Movement is the saga of courage, valor and determination of
overseas Indians who had come to Canada and the United States
either for higher education or for economic opportunities. They
imbibed the fire and zeal of revolutionaries and became the
trail blazers of freedom struggle for their motherland, India.
They may have lived ordinary lives but they left an extraordinary
the dawn of the twentieth century, both India and Canada were
British dominions, so, Indians had easier access to emigrate
to Canada. The new immigrants were hard working and accepted
lower wages, so some Canadian companies publicized the economic
and job opportunities available in Canada to seek more cheap
labor from India. During the first few years, every year about
2000 immigrants, mostly Punjabi farmers and laborers were permitted
to come. As the number of immigrants increased, the locals felt
threatened by labor competition from the hardy and adventurous
Punjabis. Fear of labor competition led to racial antagonism
and demands for exclusionary laws from cheap foreign Asian workers.
In 1909, severe immigration restrictions virtually ended legal
Indian immigration to Canada.
Indian immigrants saw the doors closing on them in Canada, they
started coming to the United States which needed more people
to do hard labor work to build new communities. In the U.S,
they faced many difficulties, suffered numerous hardships and
encountered rampant discrimination. Initially, they could find
only menial jobs, but over a period of time and with their hard
work and determination, many of them became successful farmers
with their own land.
a span of few years, number of immigrant workers had swelled,
so they starting facing widespread hostility which led to racial
riots, resulting in certain cases, a loss of life and property.
Like Canada, the United States, which had initially welcomed
the Asian labor to do menial jobs, enacted Asian exclusionary
laws to bar Asians emigrating to the United States.
discriminatory treatment and damages in race riots, the Japanese
and Chinese governments sympathized with their overseas nationals
and negotiated with the American government for compensation
for life and property losses. But the British Indian Government
would not make any representation to the U.S. Government for
similar losses. Indians soon realized the difference between
the citizens of a "slave" country and those ruled by their own
United States had also welcomed qualified Indian students seeking
admissions in the American universities. However, upon graduation,
they were not able to get jobs commensurate with their qualifications.
The discriminatory practices were against the very ideals of
liberty and freedom they had seen in their University environment.
The Indian students attributed the racial prejudice and discrimination
to their being nationals of a subjugated country. They were
motivated to get rid of the foreign rule in India and were determined
to fight for freedom for their motherland. They also started
fostering feelings of patriotism and nationalism among their
fellow Indian Immigrants.
Indians and particularly Indian students in the USA, Canada,
England, Germany, and France, started advocating freedom for
their motherland, India from British serfdom. They formed organizations
or groups for India's freedom. Taraknath Das, a student, started
publishing a magazine Free Hindustan in 1907 in Seattle, advocating
armed rebellion against the British rule in India and also formed
"East India Association" in 1911; G. D. Kumar started a Punjabi
paper Swadesh Sewak in Vancouver while Shymji Krishna
Varma founded Indian Home Rule Society in London.
the United States, Har Dyal who had come from England after
relinquishing his scholarship and studies at Oxford University
was identified with nationalist activities. He inspired many
students studying at the University of California at Berkeley.
Two of his many student followers, Katar Singh Sarabha and Vishnu
Govind Pingle later on played very prominent role in the Gadar
movement. Dyal's fervor for India's freedom spread beyond the
university campuses. A meeting of some patriotic and enlightened
Indians was called on April 23, 1913, in Astoria, Oregon, where
Har Dyal, Bhai Parmanand and others passionately spoke for throwing
the British out of India. It was at this meeting that Hindustan
Association of the Pacific Coast was formed with a major objective
to liberate India with the force of arms from British colonialism,
just as Americans had done more than a century ago, and help
establish a free and independent India with equal rights for
all. Sohan Singh Bhakna was elected President, Hardayal, General
Secretary, and Pandit Kanshi Ram Mardauli, Treasurer. Lala Har
Dayal who had been a faculty member at Stanford University for
about two years, was the central figure and the force behind
the newly formed organization.
headquarters of Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast was
established in San Francisco, which served as a base for coordination
of all the activities of the association. A building was purchased
with funds raised from the community, primarily Punjabi farmers
and farm and lumber mill workers and was named Yugantar Ashram.
The association began publishing a magazine, Gadar, for free
distribution to promote the aims, objectives and activities
of the organization. Gadar, literally means revolt or mutiny,
was published in Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, among other languages.
"The first issue of the journal Gadar was in Urdu and was published
on November 1, 1913. An edition of the journal was brought out
next month in Gurmukhi and in May 1914 a Gujrati edition of
the journal was also published." Says Anil Ganguly in his book
"Ghadar Revolution in America."
Gadar publication exposed the British imperialism and called
upon the Indian people to unite and rise up against British
rule and throw the British out of India. It carried articles
on the conditions of the people of India under British Rule
and also on problems of racial attacks and discrimination against
Indians in the USA and Canada. The publication Gadar, over a
period of time, became well known among Indians and the Hindustan
Association of the Pacific Coast itself became known as the
Gadar party. Besides Gadar, the group brought out various publications
to raise the consciousness of the Indian people to revolt against
the British. Special issues of Gadar were also printed in Nepali,
Bengali, Pashto, Gujrati, as well as in many other languages.
literature was sent to Indian revolutionaries in India,
Europe, Canada, Singapore, The Philippines, Hong Kong, China,
Malysia, Singapore, Burma, Egypt, Turkey, and Afghanistan. In
a short period of time, publications from the Yugantar Asram,
particularly the Gadar magazine became very popular. The British
government got alarmed and used every means to stop the circulation
of Gadar and other such publications, particularly in India.
