Foreword by Dr. Ved Prakash
Pioneer Asian Indian
Immigration to the Pacific Coast
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FOREWORD by Dr. Ved Prakash Vatuk from An Account of the Ghadr Conspiracy (1913-1915), by F.C. Isemonger and J. Slattery, reprinted by the Folklore Institute, Berkeley, 1998. pp. v.-xii.(Originally published by the Superintendent, Government Printing, Punjab, Lahore,1919).In the history of India's freedom struggle Gadar Movement is a glorious chapter. And yet so little is known about this movement in India and so little is taught about it in our history classes. Most history books on India written by Western scholars hardly mention it. The time has come that we evaluate the role of the GADAR PARTY properly. Unfortunately so many documents related to the GADAR PARTY are either lost or not easily available. It is for this reason that we have decided to reprint some of the original source material which has gone out of print. This book is the first in that series. India's economy was thoroughly shattered by the end of the nineteenth century. Even the villages in Punjab did not remain untouched by this ruin. Peasantry was becoming poorer and debt-ridden day by day due to the zamindari system. So much so that there were only two ways remained by which young men of the state could escape the horror of poverty--enlisting in the armed forces or emigrating to other countries. Some Indian soldiers, who had fought bravely on the side of the British in various battles, were invited to England to take part in the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the rule of Queen Victoria. They were also given the opportunity to visit Canada before returning to India. In Canada, they saw the abundance of land. Some of the Punjabis had also read or heard what the scholars of Vedant Movements like Swami Ram Tirth have written about America. Hundreds of young men dreamt to leave their homes and try their luck in the far away unknown land. From their village they went on foot or by carts to the nearest railway station, took the train to Calcutta where they boarded a ship carrying them to Hong Kong or some other port in South East Asia. From there they took another ship to journey across the Atlantic Ocean landing in Vancouver, Canada or in San Francisco, USA. Many sold their land to pay for the fare. It took them a long time to reach their destination. For example, a prominent freedom fighter of the GADAR PARTY Harnam Singh Tundilat left his home on May 12, 1906 and reached Canada on July 12, 1906. With him there were only 22 Punjabi travelers in the ship. That was the largest number of Indians by that time who traveled by any ship to America. In years to follow the number went up. In some ships there were seven to eight hundred Indians traveling to North America. Gradually the number of Indians who migrated to Canada or the USA reached thirteen thousand by 1913. Ninety per cent of them were Sikh from Punjab. They settled down on the West Coast. A few travelers among them could read or write Urdu or Punjabi written in Gurumukhi. But their aim was simply to earn and save enough money to buy some land. They could earn two to three dollars a day. One dollar was equal to three rupees and one and a half annas in those days. In India an elementary school teacher would earn that much in a month what they earned in a day in the USA. Even thought these new immigrants proved to be a very hard working dedicated workers in the fields and factories, they were no much welcomed by their new nations. Both in Canada and in the USA people got alarmed by this new 'Hindu invasion.' Canada enacted many new laws restricting immigration from Asia. One of them made it mandatory for any one coming to Canada that he/she should board the ship sailing directly from their own country. Even when a ship Komagata Maru was charted to sail from India to take its human cargo directly to Vancouver, it was forced to turn back without any of its passengers landing. The ship remained in the harbor for many weeks. America and Canada were in the grips of racism and segregation in those days. There were separate places for black and white people to live, to go to bathrooms, to eat and to got to school. At every step Indians were insulted. They were called names. Looked down upon. Several times they were chased away from towns and factories. Riots were organized against them. When Japanese workers met such fate the Government of Japan made strong protests to the American Government. But the British Government in India put pressure on America to keep a tight watch on Indians. They should not be infected with the virus of any thoughts of freedom. If possible, they should be kicked out of North America. British Government sent its own spies to help Canadian and American Governments. Indians soon realized that the main cause of the inhuman treatment they received at the hands of Americans and Canadians was the fact that they came from a subjugated nation. They felt that they would be treated in this way as long as India remained a 'slave ' country. A feeling of patriotism and nationalism was born in their heart. They expressed their resentment against the British rule by burning all certificates of appreciation and medals given to them for the bravery in battles in a meeting held in Vancouver in 1909. On the other hand Indian students who were attending American universities at that time also tried to foster feelings of patriotism and nationalism among them. In 1908 Taraknath Das started publishing a paper FREE HINDUSTAN. Another Punjabi paper SWADESH SEWAK was started by Gurudutt Kumar. In Europe also Indians were working for the cause of India's freedom. Shymji Krishna Varma, who was the founder of Indian Home Rule Society and India House in London was publishing INDIAN SOCIOLOGIST. Madam Cama was leading a movement for India's freedom in Paris. In Berlin there was a committee active in the same direction. India House organized a meeting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1857 Gadar (the First Indian War for Independence) on May 10, 1908. In this meeting Vir Vinayak Domodar Savarkar declared, "The battle that we started on May 10, 1857 will not end until a May 10 comes when we will be the master of our fate