village Khatkar Kalan has always idolised Singh and wears a yellow turban as a 'tribute' to the freedom fighter. In fact, Mann requested the people across the state to attend his swearing-in ceremony wearing 'basanti' (yellow) turbans and draping yellow shawls or stoles.
He also asked government establishments to replace the CM's photograph with photographs of Singh and Dr BR Ambedkar.
What is the Controversy?
Critics have claimed that the photograph of Bhagat Singh wearing a yellow turban lacks authenticity. According to Chaman Lal, a research scholar and honorary adviser to Delhi’s Bhagat Singh Resource Centre, "there are only four original photographs of Singh" and none of them show him in a yellow turban.
In an interview with The Indian Express, Lal said, "All other pictures showing him in yellow or orange turbans or even with a weapon in his hand are products of imagination. Some of them are paintings too. Political parties should talk about his ideology and discuss it with youths instead of using his name for their own benefits."
Lal told the publication that the objection was on the overuse of the colour of his turban for political reasons and asked the AAP government to use real photographs of Singh.
Bhagat Singh's nephew, Jagmohan Singh, agreed with Lal in a conversation with The Indian Express and said that it is true that only four original photographs of the freedom fighter are available. Jagmohan also asked the government to focus more on implementing Bhagat Singh's visions than on the colour of his turban.
What is the Relevance of 'Basanti'?
Basanti (bright yellow colour) is often linked with protests and revolutions in Punjab. A 'basanti' turban or 'dupatta' is associated recently with a year-long agitation of farmers against the now repealed three farm laws, but also with sacrifice and patriotic spirit.
It also symbolises cheerfulness and the onset of spring season in Punjab. The fifth day of lunar month of Magha, according to the Punjabi calendar is celebrated as Basant Panchami, when fairs are held and people are seen flying kites.
According to researchers, the colour got linked to Bhagat Singh because of a song written by freedom fighter Ram Prasand Bismil, titled, "Mera Rang De Basanti Chola". Bismil and Bhagat Singh were both part of the Hindustan Republican Association. Movies made on the lives of the freedom fighters made the association of the colour yellow due to the song.
This is not the first time a party has invoked Bhagat Singh in their political campaign. Yellow turbans and Bhagat Singh's references were a part of the party's campaign for the 2017 Assembly elections, when it lost.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also made efforts to invoke the legendry freedom fighter.
In 2015, donning a 'basanti' turban, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the second prime minister to visit Hussainiwala in Punjab's Ferozepur district.
Hussainiwala is the place where the last rites of the three freedom fighters – Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru – were held after they were hanged in Lahore on 23 March 1931.
(With inputs from The Indian Express and IANS.)