The magazine, being the principal patriotic literature, reached
many people; even if one copy reached India or to a fellow revolutionary
elsewhere, multiple copies were made for circulation.
Association was barely a few months old when under pressure
from the British Indian Government, Har Dyal was arrested by
the U.S. Government. He was released on bail on March 24, 1914
but soon left for Switzerland and then to Germany. The sudden
departure of Har Dyal did create some vacuum in the organizational
structure of the association but it did not cause the death
of the organization. The seed of revolt that Har Dyal sowed,
had developed into a formidable organization. Many committed
and dynamic volunteers continued to work tirelessly and pursued
the planned activities of the association.
Germany, Har Dyal continued to promote his mission, independence
for India. He knew that Germans had great sympathy with the
Gadar movement because they and Gadarites had common enemy,
the British. Har Dyal, along with Virendra Nath Chattopadhyay,
younger brother of politician-poetess Sarojani Naidu, Barkatullah,
Bhupendra Nath Datta, brother of Swami Vivekananda, Ajit Singh,
Champak Raman Pillai, Tarak Nath Das, and Bhai Bhagwan Singh
formed Berlin Indian Committee in September 1914, also known
as the Indian Revolutionary Society. The objectives of the society
were to arrange financial assistance from German Government
for revolutionary activities and propaganda work in different
countries of the world, plan training of volunteer force of
Indian fighters and arrange transportation of arms and ammunitions
to reach the Gadarites for a revolt against the British Government
war between Germany and England broke out in August, 1914 and
created a golden opportunity for gadarites to expel the English
from India while British troops would be busy fighting war at
the front. The gadarites started forceful campaign to mobilize
overseas Indians in Singapore, Burma, Egypt, Turkey and Afghanistan
and particularly Punjabis in Canada and the USA to go to India
and launch revolution. They drew plans to infiltrate the Indian
army and excite the soldiers to fight not for but against the
British Empire and free India from the shackles of British imperialism.
The Indian Revolutionary Society in Berlin had arranged for
substantial financial aid from Germany. The German Embassy in
Washington had engaged a German National in the United States
to liaison with the Gadar leadership in San Francisco . Several
ships were commissioned or chartered to carry arms and ammunitions
and batches of Indian revolutionaries, about 6000, to India.
Germany, the gadarites also sought help from anti-British governments.
In December 1915, they established a Free Hindustan government-in-exile
in Kabul, Afghanistan, with Raja Mohinder Pratap as President,
Maulavi Barkatullah as Prime Minister and Champakaran Pillai
as Foreign Minister. The government-in-exile tried to establish
diplomatic relationships with countries opposed to the British
in World war l such as Turkey, Germany, Japan, etc. The gadarites
also established contact with the Indian troops at Hong Kong,
Singapore, and in some other countries and hoped for their participation
in the uprising against the British.
British Government tried to suppress the Gadar Movement and
had hired agents to penetrate the Gadar party almost from the
beginning. Har Dyal used the columns of Gadar to caution his
compatriots against British spies. The traitors of the Gadar
movement leaked out the secret plan to the British spies. As
a result, the ships carrying arms and ammunitions never reached
India. Germany was originally planning to send more ships carrying
arms and ammunition to India, lost interest in the venture after
seeing the fate of original vessels. Many gadarites and volunteer
fighters were taken captives upon reaching India. Some of the
active gadarites who escaped arrests, including Kartar Singh
Sarabha and Vishnu Govind Pingle, made alliance with Ras Behari
Bose and other known revolutionaries in India. They had come
to India to overthrow the British rule and wanted to unite and
work with all those forces that were working to liberate India.
They tried hard to mobilize the people and infiltrate into various
units of the armed forces. But the British spies out maneuvered
them. They also could not get the support of Mahatma Gandhi
and other leaders of India's Freedom movement, who had already
committed full co-operation with the British Indian Government.
Before leaving for India, the Gadarites were given the impression
that India was ready for a revolution. So, when the World War
l provided a golden opportunity for them to attain their goal,
they hurried homeward for revolution. What an irony; while the
gadarites had gone to India to fight willingly for the freedom
of their motherland, the Indian leadership openly and willingly
co-operated with the British prolonging India's serfdom; while
the overseas Indians prayed in Gurudwaras and temples for the
success of Gadarites' mission, the people in India flocked to
Gurudwaras and temples to pray for the victory of the British.
Gadarites had a flame of liberty lit in their hearts, and did
not hesitate to make any sacrifice for the cause of freedom,
dignity and prosperity of their motherland. They fought valiantly
for their cause; several Gadarites in India were imprisoned,
many for life, and some were hanged. In the United States too,
many Gadarites and Germans who supported Gadar activities, were
prosecuted and some were incarcerated for varying terms of imprisonment.
Although the movement did not achieve its stated objective,
but it awakened the sleeping India and left a major impact on
India's struggle for freedom. The heroism, courage and sacrifices
of the Gadarites inspired many freedom fighters to continue
prominent Indian writer, Khushwant Singh, wrote in Illustrated
Weekly, on February 26, 1961, "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 Gadrites 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.
ÞÞ The Gadar was the first organized violent bid for freedom
after the rising of 1857. Many hundreds paid the price with
Singh is President of Global Organization of People of Indian
Origin(GOPIO) and chairman of Indian American Heritage Foundation.
He was NFIA president from 1988-92 and chairman from 1992-96.
He was founding president of FIA, Southern California. He can
be reached at email@example.com