(Many of my comrades are deeply concerned about the writing of the history of the Ghadar Party (or the Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast of America as it was originally called). In this connection, I wish to submit that in order to place it in its proper perspective, it is very important for us to keep in mind the situation prevailing in 1914-15, when, in the eyes of the British Government, it was a grave sin to even think or talk of independence. The Congress party of today and its leaders were tied to the apron strings of British imperialism and viewed the state of enslavement as a god-sent favour. They had mobilized the entire resources of the nation in the service of the British regime and were engaged in its defense whole-heartedly.
The Indian people were in a state of stupor and the dark and deadly night of enslavement by the British was all too pervasive. Prayers were held in Harimandirs, Thakurdwaras, mosques and churches for long life and "success" of the British regime. The patriots of the Ghadar Party, who had come back to their country from America, Canada, China, Malaya and other foreign lands, were being castigated from the pulpits and platforms of religious institutions, sabhas and societies by pliant leaders who were in occupation of these positions of privilege only because of their subservience to the British. They were branded as "Sikh traitors" and infidels. The press was so docile that it avoided even a mention of the names of the great patriots who kissed the gallows day after day. The patriots of the Ghadar Party tried to bring some light in this gloom by making an offering of their own blood. It is necessary to present without embellishment the true deeds of these patriots.
The Ghadar Party laid down the foundation stone of the national revolutionary movement by the sacrifice of hundreds of its members. As the story of the revolutionary movement, which remained under wraps so far, is being brought into the court of the people, it is necessary that the masses should understand and scrutinize thoroughly the historical events and their causes and effects. All political parties are offering their claims in the court of the people and eagerly await the final verdict in their favour.
I appeal to the "living martyrs" of 1914-15 that since they have survived, they should not forget the words of their comrades who are no more. While hanging from the stakes, they had placed on our shoulders a great revolutionary duty. We were enjoined to continue the fight against slavery and for humanism and liberation of mankind till the last man.
We respect all those patriots who, even before 1914-15, participated in any struggle or revolutionary activity or made sacrifices in any way for the liberation of the motherland. Irrespective of the means adopted by them or the movement to which they belong, we hold all of them in great honour and accept them as heroes of the national movement. After 1915 also, a number of young men paid with their lives in their youthful vigour to hasten the liberation of our nation. We bow before the superhuman sacrifices made by Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Jatin Das and other comrades. We cannot also forget the martyrdom of Shaheed Udham Singh.
We also remember and salute all those unknown and unnamed patriots who contributed in any form whatsoever towards the great cause of the nation. We respect the memory of those who served jail terms or helped financially or contributed in any other form to the growth of revolutionary movement.
We bless all those young men who have dedicated themselves to raise humanity we respect all those patriots who, even before 1914-15, participated in any struggle or revolutionary activity or made sacrifices in any way for the liberation of the motherland. Irrespective of the means adopted by them or the movement to which they belong, we hold all of them in great honour and accept them as heroes of the national movement. After 1915 also, a number of young men paid with their lives in their youthful vigour to hasten the liberation of our nation. We bow before the superhuman sacrifices made by Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Jatin Das and other comrades. We cannot also forget the martyrdom of Shaheed Udham Singh.
We also remember and salute all those unknown and unnamed patriots who contributed in any form whatsoever towards the great cause of the nation. We respect the memory of those who served jail terms or helped financially or contributed in any other form to the growth of revolutionary movement.
We bless all those young men who have dedicated themselves to raise humanity to its pinnacle of achievement; to all those who are contributing their mite to the salvation of mankind and are determined to root out all vestiges of slavery, be it economic, social or political. We send our best wishes to those who wish to usher in an era of peace, liberation and equality. We offer our blessings for the success of their mission. We wish speedy fruition of their efforts to throwaway the yoke of imperialism and its inhuman reign and restore man to his full glory.
In the end we thank Desh Bhagat Pariwar Sahaik Committee (the precurser of Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee - ed.) for the necessary steps taken by it in appointing a sub-committee to undertake the onerous task of writing a history of the Ghadar Party. The Committee has also directed the sub-committee to present its labours before the general masses and the press for their scrutiny and criticism before final adoption and publication in book form. The criticisms and amendments received from the people should be given due consideration. Because, we believe, that this historical legacy does not belong to any single person; it is the heritage of the broad masses.)
