Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism

by Jaspal Singh

Return to India
The Ghadarites decided that the time was ripe to organize a revolt in the army against the British, as the first world war was approaching and it was only through armed force that the British were able to subjugate Hindustan. With men and materiel flowing out of India to aid in the war effort, the forces of occupation were perched precariously, depleted and vulnerable to attack. Therefore they decided to organize and return to Hindustan. In August 1914 huge rallies and public meetings were organized, where it was decided that all the Hindus abroad should return to Hindustan and participate in the armed revolt against the British. The Executive Committee of the Ghadar Party met and decided to call upon all the Ghadarites everywhere to return to India and organize the revolt. Kartar Singh Sarabha, one of the youngest Ghadarites, was a student at Berkeley and left right away with other Ghadarites. The president of Ghadar Party, Sohan Singh Bhakhna, who was in Japan, also organized to return home with others. Similarly, the Ghadarites planned to return from other parts of the world. They left a few organizers abroad to carry on the work. They worked out the following plan:

  1. To contact all the revolutionary groups in India on their return and unite with them.
  2. The Ghadarite organizers should travel from village to village and prepare the people for the revolt against the British.
  3. To propagate amongst the soldiers in the cantonments and arouse them to revolt against the British. A special committee was elected for this work
  4. For acquisition of weapons, a special group was organized.
  5. A special group to carry on the work of publishing literature to distribute amongst the people and soldiers.
  6. To further strengthen relations with all those movements who were fighting against colonialism for their national liberation and seek their help.
  7. To seek possibilities of help from Germany and Turkey who were fighting against the British.

To get help from enemies of the British, Barakatullah was sent to Kabul to organize this work. Kapur Singh Mohi met with Sun Yat Sen to seek the help of the Chinese revolutionaries. Sohan Singh Bhakhna also met with the German Counselor in Tokyo in this regard. Teja Singh Sutantar had joined the Turkish Military Academy for military training to prepare for the revolutionary storms. Ghadarites returned to India through sea and land. The Komagata Maru, SS Korea, and the Namsang were some of the ships on which thousands of Ghadarite returned home:

"The most important vessel to leave San Francisco was the SS Korea, which left for Hong Kong on the 29th August.Before the ship left San Francisco Maulvi Barkatullah, Ram Chand and Bhagwan Singh came aboard and gave the following advice, 'your duty is clear. Go to India and stir up rebellion in every corner of the country. Arms will be provided for you on your arrival in India."

It is estimated that close to 8000 Ghadarites returned to Hindustan to aid in the revolt by 1916. In a speech in Dehra Dun Bhai, Parmanand declared that five thousand Ghadarites had returned with him.
The British authorities knew about the plans of the Ghadarites. They had also seen the Declaration of War in Ghadar and also had information through their agents. They issued an ordinance in September 1914, according to which provincial governments were empowered to intern people entering India from abroad even if they were Indian citizens. Bengal and Punjab governments were given these powers first because a great deal of ships on which the Ghadarites were returning were to dock at Calcutta. They also established a detention centre in Ludhiana where those passengers who were suspected of being Ghadarites were interned. The passengers of Komagatu Maru were the first victims of this ordinance. Sohan Singh Bhakhna and others were arrested from the ship Namsang and brought to Ludhiana. Ghadarites traveling in Tosha Maru were also arrested and taken to different jails such as Montgomery and Multan. But the Ghadarites made it through Colombo, Madras, and Bombay.

"The immediate object of the revolutionary party in the domain of politics is to establish a Federal Republic of the United States of India by an organized armed revolution. The final constitution of this Republic shall be framed and declared at a time when the representatives of India shall have the power to carry out their decisions. But the basic principles of this Republic shall be universal suffrage, and the abolition of all systems which make the exploitation of man by man possible;.In this Republic the electors shall have the right to recall their representatives if so desired, otherwise the democracy shall become a mockery. In this Republic, the legislature shall have the power to control the executives and replace them whenever necessity will arise.
The Revolutionary Party is not national but international in the sense that its ultimate object is to bring harmony in the world by respecting and guaranteeing the diverse interests of the different nations; it aims not at competition but at cooperation between the different nations and states, and in this respect it follows the footsteps of the great Indian Rishis and of Bolshevik Russia in the modern age. Good for humanity is no vain and empty word for Indian revolutionaries."