and our motherland becomes free.." Lala Har Dayal was also present in that meeting. He had joined the freedom movement after renouncing a fellowship to study at Oxford University. Three years later Lala Har Dayal came to the USA to join the Stanford University where he taught Indian philosophy. His fame had reached far and wide among academic circles. Har Dayal inspired many students who were studying at the University of California at Berkeley at the time. Prominent among them were Katar Singh Sarabha, Vishnu Govind Pingle and D. Chenchiah. Katar Singh Sarabha was a remarkable young man. He was at ease in the company of peasants as well as among intellectuals. He worked hard in the fields and at his studies. He ran the printing press, wrote articles and poems, learnt how to fly a plane and studied engineering. He was a link between the workers and intellectuals, between Har Dayal and other future leaders of GADAR PARTY. It was with his great efforts that a meeting of Indians from all walks of life took place in Astoria, Oregon in April 1913. The meeting was addressed by Har Dayal and Bhai Parmanand. It was in this meeting that an association--Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast--was formed. Sohan Singh Bhakna was elected its first president, Har Dayal was elected secretary and the position of treasurer was given to Pandit Kashi Ram. The aim of this association was to foster feeling of nationalism among Indians which would prepared them for an armed revolution to make India free. San Francisco was chosen to be the city of its headquarter. The headquarter was named Yugantar Ashram after a revolutionary Bengali paper Yugantar. To keep alive the memory of 1857 revolution it was decided to launch a weekly in several Indian languages. The weekly was named GADAR. The first issue of the GADAR was published in Urdu on November 1, 1913 from 5 Wood Street, San Francisco. Under the heading 'Our Name, Our Work', it declared: A new calendar is launched in the history of India today on November 1, 1913, alien land in our native language. It is an auspicious day that a paper in Urdu and Gurumukhi is launched to root out the British evil (from our country). Further it wrote: What is our name? "Gadar." What is our work? "Gadar. "Our name and our work is the same. No need to fuss about it....Where will this Gadar take place? "In India. "When? "Very soon. "Why will it take place? "Because the people are fed up of British Rule's tyranny and are ready to die fighting for their freedom. "Under the 'Wanted Ads' it published: "Wanted: brave young men/revolutionaries, job: to launch gadar, pay: martyrdom, reward: India's freedom." GADAR was edited, printed and published form the Yugantar Ashram. All the people who were connected with it lived in the Ashram. So did the persons who carried the day-to-day work for the association. It was a communal living--people lived there in a democratic way in a life style based on equality and devoid of any casteism, racism, religious bigotry and sectarianism of any kind. All those who lived there were just Indian. They cooked, ate and lived together like a family. They were the followers of one path. Maulana Barkatullah, Lala Har Dayal, Raghubar Dayal Gupta and the rest all got the same food, clothing and two dollars a month pocket money. They greeted each other by saying Bande Mataram. For this privilege many people left their well paying job, their farms, their property. They gave all they had to the association in order to come to live and to work in the Ashram. All waiting for the time to come when they will replace their pens with guns and fight in the battlefield. GADAR exposed the British Rule. GADAR gave the call for a revolution. It was a people's paper in every sense of the word. It carried articles of intellectuals like Har Dayal, serialized the history of 1857 Gadar by Savarkar, and published the folk poetry written in direct and revolutionary style. Its publication was like a bomb-shell. Copies were sent free to all countries wherever Indians lived--in all continents. It became so popular and its demand so great that the association itself came to be known as GADAR PARTY and its headquarters became famous as Gadar Ashram. Money poured. Workers gave almost half of their salaries. GADAR was published for four years regularly. Then it became irregular. In 1925 a special issue was published. The last issue available today in Punjabi published in 1929. Poems published in the GADAR became so popular that they were printed and distributed again and again in book form as GADAR-DI-GUNJ. They were memorized and recited in all kinds of rallies and conventions. GADAR PARTY also published many books exposing the evils of the British Rule. This all happened so fast that the British Government got very alarmed. They began to put pressure on America to arrest and jail Har Dayal and declare him to be an anarchist and a terrorist. Har Dayal was arrested and released on bail on March 24, 1914. On the advice of the bail and left America for Switzerland. If the British Government had thought that by removing Har Dayal, from the scene it would be able to kill the Gadar Movement, it couldn't be more mistaken. As a matter of fact, it made the people more determined, angrier than ever. They were more committed to the cause. When the Word War I broke out, the gadarites felt that it was the golden opportunity to throw the British out of India. They began to establish contacts with various nations. They called upon Indians to get ready to go to India and launch the revolution. They wanted to go and infiltrate in the army in India and tell Indian soldiers that instead of fighting to save British empire they should wage battle against the British to free India. They wanted to eliminate British officers in India, free political prisoners, rob government treasuries, disrupt means of communications and transportation, train young people for the revolution and organize the people--the peasants and workers. Big rallies were held in many American cities. Members of the GADAR PARTY began to return home in large numbers by whatever ship they could get. Arms were collected and shipped. It was all done openly. Spies of the British Government were also busy. By the time all was said and done, almost