The economic condition of the middle Punjabi peasant deteriorated very fast during the last years of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. One hundred years of British imperialist rule had played havoc with the economy of the country. All the earlier industry and commerce had been destroyed. It was not only the urban centers of industry that had suffered; even domestic industry in the countryside was completely wrecked. The country was in the grip of an economic crisis. There was little to hope and no improvement was in sight. Punjab could not escape this bad fate for long: the malaise spread here also. The holdings of Punjabi peasants were reduced to small plots as a result of division and sub-division of land. Water rates and land revenue were increasing day by day. Most of the middle peasants had mortgaged their lands to the moneylenders. The triple toll of water rates, land revenue and interest to the moneylender left very little with the peasant and he was finding it difficult to feed his family. He was compelled to look to employment overseas in order to ensure proper food and clothing for his family. In such conditions of extreme despondence, the Punjabi peasant left his home and took to pastures abroad.
The first immigrants reached Malaya and China. The Punjabi peasant had a strong body and robust build which were repositories of good health and energy. And poverty was his lot. In such a situation, he was ready to take up any task including lending his services to the outposts of British imperialism. The imperialists took total advantage of his predicament and engaged him in the defense of their imperial interests even though he was compelled to leave his own country due to imperialist loot. He was entrusted with the task of wielding the rod over other victims of the British who were politically and economically distressed much more than the Indians. It is a pity that this poor and despondent Punjabi peasant suffered from a total lack of political consciousness. He was concerned with his bread and butter. He could not distinguish between friend and foe. His basic concern was his daily bread. He therefore got recruited in the British police in Malaya and China. Those who could not get into the police services offered their services to the rich and the well-heeled as their watchmen. Because of this, the common people of Malaya and China did not take kindly to their arrival and did not like their activities. But they could not care less. They were in no state to sympathies with the locals as gnawing hunger had denuded them of all such considerations.
By and by, the Punjabi peasants reached Shanghai. Their sojourn in foreign lands also forced upon them the necessity to learn the language of these countries. They could not hope to get employment as either watchmen of capitalists or be recruited into the police without knowing the vernacular. As a matter of fact, the recruits in the police department were required to have a working knowledge of the language of their foreign masters, i.e. English in addition to the local ways of expression. The wiser among them learnt as much English as they could. From Malaya and China, some Punjabis managed to reach Australia but the immigrants to Australia are not the subject matter of our history. Let us leave them alone. We shall talk of only those people whose activities had a bearing on our history.
I had already stated that Punjabi immigrants in Hong Kong and Shanghai were earning their bread either as watchmen of the rich or as policemen in the British administration. There was a third section that joined the British army. They were mostly employed in the Artillery based at Hong Kong or other military services in Singapore. But their fate was directly controlled by the Government of India as they had been recruited in India and their transfers and leave applications were decided upon in India. These people are also part of our history and in due course this would be brought before the readers. I want to emphasize only one point here that none of these immigrants was either rich or belonged to the feudal classes. There were no landless workers or sharecroppers either. The immigrants were drawn out from middle peasant ranks. The landlords were still enjoying a good life because they enjoyed the patronage of the British Empire. They had no need to take to foreign shores and the landless workers had no means. They could not shore up enough money to pay for their passage and other expenses. It was therefore mainly the middle peasant who could afford to collect the desired funds by mortgaging his land or borrowing on interest from the moneylender. The immigrants mostly belonged to this class.
Again, around 95 percent of the immigrants were Sikhs. After a few years of service in Malaya and China, they managed to save some money. They also repaid the loans raised from the moneylenders. With their burdens lightened, they started thinking of their souls and in pursuance of the Sikh tradition; they involved themselves in the building of their places of worship i.e. the Gurdwaras. They would collect in the Gurdwaras at the weekends to think about their welfare and organize themselves. The Gurdwaras were also envisaged as places of welcome for the new arrivals and the fresh immigrants were accorded a warm reception and looked after till they managed to land a job and put themselves up on their own. They built huge and elegant Gurdwaras in Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. This urge did not stop here. It travelled to Canada and America. The Gurdwaras built in Vancouver in Canada and Stockton in California were worthy examples. These Gurdwaras provided shelter and food to all immigrants without any consideration of caste, creed or religion. I have mentioned the Gurdwaras deliberately because these places of worship in foreign lands have a great importance in our history. More on this subject would follow. But it was from these gurdwaras that the movement was lucky to take into its folds men like Balwant Singh granthi and Presidents of Gurdwara Committees like Bhag Singh Bhikhiwind. They developed into determined nationalists who dedicated their lives to total opposition to British imperialism. And Balwant Singh granthi died fighting when he was hanged by the British for his activities in Singapore and Malaya. And Sardar Bhag Singh met a cruel fate when on the instigation of British C.I.D. he was murdered within the precincts of the Gurdwara by traitors who acted at the behest of British imperialism.