In India the Ghadarites developed close working relationships with other revolutionary groups such as the revolutionaries of Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, etc., who later formed the Revolutionary Party of India which declared in 1917: ->
Vishnu Ganesh Pingley, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Ras Bihari Bose, Bhai Parmanand, Hafiz Abdullah, Sachinder Nath Sanyal, and others played very important roles in developing these close relationships with other revolutionary groups. They aimed to overthrow the British rule by force of arms and build a new society. For this aim they were willing to unite and work together with all those forces that were working for this common aim of liberating Hindustan.
Amritsar was established as the control centre for the activity of the Ghadar party which had to be changed to Lahore on February 6,1915 due to security considerations. After analyzing all the reports from the organizers amongst the army and civilians, it was decided on February 12,1915 that the date of uprising will be February 21,1915. The plan was to occupy the cantonments of Mian Mir, Ferozepur, Meerut, Lahore, and Delhi and proclaim the Republic of India. Garrisons in Kohat, Bannu and Dinapur were also to revolt on the same day. Kartar Singh Sarabha was to take control of Ferozepur and Pingle to march to Delhi from Meerut with the 128th Battalion.
Dr. Mathura Singh was sent to the frontier areas of the Northwest to organize the Afridis and others. Nidhan Singh Chugha, Gurmukh, Singh and Harnam Singh were sent to Jhelum, Rawalpindi, and Hoti Mardan. Parmanand went to Peshawar. Others were sent to Ambala, Meerut, Lucknow, Allahabad, Benares, Dinapur, and Faizabad to raise the banner of revolt. They also decided that the flag of this revolt and republic would be a tricolor of Red, Green and Yellow with two swords crossing in the centre. The organization of revolt in the eastern part of India, such as in Bengal and Assam, was to be coordinated by the Bengali revolutionaries. The rebellion was to engulf the British Empire from Peshawar to Hongkong.
Unfortunately the British government got wind of the uprising through their agents. The Ghadarites changed the date of uprising to February 19 instead of February 21, after they determined that the authorities knew of their plans. But the British authorities acted swiftly and disarmed the Indian troops in the above mentioned garrisons and interned them. Several leaders of Ghadar Party and organizers were arrested and imprisoned in Lahore; 82 of them were charged for sedition in Lahore Conspiracy Case on April 26,1916 and 17 Ghadarites were declared absconding and international non-bailable warrants for their arrest were issued.

Michael O'Dwyer, the governor of Punjab, asked the British government to remove all provisions of appeal in the legal provisions of the courts. The British government brought in "Defence of India Rule" to carry out summary trials of the Ghadarites. This ordinance was opposed by all the Indian members of the legislative assembly. A special tribune was set up which held its hearings in camera in a Lahore jail. On September 13,1915, 24 Ghadarites were sentenced to death and the rest were given life imprisonment. This judgment of the tribunal raised a wave of protest and demonstrations against the British all over India. As a result the Viceroy Lord Hardinge himself intervened and converted the death sentence of 17 Ghadarites into life imprisonment and reduced the term of imprisonment for 7 Ghadarites. On November 16, seven Ghadarites were hanged.

After Lahore, arrests took place in Benaras and Delhi. Sachinder Nath Sanyal was exiled to Andaman jail known as Kala Pani and others were given varying rigorous sentences by the special tribunal. The Tribunal declared that they were all part of the same movement with its centre in Lahore.

The Ghadarites did not get disheartened by this set back and continued carrying on their work. Arrests and imprisonments followed them. In the second Lahore Conspiracy case, 102 Ghadarites were tried. This case began on October 25, 1915 and sentences were handed down on March 30, 1916. Seven Ghadarites were sentenced to death, 45 were given life sentences and the rest were given rigourous imprisonment varying from 8 months to four years. Eleven were let free.

Several Ghadarites were hanged, sentenced for life and given rigorous imprisonment in the third, fourth and fifth Lahore Conspiracy Cases. According to one estimate, a total of 145 Ghadarites were hanged, 308 were given sentences longer than 14 years.

Outside India the Ghadarites had organized revolts amongst the Indian soldiers. They started organizing the soldiers of the 26th Punjabi regiment in Hongkong. This regiment had been brought in 1912 to suppress the Chinese democratic revolution led by Sun Yat Sen. The British officer could go home on vacations but the Hindustani soldiers had to remain on duty. Besides the 26th Punjabi, the 25th Punjabi, 126th Baluchi and 50th Artillery was also stationed here. The Ghadar Party had carried out work amongst them. Especially after the Komagata Maru incident, they had a great deal of anti-British sentiment and Ghadar was regularly distributed amongst them. On June 14, several of the soldiers in these regiments were arrested and court-martialed for distributing Ghadar and sent back to India and imprisoned.

