A fraction of freedom fighters, though respected Gandhiji's call for disobedience and satyagraha, grew disillusioned as the British stuck to the gun, and never wanted to budge to free India from its strong clutches. At that point of time, there existed a few groups of young people here and there across India and also abroad who believed the British won't give them freedom if they relied solely on non-violence alone. The way the British Crown and the conservative British politicians dragged their feet in the matter of India's freedom under many pretexts was really in tune with these groups' anticipation. They did not want to brook any longer and wanted to revolt against the British using violence. The founding president of Ghadar Party was Sohan Singh Bhakna and Lala Hardayal was the co-founder of this party. Members were mostly immigrants settled in the US and Canada. One of the founders of Ghadar party, Kartar Singh Sarabha said, "Today there begins 'Ghadar' in foreign lands.....What is our name? ...Where will be the Revolution?...rifles and blood will take the place of pens and ink".
|Lala Hardyal and Kartar Singh of Ghadr Party. http://www.gopio.net/|
During the early part of the 20th century, India's economic condition was way down, triggering high rate of unemployment and resulting in a large scale of emigration to overseas countries by Indians for better job opportunities - in particular, North America. Innumerable families settled in Canada and the USA. The Punjabi community and people from other parts of India played a vital role in the British India army and its military operations in other colonial countries. They thought the British commonwealth countries would give them equal rights and treat them with dignity the same way they treated the British white immigrants from other countries, but was not so. The Canadian government introduced certain specific immigration laws to reduce the influx of Asians into their countries, besides limiting the political rights of the Indian immigrants. The fate of Punjabis and other Indians in the US was as bad as in Canada and they faced similar social and other problems. This discrimination actually gave a push to anti-colonial sentiments and there was a growing resentment among settlers. The end result was a few political groups sprang-up to protect the welfare of the Asians in those countries.
When the activities of India House in London had declined after 1910 for some reasons, and the center of activities shifted from Europe to America. The Ghadar movement began in 1913 (dissolved in 1919) with a group of immigrants known as the Hindustani Workers of the Pacific Coast and one Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, an American trained Ghadar got in touch with Ras Bihari Bose when he was in India for coordinating with the national the groups who were against the British. The aim of the Ghadar movement was to free India from the oppressive British rule with help from Indian diaspora. Lal Hardayal was in India till 1909, soon he moved to Paris and got himself associated with a newspaper Vande Mataram over there. After settling down in San Francisco in 1910 he took an active role in Industrial Unionism. The bomb attack on Lord Hardinge by Basant Kumar Biswas in 1912 became a sensational news in India. Indians in North America realized how much the British rule in India was hated by the people.
When World War I was on, Ghadar party members returned to Punjab to participate in the rebellion and organized uprisings. In 1915, they conducted revolutionary activities in central Punjab and organized uprisings. Because of such uprisings, the British felt their hold on the province of Punjab was slowly losing their grip and they made serious efforts to put down such revolutionary activities in the early stages itself.
Though predominantly Sikh, the party included members and leaders of many religions, demonstrating their unity and commitment to a common cause - to free India and they were in no way less patriotic than others and their sole aim was to form a free democratic India.
According to Khushwant Singh, Publisher, Illustrated Weekly "In the early months of World War I, an ambitious attempt to free their country was made by Indians living overseas, particularly in the United States and Canada. Although the overwhelming majority of the Gadarites were Sikhs and the centers of revolutionary activity were the Sikh temples in Canada, the United States, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, many of the leaders were of other parties and from different parts of India, Hardyal, Ras Bihari Bose, Barkutullah, Seth Husain Rahim, Tarak Nath Das and Vishnu Ganesh Pingley. The Gadar was the first organized violent bid for freedom after the uprising of 1857. Many hundreds paid the ultimate price with their lives" ( February 26, 1961).
The World War I provided the ghadar party a chance to play an active role in some countries.The Canadian authorities, apparently, at the instigation of the British, refused permission for the entry of a charted ship from Singapore. Baba Gurdit Singh, a well-known Sikh leader and other passengers had to return to Calcutta on 27 September 1914. The Government of India wanted all the passengers transported directly by train to Punjab. The inmates had a row with the authorities and refused to board the Punjab bound train. In in the melee, followed by skirmishes 22 persons died.
In 1914, after the Komagata Maru tragedy, Lala Hardayal fled to Europe following an arrest by the United States government for spreading anarchist literature.
|February, 1915 The Singapore MutinyWordPress.com.|
|SS Komagata Maru, Vancouver BC,Canada. The Georgia Straight|
On 20 February the last of the mutineers were rounded up..On 23 February 1915, a court of inquiry was held, at first in secret, but then publicly it lasted until 15 May 1915. More than 200 sepoys were tried by court-martial, and 47 were executed, Sixty-four mutineers were transported for life, and 73 were given terms of imprisonment ranging from 7 to 20 years. The public executions by firing squad took place at Outram Priso and were witnessed by an estimated 15,000 people.
Back in Punjab, India 21 February 1915 was earmarked as the date for an armed revolt in that region. The Ghadar party members were unlucky as the government came to know about the plan beforehand.This was followed by a spate of arrests of many leaders and members of Ghadar party in Punjab. Later, after a brief trial, 42 of them were hanged, 114 were transported for life and 93 was sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
Regardless of their choice of methods chosen by them, the Ghadar Party members certainly contributed not only their share to the struggle for India's freedom, but also created an awareness among the people that how it was important for them to be from the unjust, oppressive British rule that made India bleed.