I have already mentioned that living in foreign lands the immigrants had to cope with the languages of other peoples. They were also required to learn English. They were able to acquire some proficiency in the local languages and a working knowledge of English. Shanghai was a city of international importance where tourists and merchants from all over the world arrived. It was a favourite visiting spot of American tourists and business travellers. Quite a few Punjabis were employed in the customs department of the port and were required to interact with foreign visitors.
They learnt from the American and Canadian travellers that in their countries a worker could earn $ 2 to $2.50 daily. It came as a pleasant surprise to them. The daily wage was equal to Rs. seven and half or eight which was a great amount when compared with the going rate of six to eight annas in India. The income of the Punjab peasant never exceeded one and a half annas a day. It was enough to encourage some Punjabis settled in Shanghai to take off for America and Canada and soon enough they reached there. The first migration took place around 1903-04. The Punjab peasant has a strong build and knows no fears. They immediately showed their worth in the lumber yards and steel factories. The factory owners goaded these first arrivals to call others from Shanghai and Hong Kong and a good workforce of Indians accumulated. But the demand for Punjabi labour was on the increase. The immigrants sent exaggerated accounts of their earnings to their relations and friends in the villages. As a result, hordes of Punjabi peasants from the central districts of Lahore, Amritsar, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Sialkot, and more particularly, from Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur Districts mortgaged their lands and took loans on interest and took off for America and Canada. (There was no passport system in those days and people could travel from one country to another with ease).
They reached Canada and America after long and arduous journeys. This grand migration took place in 1904-05. A majority of these immigrants served as farm labour in California. The others found employment in timber and steel factories in Oregon and Washington. I would give details of the fortune of immigrants to Canada later in a separate chapter. Let us examine the predicament of American immigrants only.
The Indian peasant from Punjab was transformed into a worker on arrival in America. And in the fitness of things he should be treated as a worker from now onwards. Back home in Punjab, his mental make-up was of a proud landowner. He thought of himself as a Sardar and landless workers were considered lowly by him. And now when he was at the receiving end from the capitalists and ranch owners of California, he realized that his condition was far removed from that of a Sardar. He was a virtual slave. The foreman of the owners would haul him up every five minutes and ask to "hurry up" and he would run here and there in mortal fear of the tyrannical supervisors. He would shed a tear or two on his helplessness but he failed to understand why this inhuman treatment was meted out to him. The condition of Canadian migrants was no better.
The Indians carried on in this manner till they came face to face with the great depression of 1907-08. Thousands of American workers were laid off. There was an air of crisis all along. Tile American working class suffered heavily on this account. Since most of the profiteering factory-owners engaged Indians at low wages, the ire of the American working class was directed towards them. On the other hand the capitalists did not want to let go of this source of cheap labour. Though the foreign work force included immigrants from Austria, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Russia, Ireland, China and Japan etc., the American working class exerted undue pressure on the Indian labour. The American police also defended immigrants from other countries even though they were willing to work at wages lower than the Indians. The question arose: why have Indians been singled out for such treatment? Is the American working class particularly hostile to them?
It is correct that all immigrant labour was harming the interests of the American working class. But the governments of other countries were defending the people of their origin. It was only the Indian worker who was worse than a slave and had no one to back him in his hour of need. His masters (the British government) were themselves interested in humiliating him. Who was to look after him? I can quote two examples involving the Indian worker and the Japanese worker. This would highlight the difference in the lot of Indians and other workers.
The American workers attacked a factory which employed Japanese labour. The Japanese suffered financial losses. The Japanese government took no time in sending a "notice" to its U.S. counterpart to explain their position. As a result the American government had to pay compensation to the Japanese workers which were almost ten times the loss suffered by them. I now give details of another incident in which Indian workers were being laboured and insulted and suffered financial losses.
There is a small town called Wilhem in the state of Oregon. It had a large lumber yard employing Indians. There were other immigrant labourers also. During the depression of 1907, in the month of January, when it snows and there is bitter cold, the American workers attacked Indian worker’s quarters. They looted their belongings and humiliated them. They were bundled into tram cars and left in the open in the jungle in extreme cold. The police was a mute witness to all this. When the Indians brought this incident to the notice of the British Counselor, he did not stir his little finger and ignored the incident.
A second incident of this nature took place in a small town called Ebert. The Indians were subjected to loot and pillage there also and left high and dry in the jungles. This was again in 1907 and the British diplomats refused to bestir themselves in this case also.
The third such incident took place in Dakota in 1908. The American Railway workers were on strike. The Railway Company recruited Indian workers through an employment agency without mentioning the fact that the American workers were on strike. The striking workers unleashed their ire on the Indian workers and attacked them. Luckily, there were no casualties. When the Indians realized the correct import of the situation, they left their jobs. In this case, the Indians were, unwittingly, acting as strike breakers and perhaps invited the wrath of American workers. But in the earlier two instances, there were nothing of this kind but they were still persecuted.
