Gadar (Ghadar) Movement
(Credits: T.S. Sibia, Shields Library, University of California, Davis , California 95616)
The following text appears in the Stockton, California Gurdwara Library. Its tone reflects the passionate feelings of Gadar Party members of the time which had led up to Indian independence. Many Gadar members visited, and some even lived at, the Stockton Gurdwara prior to 1930.
The GADAR or GHADAR PARTY was secular in character. Its aim was to overthrow the British rule by using force and free India from foreign domination. GADAR Party was the popular name of the "Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast" which ran the newspaper "GADAR" which was loved by every Indian. The original party from which "Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast" came into being is the "Hindi Association" which was established in Portland (Oregon) in 1912. GADAR PARTY can be said to have the following as the founding members:
Sohan Singh Bhakna (President)
Kesar Singh (Vice President)
Lala Hardyal (General Secretary & Editor, Urdu Gadar)
Kartar Singh Sarabha (Editor, Punjabi Gadar)
Baba Jawala Singh (Vice President)
Baba Waisakha Singh
Pt. Kanshi Ram (Treasurer)
Harnam Singh Tundilat
G. D. Verma
Lala Thaker Das (Dhuri) (Vice Secretary)
Munshi Ram (Organizing Secretary)
Nidhan Singh Chugha
Master Udham Singh 17. Baba Harnam Singh (Kari Sari)
V. G. Pingle (etc.)
Gadar Party - Background
The word GADAR or GHADAR means revolt or rebellion. The GADAR Party was a revolt against the British rule in India and it was started and organized by the Indian immigrants to Canada and the United States of America. It was not the result of efforts of any one man or a group. It was the result of the general and natural reaction of the political, social, and economic conditions that prevailed in India in about the year 1904, and on the minds of the brave and courageous of Punjab. They were hard pressed by the adverse economic conditions prevailing in the Punjab at that time to earn their livelihood.
These immigrants were adventurous and hardy people. They worked hard, got good wages and did very well in these new countries. They saw the American people upholding the American Declaration of Independence of 4th of July 1776, establishing the right of freedom and liberty of every human being in the political, social, and economic field. The Indian mind was thus charged with this feeling of freedom and consequently they wanted to get rid of the foreign rule in their own country. This rise in the consciousness of the Indian people was admired by the American people but the Canadian people did not like it because in Canada, the British and the French formed the main bulk of the people.
But in the days of economic depression in the United States the white laborers began to think that the economic depression was mainly due to the inflow of the hard working laboring class of the Asians. So they began to ill treat them. There were riots and the Asians, i.e., Indians, Japanese, Chinese, suffered life and property losses. Whereas the Japanese and Chinese governments worked with the American government to make good the losses of the Japanese and Chinese sufferers respectively, the British India Government did not show any interest. This further strengthened Indian's urge to free their Country from the foreign Yoke.
In 1908, in Seattle (Washington) Mr. Tarak Nath, started a monthly magazine named "Free India" under the management of a Bengali exile Surinder Mohan Bose. This magazine advocated armed rebellion against the British rule in India. Mr. Tarak Nath also formed "East India Association" in 1911. Similarly in Oregon State too, a meeting of the Indians was held at Portland in 1912 at which "The Hindustani Association" was formed and it was also decided there to start an URDU weekly newspaper, "The India."
In Oregon a meeting of the Indians was held in Portland in 1912 at which the Hindustani Association was formed which ultimately turned into GADAR PARTY. Sohn Singh Bhakna and Bhai Udham Singh Kasel were laid off from their jobs and they went to Astoria, Oregon to see their friend Bhai Kesar Singh.
There a branch of the party was opened with Bhai Kesar Singh, Munshi Karim Bakhsh and Shri Munshi Ram as President, Secretary and Treasurer respectively. Only five or six meetings were held when G. D. Kumar, who was to start an Urdu weekly paper "The India", fell sick and the paper could not be started. During this time Lala Tkakar Dass (Dhuri) came to Portland to see Sohan Singh Bhakna and Kanshii Ram and advised them to send for Lala Hardyal and entrust him the work of running the paper and Lala Hardyal also agreed to it. He however, along with Bhai Parmanand reached St. John, Oregon in the last week of March, 1913. A meeting of the Association was called and representatives from other cities were invited to attend. It was decided in the meeting that the Hindustani Association's branches should be Headquartered in San Francisco California. Plans were also made to open branches in other additional cities.
The office Headquarters at San Francisco was to be named as "GADAR ASHRAM" or "UGANTER ASHRAM." And the party to be known as "Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast." The other important decision of the meeting was to use force to overthrow the foreign rule in India. The earlier aims of industrial and agricultural development and education and ending of foreign exploitation in India gave place to one single aim of ending foreign rule through force. At the end of the meeting, the following resolutions were adopted:
The organization be named as "Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast;"
The aim of the Association will be to end the British rule of India through violent means and armed rebellion and to establish a Republic based on freedom and equality;
The Head office of the Association will be at San Francisco California which is a port and a center of rebels of foreign countries;
The Association will publish a weekly paper "The GADAR," in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, and other languages;
The election of the Association will take place annually;
In almost every country there existed a branch or branches of the GADAR PARTY. Whereas in countries, other than those British-ruled, these branches were working openly, in British-ruled countries they worked underground.
Causes of the failure of the Gadar Party:
The causes of the failure of the Gadar Party are many but some of them are as follows:
The party was only one and half years old and was not fully established when the first World War broke out in 1914 and the Ghardrites had to declare war against the British rule in India without full preparation.
The Gadrites who had hurried homeward from America and other places were under the impression that the conditions in India were ripe for revolution but this was not true. Indian National Congress, Chief Khalsa Diwan (an organization of the Sikhs) Mahatma Gandhi, B. J. Tilak, etc. were in sympathy with the British cause in the war. The Punjabis were getting themselves recruited and fighting on the front. Prayers were performed in Gurdwaras, temples, mosques for the victory of the British.
The leaders of the Gadar Party were arrested the very moment they placed their feet on the Indian soil; it broke the backbone of the party.
Moreover, the arms and ammunitions which were to be received from outside countries could not reach India just like the supply loaded from San Diego (California) on 'Anlarson' was seized on the way.
Mr. Kirpal Singh's admission into the inner committee of Mr. Sarat Chandra Bose, directing the Gadar Party, was a mistake; as it was he who passed on every piece of information of the Gadar party to the British government including the date of rebellion.