Bhagat Singh’s “Why I am an Atheist”

April’s Reading: “Why I am an Atheist” by Bhagat Singh
Wednesday April 18 2012
VIVO Media Arts (1965 Main Street), Vancouver BC
7pm Salon Free
Facilitated by Am Johal

The Marxist revolutionary penned ‘Why I am an Atheist’, a profound indictment of religion as he languished in an Indian prison awaiting execution.  Accused of “arrogant pride and vanity” by critics who decried his sustained repudiation of theism, Singh authored this compelling manifesto in an effort to articulate and expound upon his opinions on life and struggle.  Laden with polemics which lend new perspectives on fundamental philosophical questions of revolutionary theory, “Why I Am An Atheist” is a stirring argument against religious mysticism and dogma of every sort.

Bhagat Singh (1907–1931) was an Indian nationalist considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. He is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the Hindi-Urdu word Shaheed meaning “martyr”.
Born into a Jat Sikh family which had earlier been involved in revolutionary activities against the British Raj, as a teenager Singh studied European revolutionary movements and was attracted to anarchist and marxist ideologies. He became involved in numerous revolutionary organisations, and quickly rose through the ranks of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) to become one of its main leaders, eventually changing its name to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) in 1928.

Seeking revenge for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai at the hands of the police, Singh was involved in the assassination of British police officer John Saunders. He eluded efforts by the police to capture him. Together with Batukeshwar Dutt, he undertook a successful effort to throw two bombs and leaflets inside the Central Legislative Assembly while shouting slogans of Inquilab Zindabad. Subsequently they volunteered to surrender and be arrested. Held on this charge, he gained widespread national support when he underwent a 116 day fast in jail, demanding equal rights for British and Indian political prisoners. During this time, sufficient evidence was brought against him for a conviction in the Saunders case, after trial by a Special Tribunal and appeal at the Privy Council in England. He was convicted and subsequently hanged for his participation in the murder, aged 23.

Am Johal is an independent Vancouver writer whose work has appeared in Seven Oaks Magazine, ZNet, Georgia Straight, Electronic Intifada, Arena Magazine, Inter Press Service, Worldpress.org, rabble.ca and many others. He has an MA in International Economic Relations from the Institute for Social and European Studies.

No Reading After the Internet is a monthly opportunity to gather and read a text aloud in hopes that it might provoke theoretical illumination on particular art works, or the broader scape within which such work exists. This program departs from Cineworks’ Thought on Film series, conceived by Cheyanne Turions. Whilst still very interested in cinema, the focus of this incarnation is softened to accommodate the more broad (and ever expanding) scope of media art.

The idea of a reading group isn’t new. No Reading nonetheless poses itself as an experimental learning and discussion space. Simply put, we are suspicious of our own reading abilities, and the extent to which our readings are conversant with one another. No Reading means to offer a slow space within which to retrace oursteps in the hopes of discovering individual and collective ways through the realms of language and interpretation. The strategieswe have at our disposal are twofold: through the yoking of our discussion to a text; and inducing conversation, where possible, between text and specific, local, contemporaneous art discussions and happenings.

Participation in No Reading After the Internet is free and open to everyone, regardless of his or her familiarity with a text or its author. Texts will be handed out at the gathering. No pre-reading or research is required. Link to Reading