The depression lost its sting in early 1909. All workers, American and immigrants’ alike, found work. Though there was no attack on the Indian workers till 1911 but they were looked down upon and hated by the Americans. Even American children would pass remarks against Indian workers in the streets. They were accosted as "Hello, Hindu slave" in hotels, tramcars, rail coaches, resorts and cinemas and were held in ridicule and contempt visibly and openly.
What was the force that prompted all this hatred and ridicule? It did not take long for Indians to find out. They discovered that it was the agents of the British C.I.D. and their operators who spread this hatred towards the Indians amongst the Americans. The masters of this force, the British Government could not digest the fact of common Indians living and working in a virtually democratic and rich country like America because this contact was sure to lead them to think about their own independence. The British were aware of the dangers inherent in the contact of ordinary Indians with the people of Canada and America.
I may now set at rest certain misconceptions spread regarding the standards of living of the Indians and their living ethos. The Food Commission appointed by the U.S. Government in 1911 went into the standards of living of the workers. Its report says that the Indians enjoyed the highest level of food intake of all immigrant labour. The quality of their food was no poorer than that of the Americans. The difference lay in the fact that the Americans consumed a lot of meat whereas Indians depended for nourishment on milk and butter (which, incidentally, are considered better sources of energy). Their standard of living was also comparable to other workers. In the matter of language, Indians were better equipped than other immigrants and could speak better and more intelligible English.
It is also said that the Americans hated Indians for keeping long beards and for allowing the hair to grow and sweeping the hair under a turban. If this were correct, the factories employing Sikh workers should have received major attacks. But the facts are otherwise. In 1907, 1908 and 191I, all major incidents of American persecution of Indian workers were witnessed in factories that employed Indians sporting caps (topis) on their heads.
It is also a canard that most of the Ghadar Party workers were unlettered and ignorant. The Ghadar party heroes who were awarded capital punishment by the British and hanged were all very well-read people. Many of them were graduates and postgraduates. Dr. Harnam Singh was an M.A.; Mr. Pingle was a graduate; Sohan Lal of Patti was a graduate. So was Dr. Mathra Singh. Kartar Singh (Sarabha) and his comrades, Sardar Balwant Singh Granthi, Banta Singh Khurdpur and all other young recruits were well-read. Most of those who emigrated to Canada and America availed of night school facilities and educated themselves. The party made arrangements for the education of even old people. Master Udham Singh studied privately and graduated. An even the unlettered members of the Ghadar Party were politically more alert and conscious than most of the "well-read" politicians in India.
A third form of persecution aimed at Indians emanated from American and German politicians. It manifested itself like this. As and when a liberal American exchanged views with Indians, he would ask: "How many of you are there?" The Indian would reply: Thirty crores. And then there was the counter-question: "300 million sheep or men?" The Indian would perforce feel ashamed and the American would taunt: "You are 300 million humans. Even 300 million sheep would not tolerate the life of slavery which you are undergoing".
As and when the Indians protested against their behaviour to any sympathetic and gentlemanly American, reminding him of the liberal and humanistic traditions of America, he would come out with the reply: "You must try to understand why you are singled out for such treatment. It is crystal clear. Since you are enslaved, you invite this ridicule".
After the incidents of 1907-08, there was no incident of violence against the Indians in 1909 and 1910. All workers of Indian origin worked smoothly in their factories. However in the winter of 1911, in the month of December, the Americans again attacked Indian workers in a timber factory in St Joan, near Portland in Oregon. The police stood as a mute witness to all this and joined the attacking crowd in jeering. The earlier ignominies were repeated. After relieving Indians of their baggage and personal effects, they were pushed into tramcars and left in the jungle in bitter cold. This incident opened up the wounds of 1907 and 1908. As usual the Indians went with their tale of woe to the British Counselor in Portland. He did nothing beyond sympathizing with their fate. This incident left deep scars on the minds of Indian workers.
The events related above and the indignities heaped on the Indians served to open their eyes. What is their place in the world? Why are they being humiliated? They started looking for answers to these questions in the life they led. And their minds worked slowly towards a course that would free them of their enslavement. The desire for liberation and their deep faith in the betterment of their lot brought them closer to each other.
