The 14th of February is recognised as Valentine’s Day in many countries across the world. However, a bunch of messages circulating on social media are appealing to Indians that they ought not celebrate the occasion because Indian freedom fighters – Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru – were martyred on this day. Indian wrestler Babita Phogat was among those who tweeted the claim with #JaiHind.

Ironically, the image on the left in Phogat’s tweet carried ’27 Sep 1907 – 23 March 1931′ datestamp below Bhagat Singh’s photograph, yet the image on the right claimed that his death anniversary falls on February 14.

Many other social media users made similar claims and urged Indians to pay tribute to the country’s martyrs. The message seems to be viral on WhatsApp as well.

Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru were martyred on March 23, 1931

A simple Google search is enough to reveal that the messages viral on social media are untrue. Revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged in Lahore jail on March 23, 1931, after they were tried in a series of conspiracy cases. The execution was widely reported in the media. Alt News found the March 25, 1931 publication of The Tribunewith this headline on the front page – “Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev executed.”

Several books have been written on the martyred revolutionaries which corroborate the date of their execution. The excerpt below is taken from Bipin Chandra’s India’s struggle for independence’ (pg 240).

A book on Rajguru describes the day the trio was hanged. The chapter ‘Martyrs’ march into the history’ in ‘Rajguru: The invincible revolutionary’ reads – “Central Jail, Lahore. March 23, 1931: This was an astonishing sight for jail authorities as everybody knew their hanging has been scheduled at 7 am sharp on 24th March…The magistrate looked at his watch: 7:33 pm and raised his hand. Bolts were drawn, the trapdoors jerked open. The bodies shot downwards and then stopped abruptly.”

What happened on February 14, 1931?

On February 14, 1931, freedom fighter Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya had sent a telegram to the viceroy of British India with an appeal to stop the execution of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. An excerpt of the telegram is available in the book ‘Revolutionaries and the British Raj’ where Malviya said, “May I appeal to Your Excellency to exercise your prerogative of mercy in cases of Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev to commute sentences of death passed upon them into those of transportation of life.”

The above-stated information is also available on the website of Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal/ Gandhi Book Centre. “On Feb 14, Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya appealed to the viceroy for mercy in the case of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, and to commute the death sentence into that of transportation for life. According to him, their lives should be spared not only on grounds of humanity but also in view of the fact that their action was not prompted by any personal or selfish consideration but by a patriotic impulse. Moreover, the execution would be a great shock to the public and the commutation, in contrast, would have a very beneficial effect on it,” says the site.

Despite expansive literature on the execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, the misinformation that they were martyred/ awarded death sentences on Valentine’s Day is widespread on social media.

Wikipedia page edited to support the fake news?

In the morning of February 14, the ‘Martyrs’ Day (India)’ page on Wikipedia reflected that the country observes Martyrs’ Day on five days, including February 14. The information might have been mischievously edited to support fake news.

The false information, however, has now been rectified.

A recurring affair

On a Facebook group, We Support Indian Army, the claim that the trio was martyred on February 14, 1931, received 10,000 shares.

From a Facebook page सच्ची बातें +, the claim attracted 1,200 shares. On I Support Modi, the fake news attracted nearly 900 shares in merely two hours.

The misinformation, in fact, resurfaces almost every Valentine’s Day.

Such tampering with history has often been noticed by Alt News. Whether it glorifies revolutionaries or targets them, the underlying propaganda cannot be ignored. It is, thus, pertinent that social media users verify unsourced information.

About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.