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Ghadar Movement – An Indian Independence Movement

The Ghadar Movement was an early 20th-century, international political movement founded by expatriate Indians to overthrow British rule in India.

The Ghadar Movement was an early 20th-century, international political movement founded by expatriate Indians to overthrow British rule in India. The early movement was created by conspirators who lived and worked on the West Coast of the United States and Canada, but the movement later spread to Indian and Indian diasporic communities around the world. 

Official Founding Date15th July 1913 in Astoria, Oregon
HeadquarterSan Francisco, California
PresidentSohan Singh Bhakna
Vice PresidentKesar Singh, Baba Jawala Singh
Editor of Punjabi GadarKartar Singh Sarabha
TreasurerPt. Kashi Ram
Organizing SecretaryMunshi Ram
Vice SecretaryLala Thaker Das

The official founding has been dated to a meeting on 15 July 1913 in Astoria, Oregon, with the Ghadar headquarters and Hindustan Ghadar newspaper based in San Francisco, California.

Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, some Ghadar party members returned to Punjab to initiate an armed revolution for Indian Independence. Ghadarites smuggled arms into India and incited Indian troops to mutiny against the British. This revolt, known as the Ghadar Mutiny, was unsuccessful, and 42 mutineers were executed following the Lahore Conspiracy Case trial

From 1914 to 1917 Ghadarites continued confidential anti-colonial actions with the help of Germany and Ottoman Turkey, known as the Hindu–German Conspiracy, which led to a sensational trial in San Francisco in 1917.

Following the war’s conclusion, the party in the United States fractured into a Communist and an Indian Socialist faction. The party was formally dissolved in 1948.

Key Participants of Ghadar Party

Key participants in the Ghadar Movement included Bhai ParmanandVishnu Ganesh PingleSohan Singh BhaknaBhagwan Singh GyaneeHar DayalTarak Nath DasBhagat Singh ThindKartar Singh SarabhaAbdul Hafiz Mohamed BarakatullahRashbehari Bose, and Gulab Kaur.

Although its attempts at overthrowing the British Raj were unsuccessful, the rebellious ideals of the Ghadar Party affected members of the Indian Independence Movement as opposed to Gandhian nonviolence. To carry out other revolutionary activities, the “Swadesh Sevak Home” in Vancouver and the United India House in Seattle were set up.

Etymology of Ghadar

Ghadar is a Punjabi and Urdu word derived from Arabic which means “revolt” or “rebellion.” It is often also spelled Ghadr or Gadar in English. The movement’s name was closely associated with its newspaper, the Hindustan Ghadar.

Background

Between 1903 and 1913 approximately 10,000 South Asian immigrants entered North America, mostly from the rural regions of central Punjab. About half the Punjabis had done in the British military. 

The Canadian government decided to shorten this influx with a series of laws, which were aimed at restricting the entry of South Asians into the country and restricting the political rights of those already in the country.

Many migrants came to work in the fields, factories, and logging camps of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, where they were exposed to labor unions and the ideas of the radical Industrial Workers of the World or IWW. The migrants of the Pacific Northwest teamed together in Sikh gurdwaras and formed political Hindustani Associations for mutual aid.

Nationalist sentiments were also building around the world among South Asian immigrants and students, where they could organize more freely than in British India. Several dozen students came to study at the University of Berkeley, some spurred by a scholarship offered by a wealthy Punjabi farmer. Revolutionary intellectuals like Har Dayal and Taraknath Das tried to organize students and educate them on anarchist and nationalist ideas.

RasBihari Bose on request from Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, an American-trained Ghadar, who met Bose at Benares and requested him to take up the leadership of the coming revolution. But before accepting the responsibility, he sent Sachin Sanyal to Punjab to assess the situation. Sachin returned very optimistically, to the United States and Canada intending to liberate India from British rule. The movement began with a group of immigrants known as the Hindustani Workers of the Pacific Coast.

The Ghadar Party, originally the Pacific Coast Hindustan Association, was formed on 15 July 1913 in the United States but before a decision to create headquarters at Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco was taken at a meeting in the town of Astoria in the state of Oregon in USA under the leadership of Har Dayal, Sant Baba Wasakha Singh Dadehar, Baba Jawala Singh, Santokh Singh, and Sohan Singh Bhakna as its president. The members of the party were Indian immigrants, largely from Punjab. Many of its members were students at the University of California at Berkeley including Dayal, Tarak Nath DasMaulavi Barkatullah, Harnam Singh Tundilat, Kartar Singh Sarabha, and V.G. Pingle. The party quickly gained support from Indian immigrants, especially in the United States, Canada, East Africa, and Asia.