The Indians of a neighborhood would get together on Sundays. The desire for liberating the motherland and bonds of friendship and love for one another developed. The moral torpor was discarded in favour of a determined self-assurance. National interest took precedence over personal interest. Hundreds of Indians showed their willingness to work for the liberation of our motherland wholeheartedly. They prepared themselves to sacrifice their all for the cause of the country. The Indians working in the timber factories of Oregon and Washington states, e.g. Monarch Mill in St. Joan, Portland, and other factories in Bridal Veil, Astoria etc. joined together in their determination to sever asunder the chains of servitude.
In the wake of the arousal of the Indian workers in Oregon and Washington states, the farm workers of California also raised their voice of protest against their exploitation by farmers. The ranch-owners put up Indian labours in sheds which even pigs won’t inhabit. And while at work, he heard only "Hurry up, hurry up". The level of exploitation was much higher in the case of Indian workers than other immigrant labour. The farm workers are rather loosely spread and segregated from each other unlike factory workers who perform their labours under one roof. It is rather difficult to organize them. But the indignities heaped upon them day after day and the exploitation suffered by them opened their eyes also. The farm workers also pined for liberation and casting away the chains of slavery. They joined their brethren in the factories of Washington and Oregon and decided to march shoulder to shoulder in the great cause of the liberation of our motherland.
Alongwith the happenings in the United State of America, it is incumbent to take stock of the situation prevailing in Canada which drove Indians to flock under the banner of the Ghadar Party for achieving national liberation.
The Indians in Canada came from the same class background as those settled in America. The migration to Canada also took place at the same time. Without going into circumstances and aspects of the situation which were similar, I would like to make a reference to some peculiarities of the political situation in Canada distinguishing it from the one prevailing in America.
In America, the political work started on a revolutionary note. There was no room here for any reformist or collaborationist politics. Ghadar Party was firm in its belief that any understanding between the masters and slaves would always be to the detriment of the subdued nation. This is precisely what happened in 1947. The slave has only one choice: either he can die fighting or he can redeem himself. All intermediary paths, particularly the paths of reform and compromise, are incapable of ensuring complete liberation. These policies were tried in Canada and the Ghadarites, learning from this experience, chose the ideal of complete liberation after an armed struggle leading to the defeat of the British. However the protracted legal battle fought in Canada is creditable in the sense that it did not become either localized or stuck in a particular groove. It changed its tactics with the times and when the Ghadar movement took hold in America, the Canadian movement merged itself with the revolutionary Ghadar movement. It strengthened the Ghadar movement very much and the Indians in Canada made huge sacrifices under the banner of the Ghadar Party. Sardar Bhag Singh and Sardar Balwant Singh were the founders of this movement in Canada.
I have already explained that 90% of the immigrants in Canada and America were Sikhs. Very soon after they arrival in Canada, they built a Gurdwara in Vancouver. Luckily the Gurdwara Committee that came to manage this Gurdwara was headed by patriots like S. Bhag Singh and S. Balwant Singh. This Committee became very popular with Indians in Canada. Though it was called a Gurdwara Committee but it enjoyed the confidence of all Indians without reference to religion or creed because the Committee championed the civil rights of all Indians.
The first demand made by the committee concerned citizenship rights. They demanded Canadian citizenship. Since Canada was a British colony and as citizens of the Crown colony they had rights in India, similar rights must be extended to Indians in Canada. Their opponents spread a counter propaganda that these people had come to Canada in search of jobs only, they were only temporary residents and owned no property and hence were ineligible for Canadian citizenship.
The Committee met this challenge by its practical actions. The Indians went on a buying spree and purchased real estate in and around Vancouver. They also succeeded in buying prime property near sea shore. In the meantime, quite a few Indians with entrepreneurial skills reached there. They bought a lock of stock in a mining concession and opened a number of hotels, restaurants and shops. The Indians were no longer only manual labourers; there were many who had acquired property and other interests in Canada.
Again, in the semi-liberated atmosphere of Canada, they were developing certain "nationalist" characteristics and started thinking collectively about their bondage under the British yoke. The British Government could not digest this political awakening. The worries of the British Government increased in proportion to the betterment in the condition of Indians. Taking its cue from the policy of "divide and rule", the British Government deputed Hopkinson, an officer of the Secret Police, to Canada to keep a watch over the activities of the Indians. Hopkinson could understand and speak both Hindi and Punjabi. He managed to collect a group of traitors and informers from amongst the Punjabis around him. Bawa Singh and Bela Singh were the ringleaders of this group.
The British Government could no longer allow the Indians to continue on the path of economic progress and political awakening since this awakening was against their interests. In collusion with the Canadian Government, they evolved a strategy which would help them in killing two birds with one stone. The peasants are deeply attached to land. They are happier tilling the land than doing manual labour. Therefore Hopkinson embarked on a propaganda campaign that if Indians so liked, the Canadian Government would allot them lands in Honduras free of charge. A promise of financial help was also thrown in. The proposal also threw broad hints of working in absolutely free and independent conditions. They might ultimately succeed in having their small but independent colony to themselves. Consequently, the Indians agreed to join the prospecting team and two of their representatives went to Honduras alongwith Canadian authorities.
