• User Name
  • Password
  • Remember Me
05 Oct 2023, 01:31 HRS IST
  • PTI
April 11, 2022

PTI Fact Check:Bhagat Singh never wore a yellow turban, only four real pics of him: historians

Photo Caption: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal during a virtual press conference in New Delhi (PTI Photo)
 New Delhi, Apr 11 (PTI) A popular, much circulated picture of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh in a yellow turban is based on a 1975 painting. In reality, the revolutionary, who was only 23 when he was hanged on March 23, 1931, never wore a yellow turban, say historians.
In fact, said historian Chaman Lal, there are only four known photographs of Bhagat Singh --  as a child and then as a student at Lahore's National College in a white turban, in police custody in Lahore where he is seen with open hair sitting on a cot, and a fourth with trimmed hair and hat.
The yellow turban picture has gained more traction with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) prominently displaying it in several offices. While party chief Arvind Kerjriwal has been photographed with Dalit icon B R Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh in the frame, its new chief minister in Punjab, Bhagwant Mann, has said pictures of the two will be prominently displayed in state government offices.
"There are only four real photographs of Bhagat Singh. Instead of putting one of those at the government offices in Punjab, the administration chose a picture based on a painting by artist Amar Singh in 1975, and commissioned by Giani Zail Singh, then chief minister of Punjab,"  Lal, the author of several books on Bhagat Singh, told PTI.
"There is no ban on paintings. You can use it at homes or public meetings, but not at government offices or official purposes. Also, when you don't use it for other historical figures, including Mahatma Gandhi, Subas Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, then why use painting-based photos for Bhagat Singh?" he asked.
These fictional images of Singh built around folklore, which Lal termed "romanticised artworks", were not always this popular.
Till the 1970s, he said, the most popular picture of Singh was the one of him in a hat. It was taken on April 3, 1929 -- five days before he and B K Dutt hurled bombs in the Central Assembly, now called Parliament House, in Delhi.
Lal also recalled how a statue of the freedom fighter wearing a hat,  unveiled in 1974 by then chief minister Zail Singh in Punjab’s Nawanshahr (now Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar) district, was later replaced by the Shiromani Akali Dal government. The new statue portrayed him in a turban.
"Till 1975, all over the world -- and India -- there was no other photograph than the one showing him wearing a hat which was being published. It is only after identity politics came into play and the race started among political parties to show him as a Sikh, a Jatt and whatnot that the painting-based photograph came into prominence," added  Lal, who is also honorary adviser to the Bhagat Singh Archive and Resource Centre in Delhi.
Singh was born in a Sikh family, which also had ties with the Arya Samaj. Later in life, he dissociated himself from any religion and called himself an atheist.
Noted historian S Irfan Habib called out Punjab Chief Minister Mann and other political parties for trying hard to make Singh a Sikh figure through “false photographs”.
"Mann (the CM) never wore a ‘pagri’ (turban) till he came into politics, but now if he wants to wear it, it's his choice and we are not questioning that. 
"But don't attribute your yellow turban to Bhagat Singh is what we are saying. He has nothing to do with the colour yellow. It was never his choice, he has never written anything on it, and nor do we have any photograph of him wearing one," Habib said.
The "desperate attempts" by successive state governments to show revolutionaries from Punjab as Sikhs have led to a distortion of images of other revolutionaries -- and atheists -- as well. These include Udham Singh and Kartar Singh Sarabha, claimed Lal.
Sarabha, a hero of Bhagat Singh, was among the youngest martyrs of the 1914-15 Ghadar movement. Uddham Singh assassinated Michael O'Dwyer, the former lieutenant governor of Punjab in British India in 1940, to avenge the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre.  
According to Lal, photographs of Uddham Singh used are not real, and the depiction of Sarabha wearing a turban is also false.
The only known photograph of Sarabha is from the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) and doesn't show him wearing one.
And what is being done to Udham Singh's image is worse than Bhagat Singh, Lal added.
“None of Udham Sngh’s real photos are used. He seldom wore a turban and didn't have a beard. Even the statue that the administration put up at the Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, is false, and statues at his hometown in Punjab are ugly to say the least," he said.
The use of Bhagat Singh’s photograph in a yellow turban is ‘misleading’. 
CLAIM: A popular picture of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh in a yellow turban has gained more prominence after AAP, the ruling party in Punjab and Delhi, has been displaying it in its offices.

FACT: Historians say there are only four known photographs of Bhagat Singh, none in a yellow turban. The picture in the yellow turban is based on a 1975 painting.

CONCLUSION: The use of Bhagat Singh’s photograph in a yellow turban is ‘misleading’

Want to share feedback / suggestions on our fact-check stories? Write to us at factcheck@pti.in