six thousand Indians left for India. British Government of India was truly alarmed. Their faith in Punjabi soldiers was shaken. Even before the gadarites reached India, eight thousand Punjabi soldiers were given leave, five thousand were expelled from the army, four hundred were jailed and thousands were put under house arrest in their own villages. The British Government was ready to face the gadarites when they reached India. Many of them were arrested as soon as they set their foot on Indian soil. Trains were ready to take directly to Punjab and to prisons. Many of them were shot dead on the spot. It will never be known how many of them lost their lives at the hands of the British. Thousands of them were put under house arrest after they were taken to their villages. The atmosphere in India was also not in their favor. People were not ready to take advantage of the situation and throw the British out. Nor were their leaders. Leaders of the Congress Party such as Moti Lal Nehru, and Mahatma Gandhi were actively helping the British in recruiting soldiers. The native kings and princes, in whom gadarites put so much faith, turned out to be stooges of the British and the religious leaders issued fatwas against them, excommunicated and expelled them from their faith, branded them traitors. Gurudwaras and temples, churches and mosques were all filled with those who prayed for the victory of the British. In spite of all odds, some brave people escaped the British net and reached their destination. They tried to organize the workers, made contracts with soldiers in various barracks. They also made allience with revolutionaries in other states such as Ras Behari Bose and Shachindra Sanyal. They came to the conclusion that in many contonments soldiers were very dissatisfied and could revolt. Kartar Singh Sarabha and Vishnu Govind Pingle were very active in that mission. After establishing contacts with many soldiers a date was fixed to launch a revolt. But they were betrayed by some spies among them. And they along with many soldiers were arrested. Even so, there were several regiments outside India who did revolt. Gandarites, who were arrested and jailed at various places, were tried in several trials. Among them the most famous are trials held at Lahore. Many of them were hanged, and scores of them were given kala pani. Among those who were hanged were 19 years old Kartar Singh Sarabha and 23 years old Vishnu Govind Pingle. Even when they were being led to the hanging place, they sang patriotic songs. Those who were sent to rot in Andaman Nicobar's cullular jail for life, waged wars against the most inhuman conditions in that prison. Many of them went again and again on hunger strikes lasting several weeks, suffered tortures, beatings, placements in cages shacked and handcuffed. Their stories are ever told in full. Many of them died there during those struggles for prison-reforms. When some of them were released from these hells, they came out more determined than ever. All their life they remained truthful to the spirit of the revolution and worked hard for it. What kind of people were they? Three examples will be sufficient. When Sohan Sing Bhakna was being interrogated in jail and the British Government was getting nowhere with its mission, the C.I.D Inspector brought Bhakna's mother and step-mother who were told to persuade him to become a turncoat and give evidence against his colleagues. Bhakna was the only son. They told him that the government had promised him land and money if he could reveal the names of the other conspirators. He asked his mother, "Mother, you do no want to lose your only son, but would you like hundreds of other mothers to lose their sons? That will be the result if I tell these enemies the names of my friends." His mother with tears in her eyes replied, "No, my son, I will never let you do that. "Bhakna touched her feet and asked for her blessings. And she did. They bade good-bye. It was the last time they saw each other. Bhakna who died at the age of 98 in 1968 fought every day of his life for social justice and freedom for the wretched and poor. Even in free India he had to go to jail for that. Pandit Jagot Ram left India in 1911. He was arrested in Peshawar in November 1914 for his involvement in GADAR PARTY. He was sentenced to death, but later his sentence was commuted to life imprisionment. He was sent to Andaman Nicobar's celluler jail. Released in 1937, he proceeded to go to his village. His wife, whom he left behind three months after their wedding, asked him to go to Haridwar and purify himself, by taking a holy bath in Ganga. He gladly agreed to that, saying, "Her sacrifice is greater than mine. What I did, I did on my own will, but she sacrificed every thing because of me." And then there was Hari Singh Usman, a successful farmer in Southern California. The day he read the first issue of the GADAR he sold his farm, gave all his money to the Gadar Ashram and became a full-time worker living in the Gadar Ashram like others. He was one of the first gadarites who sailed for India to participate in the revolution. His ship, loaded with arms, was captured in Java. He escaped and went underground. He had to spend the next 33 years of his life working for the Indonesia's freedom. Married by adopting a Muslim name. Had children. When Subhash Chandra Bose took over the command of Indian National Army during the second World War, Usman joined it with both of his sons. His sons were killed fighting for India's freedom. He returned home in 1948. With all his savings he opened a girl's school in his village and worked as a care taker. His reward: Indian C.I.D. kept a close watch on him for the cirime that British Goververnment branded him as a dangerous man in their reports. Finally, I would like to end my tribute by quoting three small peoms by these gadarites. The first of them was written by Kartar Singh Sarabha. He sang it when he was led to his execution. The second four-line poem was written by Pandit Jagat Ram. It was recited by prisoners as a farewell poem for Sarabha. The third poem is also by Sarabha and it became popular among the gadarites. These three poems can be called the soul of the Gadar Movement, as they show the depth of their conviction and dedication.