When the Indian delegates saw the conditions for themselves, they were greatly discouraged. The climate was not conducive to good health and the conditions posed hazards to health and good living. They chanced to meet many Indians who had been indentured by white controlled Companies to do labour in Honduras. They were not allowed to go back even after the expiry of the agreed term. The Indians learnt a lot from the unenviable condition of the hapless compatriots already suffering in Honduras. They saw for themselves that the British had already played a trick on the Indians called on labour contracts. When the accompanying British and Canadian officers realized that the conditions prevailing there had affected the minds of the Indian delegates adversely, they tried to buy them with money and an offer of a few thousand dollars as gratification was made. But these patriotic Indians were impressed neither by the lure of money nor by the might of the government. On return they gave the true picture to Indians and saved thousands of Indians from a life of privation and misery and possible death. Their report spoke of the miserable conditions of Indians in Honduras. It told the tale of many Indians who were unable even to earn a square meal. They were not even allowed to go back. Yellow fever, the killer disease, was rampant and the climate was inhospitable. Thus the British-Canadian conspiracy was nipped in the bud.
When these machinations of the British and Canadian Governments failed, they resorted to terror tactics. A notice was served on all Indians asking them to pack up and reach the port on a specified date where a ship will be ready to take them to some other land. For the Indians this notice posed a question of life and death. They decided to face death rather than succumb to such humiliating existence. Instead of reporting at the port, they assembled in the Gurdwara, ready to court death. Police officers arrived there and asked them to leave for the port. The Indians refused to oblige and informed that they could not be forced to reach there alive. They will have to carry their corpses to the port. Bela Singh, the Punjabi Sikh informer of Hopkinson reported this to the authorities. Thus they failed in this effort also.
The Indians had made a great progress in national awareness and self-confidence and achieved unity of purpose. They decided to fight it out legally. A Committee called Hindustani Committee was formed. This Committee sent a deputation to Ottawa under the leadership of Sardar Balwant Singh. The Canadian Government averred that such matters are best dicussed at a state to state level. Since Indians were British subjects, only the British Government had the prerogative of talking to them on this subject. The deputation reported this matter to their compatriots. The Committee then consulted its constituents and decided to send a deputation to England. Again a deputation was sent under the leadership of Balwant Singh to England. The India Office informed them that this matter concerned the British Indian and Canadian Governments. The Government of United Kingdom was in no way concerned with it. They were asked to go to India and talk to the Viceroy of India. When the deputation reached India and talked to the Viceroy, his reply was that he would correspond with and contact the Canadian Government and inform them accordingly.
Dismayed by this reply of the Viceroy, the deputation travelled all over India and started talking to different Sabhas and Societies and associations. They placed their tale of woe before everybody. But no leader of any sabha or Society extended them any sympathy or help. Most of them advised caution and decried the efforts of the deputation as a revolt against the British. The deputation spent a year in its efforts and nothing came out of it. They were then called by the Viceroy who informed them of the Canadian Government’s decision. The Canadian Government was not banning the immigration of Indians. Their only condition was that they should travel by ships which leave Indians shores and reach Canada without interrupting their journey or changing ships The Indians could also take their families along. This placed the Indians in a piquant situation. There was no shipping company which operated directly between India and Canada. All foreign ships operated up to Hong Kong. And from Hong Kong one had to travel in ships owned by other companies. S. Balwant Singh and S. Bhag Singh returned to Canada in 1911 and reported everything to the Indians there.
The Indian Committee, which was a representative organization of all Indians without distinction of caste or religion, decided to test the words of the Canadian Government regarding immigration of families. They again sent S. Bhag Singh, Balwant Singh and another Indian to bring the children and families. When they reached Hong Kong, all sailing companies refused to give them passage. Somehow they managed to purchase tickets for San Francisco but the Americans did not allow them to alight. They were sent back to Hong Kong. They again tried to reach Canada and after protracted efforts and a year of struggle they managed to reach Canada in 1912.
The Indians spent thousands of rupees in calling their families and children to Canada and the journey itself took months. The Canadian Government would keep them in quarantine, treat them cruelly and unsympathetically and repatriate them to India.
When the Indians asked for citizenship rights, the Canadian Government made a legislation which was propounded by the Viceroy to the visiting deputation. The Indians had to sail directly from Indian ports to Canada without changing ships enroute. But by this time the Indians were fully acquainted with the deceit and double talk of the Canadian authorities.
