What is Gadar Movement?
Gadar Movement was a movement to liberate India with the force of arms from British colonialism.
In 1913, Lala Har Dayal who had come from England after relinquishing his scholarship and studies at Oxford University and had been a faculty member at Stanford University, attended a meeting of patriotic and enlightened Indians in Astoria, Oregon, where he, Bhai Parmanand and others passionately spoke for throwing the Britishers out of India. At this meeting, Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast was formed with a major objective to liberate India with the force of arms from British colonialism and 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 was the force behind the newly formed organization.
The headquarters of Hindustan Association was established in San Francisco. A building was purchased in San Francisco with funds raised from the community and was named Yugantar Ashram (now it is called Gadar Memorial Hall). The association began publishing a magazine, Gadar, for free distribution to promote the aims, objectives and activities of the organization. The 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. The publication Gadar, over a period of time, became very popular among Indians and the Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast itself became known as the Gadar party.
Gadar literature was sent to Indian revolutionaries in India, Europe, Canada, Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Egypt, Turkey, and Afghanistan. The British government got alarmed and used every means to stop the circulation of Gadar and other such publications, particularly in India.
Hindustan 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 but soon left for Switzerland and then to Germany. The first WW I broke out in August, 1914. Germany and England were enemy of each other in the war. It was a golden opportunity for Gadarites to expel the English from India while the British troops would be busy fighting war at the front. Har Dyal along with Virendra Nath Chattopadhyay, younger brother of Sarojani Naidu, Bhupendra Nath Datta, brother of Swami Vivekananda, and several others 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, purchase and transportation of arms and ammunitions to reach the Gadarites for revolt in India against the British Government.
The British Government hired agents to penetrate the Gadar party. 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. Many gadarites and volunteer fighters who had already left for India, were taken captives upon reaching India. Some of the active gadarites who escaped arrests, including Kartar Singh Sarabha and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle tried hard to mobilize the people and infiltrate into various units of the armed forces. But the British spies out maneuvered them.
The Gadarites did not hesitate to make any sacrifice for the cause of freedom, dignity and prosperity of their motherland. Several Gadarites in India were imprisoned, many for life, and some were hanged to death. In the United States too, many Gadarites and Germans who supported Gadar Movement, 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 their mission.
At the 90th anniversary of the Gadar Movement in 2003, K.R Narayanan India’s president (1997-2002) came to America as the chief guest. In 2013, I hope that Indian Americans organize the centennial celebration all over the US to pay tribute to pioneers and Gadar heroes.
Remembering Gadar Movement
On its 98th Anniversary
Los Angeles, May 08, 2011
Gadar means “mutiny”, "revolt" and was the name of the publication of the Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast which was formed in May, 1913, in Astoria, Oregon, with the objective of liberating India from British colonialism. Lala Har Dayal who had been a faculty member at Stanford University, California, was the central figure and the force behind the newly formed organization. He became the General Secretary of the association while Sohan Singh Bhakna was elected President and Kanshi Ram as Treasurer.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, Indian emigrants started coming to the United States and Canada. Several immigrants were retirees from the British Indian army but most of them were uneducated farmers or unskilled workers from Punjab. The new immigrants were willing to do any kind of manual job and found work in lumber mills or as farm hands. By 1908, the number of Indian immigrants in Canada had reached about 5000. The white workers got alarmed that competition from Indian laborers would displace them from their jobs and bring wages down. They demanded exclusionary laws against the cheap foreign workers. Their festering hostility and pent-up frustrations manifested in violence against the Indian immigrants. In 1909, severe immigration restrictions virtually ended legal Asian emigration to Canada. In the United States too, prejudice, bigotry, racial riots, lead to the passage of exclusionary and other laws and in 1917, Asian emigration to the United States was also stopped.
Higher education in American universities was a powerful magnet for young people and several Indian students had joined various American universities. However, upon graduation, they were not able to get jobs commensurate with their qualifications. They attributed American employers discriminatory practices to their being nationals of a subjugated country. They formed organizations to collectively assert their birthright for independence for India and started fostering feelings of patriotism and nationalism among Punjabi laborers who were also disillusioned facing hostility and racial prejudice from the American people. When the Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast was formed, Punjabi laborers supported its objectives whole-heartedly, became its members enthusiastically and supported it financially.
The headquarters of Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast was established in San Francisco where a building was purchased with funds raised from the community. The association began publishing a magazine, Gadar, to expose the British imperialism and called upon the Indian people to unite and rise up against the British rule. 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.
Gadar literature was sent to Indian revolutionaries in India, Europe, Canada and several other countries. The British government 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 a fellow revolutionary anywhere, multiple copies were made for circulation.
Hindustan 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 the committed volunteers continued to work tirelessly and pursued their objective without interruption.
About a year after the formation of the Hindustan Association, World War I broke out in August, 1914, in which Germany fought against England. The German government and the Gadarites had the British as common enemy, so Germany offered the Indian Nationalists (Gadarites) financial aid to buy arms and ammunitions to expel the British from India while the British Indian troops were busy fighting war at the front. The Gadarites started a vigorous campaign to exhort the overseas Indians to join the freedom movement and encouraged them to go to India to launch a revolution. They drew plans to infiltrate the Indian army and excite the soldiers to fight against the British Empire and free India from the shackles of British imperialism. With funding from the German government, several ships were chartered to carry arms and ammunition to India. About 6000 overseas Indians hurried homeward to join revolutionaries in India and liberate their motherland.
The traitors of the movement leaked out the secret plan to the British spies. The ships carrying arms and ammunition never reached India. Many gadarites and revolutionaries were taken captive upon reaching India. Several Gadarites 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. Some gadarites who escaped arrests, including Kartar Singh Sarabha and Vishnu Govind Pingle, made alliance with revolutionaries in India. But they could not get the support of Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders of India’s Freedom movement, who had already committed to support the British Indian Government. 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.
The Gadarites had a flame of liberty lit in their hearts, and did not hesitate to make any sacrifice for the cause of freedom and liberty of their motherland. 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 who eventually saw India freed from the British imperialism in 1947.