Newspaper

The party was built around the weekly paper The Ghadar, which carried the caption on the masthead: Angrezi Raj Ka Dushman (an enemy of British rule). “Wanted brave soldiers”, the Ghadar declared, “to stir up rebellion in India. Pay-death; Price-martyrdom; Pension-liberty; Field of battle-India”. The ideology of the party was strongly secular. 

In the words of Sohan Singh Bhakna, who later became a major peasant leader of Punjab: “We were not Sikhs or Punjabis. Our religion was patriotism”. The first issue of The Ghadar was published in San Francisco on 1 November 1913.

Today there begins ‘Ghadar’ in foreign lands, but in our country’s tongue, a war against the British Raj. What is our name? Ghadar. What is our work? Ghadar. Where will be the Revolution? In India. The time will soon come when rifles and blood will take the place of pens and ink.

Kartar Singh Sarabha, Founding Member of Ghadar Party

Following the voyage of the Komagata Maru in 1914, a direct challenge to Canadian anti-Indian immigration laws, several thousand Indian residents in the United States sold their businesses and homes ready to drive the British from India. 

However, Har Dayal had fled to Europe concerned that the U.S. authorities would hand him over to the British. Sohan Singh Bhakna was already in British hands, and the leadership fell to Ram Chandra

Following the entry of Canada into World War I, the organization was centered in the USA and obtained significant funding from the German government. They had a very militant tone, as illustrated by this quote from Harnam Singh:

No pundits or mullahs do we need

The party rose to dominance in the second decade of the 20th century and grew in strength owing to Indian discontent over World War I and the lack of political reforms.

In 1917 some of their leaders were arrested and put on trial in the Hindu German Conspiracy Trial in which their paper was quoted.

In 1914, Kasi Ram Joshi a member of the party from Haryana returned to India from America. On 15 March 1915, he was hanged by the colonial government.

The Ghadar party commanded a loyal following in the province of Punjab, but many of its most prominent activists were compelled to removal to Canada and the United States. It ceased to play an active role in Indian politics after.

Although publications such as independence Hindustan and revolution activities of the Ghadar Party against British rule continued from 5 wood street San Francisco, a place where the Ghadar Memorial has been built but Har Dayal one of its founding members severed all connections with revolutionists through its open letter published in March 1919 in Indian newspapers and new Statesman USA, and by writing to British Government for getting Amnesty for himself.

The party had active members in other countries such as Mexico, Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Malaya, Indo-China, and Eastern and Southern Africa.

Founding members

  1. Sohan Singh Bhakna (President)
  2. Kesar Singh (Vice-President)
  3. Baba Jawala Singh (Vice-President)
  4. Kartar Singh Sarabha (Editor, Punjabi Gadar)
  5. Pt. Kanshi Ram (Treasurer)
  6. Munshi Ram (Organizing Secretary)
  7. Lala Thaker Das (Dhuri) (Vice Secretary)
  8. Lala Hardayal
  9. Udham Singh
  10. Bhai Parmanand
  11. Tarak Nath Das
  12. V. G. Pingle
  13. Bhagwan Singh Gyanee
  14. Santokh Singh (Ghadarite)
  15. Balwant Singh (Ghadarite)
  16. Rehmat Ali (Ghadarite)
  17. Harnam Singh Tundilat
  18. G. D. Verma
  19. Nidhan Singh Chugha
  20. Baba Chattar Singh Ahluwalia (Jethuwal)
  21. Baba Harnam Singh (Kari Sari)
  22. Mangu Ram Mugowalia
  23. Karim Bakhsh
  24. Amir Chand
  25. Sant Baba Wasakha Singh
  26. Maulavi Barkatullah
  27. Harnam Singh Saini
  28. Pandurang Sadashiv Khankhoje
  29. Ganda Singh Phangureh
  30. Karim Bux
  31. Baba Prithvi Singh Azad
  32. Gulab Kaur
  33. Pt. Ram Rakha
  34. Sohanlal Pathak

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