To please their ally Britain, the United States also adopted a harsh attitude towards Indians. Their policy was marked by duplicity; they neither banned the entry of Indians into America nor allowed any Indian to alight on American shores. If a ship carried 50 Indians, hardly four or five were allowed to alight, the others were asked to go back. This policy was very detrimental to interests of Indians. Had their entry been banned, they would not have travelled to America after spending so much money and saved themselves from the torture of the journey. And since a few were allowed to land, the others were encouraged to think that they may also succeed in a second trip. But there were many who were unlucky the second time also and wasted a lot of money into the bargain. They had mortgaged their properties in this effort and were unable to return home. Nor were others prepared to put them up. There were many people who were stranded in Philippines, Fiji, and Panama, Mexico etc. The British Government had manipulated matters effectively causing tremendous harassment to Indian who left for America to earn their bread.
The reader can well understand how political consciousness arose in Indians in America, Canada and other foreign lands. They were sick of slavery and pined for the liberation of the motherland. These people proved to be ready material for the Ghadar Party when it raised its standard of revolt and Malaya, Burma, Siam, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Japan, Philippines, Canada, Panama, East Indies and America proved fertile grounds for quick growth of the Ghadar movement.
I have already described how Indians in America and Canada had undergone a spiritual transformation and determined to form a collective political organization. The revolutions taking place in other countries also gave fillip to their revolutionary urges and their political consciousness developed at a fast pace.
In 1911, the Chinese people under the leadership of Sun Yat Sen were organized against the Manchu dynasty misrule. The Korean people had arisen against Japanese oppression. The people of Philippines were also trying to throwaway the yoke of American imperialism. Many Indians, who were in transit in 1911 and had now arrived in America and Canada, were witness to the Chinese revolution. The Balkan states had also raised the standard of revolt against Turkish hegemony.
The Indian workers were in constant touch with workers from these countries. They were also in one or other stage of slavery and were now rising against their tormentors: The Punjabi peasant, who had been transformed into a worker, now worked shoulder to shoulder with revolutionary workers from these countries. He realized that the Indians were neither lacking in bravery nor were they less in numbers. What they needed was an organization. The Indians were also influenced by semi-liberated conditions prevailing in Canada and America and were quick to know the advantages. All these factors contributed in goading Indians to the road of revolution because they had seen the misery of a life of slavery and were ready to embrace death rather than live under slavery.
Apart from the workers, there were Indian students in America. They also came from the middle classes. Most of the students from rich families went to England to prosecute their studies. It would not be improper to call these students worker-students because in their vacations, they joined their countrymen in plucking fruit from gardens and working in factories. They earned their annual expenses in hard labour done during the vacations. They were equally inspired by the ideal of freedom. In the Ghadar movement the students marched shoulder to shoulder with the working Indians.
In addition to workers and students, there were quite a few exiled patriots who were forced to leave India because of their pronounced anti-British and pro-Independence politics. One of them was Lala Har Dyal. These politicians could exercise their influence on the masses only when the Ghadar party came into being. Earlier, they were just passing their days in foreign lands.
Lala Har Dyal had worked as Professor of Sanskrit in Berkeley University. He used to deliver lectures to the working people and also wrote articles in the newspapers. He was respected by the students for his scholarship. The press also admired his acumen. He was well-known in American labour unions. But he had virtually no acquaintance with Indian labour, particularly the immigrants from Punjab. He used to remark that Indians are unable to do anything for their country. He used to shun Indians. And the only Indian he liked to befriend was Bhai Jawala Singh. He used to visit his home which was a haven for the patriots.
The Indians had left their country to earn their bread. While earning their bread, they breathed the free air of independent countries which left a great impact on their minds. The British Government adopted a very wily attitude and tried to deviating them from their chosen path by using clever devices and machinations. They unleashed a propaganda campaign against Indians and tried to ridicule them in the eyes of other people. But conscious Indians become more and more determined to organize them politically and this led to the formation of the Ghadar party.
The Indian workers of Oregon and Washington states called a conference in March, 1913 in Astoria which was attended by representatives from Monarch Mills, St John, Portland and Bridal Vale and Astoria Mills. The conference was attended by 120 representatives and Lala Har Dyal was invited from San Francisco (California). The workers assembled here laid the foundation of the Hindi Association of Pacific Coast of America or the Ghadar Party.
The Following resolutions were adopted in this conference:
1. It was resolved to create a revolutionary organization to liberate India from British slavery by an armed revolution and to establish a democratic regime based on liberty and equality.
2. The name of this organization would be the "Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast of America".
3. A weekly Party newspaper should be published in Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi. To commemorate the Ghadar of 1857, the name of this paper would be Ghadar.
4. The party’s basic slogan would be "Bande Matram" because more than anything else this revolutionary salutation invited British wrath.
5. The main office of the Party would be located in San Francisco (California) as it was the centre of International revolutionary activity and a sea port.
6. All work in the Party office, press and newspaper would be voluntary. However, everyone would be provided food and lodging from party funds.
7. All Indians from different mills and gangs would pay a monthly subscription of one dollar each.
8. In every mill and gang, a representative committee would be organized which would be affiliated to the Working Committee.
9. A Working Committee would be elected by the representatives from individual units.
10. The Working Committee would elect a Commission of three members who would be responsible for the secret work of the Party.
11. The Party would not be a platform for religious discussion. Religion would be treated as the personal affair of an individual.
12. Every activist of the Party will be required to support and participate in the freedom struggles and liberation movements of all countries of world.
13. There would be no subscription for the paper. It would be distributed free.
13. The election for party offices would be held annually.
After the adoption of the above resolutions, the following office bearers were elected:
1. President --- Sohan Singh Bhakna
2. Vice- President -- Kesar Singh Thathgarh
3. Chief Secretary -- Lala Hardyal
4. Joint Secretary -- A nominee of Ajit Singh
5. Treasurer -- Pandit Kanshi Ram
6. Assistant Treasurer-- Harnam Singh Tundilat
7. Organizing Secretaries -- Karim Bakash and Munshi Ram
A Party fund of ten thousand dollars was collected. Five thousand dollars were in cash and the rest in real estate. After the Party was formed, Lala Har Dyal left for California and the rest of the members went to their mills. Indians in other towns in Canada and America were contacted by correspondence. But in the following months, Lala Har Dyal could neither open an office nor arrange for the publication of a newspaper. When no set up materialized in the next six or seven months, the constituent units wrote to the president complaining about the delay in starting work. The President wrote to Chief Secretary asking for reasons of delay and waste of time. Lala Har Dyal replied that he was not keeping good health and a new man may be elected in his place. The president wrote a strongly worded letter to Lala Har Dyal reminding him about his complaint that Indians shunned working for the nation and his own attitude was no better. Upon this, Lala Har Dyal wrote back that he needed money to start operations and he would organize an office and bring out a newspaper as and when money reached him. The Treasurer despatched the money with the permission of the President. And on November 1, 1913, the first issue of the Ghadar Newspaper was published. It was printed in Gurmukhi and Urdu on hand machine by Kartar Singh Sarabha and Gupta. The Gurmukhi newspaper was calligraphed by Kartar Singh Sarabha. After a few days Harnam Singh Tundilat was sent by the Oregon State unit to join them. The Ghadar newspaper always carried an article under the heading" Angrezi Raj Da Kacha Chitha" (A Balance Sheet of the British Rule) which highlighted British exploitation of India with the support of statistics and data. In many issues of the Ghadar newspaper in our possession, we find that such articles are prominently displayed alongwith editorials. They reflect scholarship and wisdom of Lala Har Dyal who wrote them. The newspaper also contained poems written with a view to enthuse people in their struggle against the British rule. Later these poems were collected in booklets called "Ghadar Di Goonj." These become handy compilations of nationalistic songs. Patriotic writers from all over the world sent these poems for publication in the Ghadar.
Even his worst enemies were struck by the deep learning, scholarship and simple way of life of Lala Har Dyal. He had no love for money and was a deeply committed patriot. But he could not stick to anything for long. He would take up a mission one day and drop it suddenly a few days later. We were aware of his weakness and we were not disturbed by it. He could run a newspaper, write books but he had no faculty for organization. He had no acumen for creating a party or running it. This deficiency was handled by other comrades including the President, and Kartar Singh. As the work load increased other comrades volunteered and joined the headquarters. The demand for the newspaper increased many fold and the hand machine could not take the load. The Working Committee sanctioned the purchase of a bigger press.
A public appeal was made for volunteers to work in the press. We were flooded with offers. Nine or ten workers said goodbye to their lucrative jobs and threw in their lot in the party work. Many of them pledged their entire wealth and whole life in the service of the party. Unfortunately I am unable to recollect the names of the all the workers in the press because of failure of memory. I do remember some of them. These included Pandit Jagat Ram and Prithvi Singh. Pandit Jagat Ram was manager of’ the press while Prithvi Singh was an active worker.
Many students also took time off their studies and came to work in the press or office or newspaper. Naranjan Das was one of them. The name of the office was Yugantar Ashram and was situated at 436, Hill Street, San Francisco while the Ghadar press was located at 5, Wood Street.