In Singapore two regiments, Fifth Holly Light and Malaya State Guide, were garrisoned. The Ghadarites started their work in 1914 in Singapore and through Ghadar, called upon the soldiers to revolt against the British and not participate in the war on the British side. The British authorities, suspecting something was amiss, transferred the Malaya State Guide to Penang. On the night of February 15,1914, the soldiers were ordered to deposit their ammunition and arms in the depot. As a result the officers refused to obey this order and shot several of the officers. The British reinforcements arrived by the 18th of February and crushed this rebellion. Two leaders of the mutiny were hanged and 38 were shot dead, and on the side of the British 8 officers, 9 soldiers and 17 civilians were killed.

In Rangoon in January 1915, the 130th Baluchi regiment revolted. They did not want to fight in the war for the British. On January 15, 200 soldiers of this regiment were court-martialed. Four soldiers were hanged, 69 were given life imprisonment and 126 were given rigorous imprisonment for varying terms. Pandit Sohan Lal Pathak, one of the outstanding leaders of the Ghadar Party was hanged on February 10,1916 in Mandalay jail for inciting rebellion against the British rule. At his martyrdom another Ghadarite Amar Singh wrote:

Chadha Mansoor Phansi Par Pukara Ishk Bazon Ko
Yeh Beeda Hai Tabahi Ka Uthaye Jiska Ji Chaahey
(From the Gallows Mansoor called those who dared to love This path of self-sacrifice, those who march on it, should do so with complete free will)

Burma had also become an important centre of the Ghadarites. Several Ghadarites were tried and sentenced in two Mandalay Conspiracy Cases.
In December 1915, a government-in-exile of Free Hindustan was established in Kabul, Afghanistan, with Raja Mohinder Pratap as President, Maulavi Barkatullah, Prime Minister, Maulavi Abaidullah Sindhi, Home Minister, Maulavi Bashir, War Minister and Champakaran Pillai, Foreign Minister. All of them were members of the Ghadar Party except Raja Mahendra Pratap. This government-in-exile carried on work on various fronts including the diplomatic fronts by establishing relationships with anti-British governments such as Turkey, Germany, Japan, China, etc.
The Ghadarites also organized the Hindustani prisoners of war in Turkey, Germany, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East. The Ghadarites in Turkey fought against the British in Iran, Baluchistan and Turkey. In Constantinople, they decided that they will attack the British soldiers in Iran, move on to Baluchistan and then enter Punjab from there. They also worked amongst the Hindustani soldiers in the British army in Iran and Iraq, especially in Basra and Bushahir. It is here that the Indian Independence Army was organized by the Ghadarites to invade British India from Iran. Amba Prasad Sufi was the leader of the Ghadar Party in Shiraz. He was joined by Kedar Nath, Rishi Kesh Letha and Amin Chaudhry. This army of the Ghadarites reached the borders of Baluchistan where the British army was very weak. General Sykes tried to recruit the help of the Baluchi tribal chiefs. This Ghadarite army attacked the frontier city of Karman and arrested the British Counsel and turned Karman into its base of operations.
The British pressed into their service the Aga Khan and his brother. Aga Khan's brother was captured by the Ghadarite army and shot dead. The army of the Ghadarites also defeated the British forces in the province of Sistan in Afghanistan. The Ghadar army chased the British forces into the Karamshir area of Baluchistan. Here they heard the news and declaration of the Free Hindustan by the government-in-exile headed by Mohendra Pratap. From here the Ghadar army advanced towards Karachi and took over the coastal towns of Gawador and Dawar. The Baluch chief of Bampur declared his independence from the British rule and joined the Ghadar forces. Meanwhile, however, the war in Europe took a turn for the better for the British. Turkey was defeated and Baghdad came under British control, cutting the supply lines of for the Ghadar army, which finally led to its defeat. They retreated to regroup in Shiraz. The British army, reinforced by their victory in Turkey and Iraq, attacked Shiraz. The Ghadar army fought very bravely but was defeated. Amba Prasad Sufi, the leader of the Ghadarites was killed in this battle. The Ghadarites carried on Guerrilla warfare along with the Iranian partisans but when the Iranian patriots were defeated, they left Iran in 1919.
Ghadar was sent through China to Russia and then through Russia, it used to go through Iran and Mesopotamia to the Indian troops stationed there. The 15th Lancers, stationed in Basra revolted and 64 soldiers were court-martialed. Similarly, the 24th Punjabi and 22nd Pahari also revolted.
Re-organisation & the Communist Alliance
Before returning to India in 1914-15, the Ghadar Party had elected a new collective to carry on the work. The following were elected to the executive committee:

  1. Bhai Bhagwan Singh---President
2. Bhai Santokh Singh---General Secretary
3. Munshi Ram---Treasurer
4. Ram Chand---Manager of the paper
5.Gobind Bihari Lal---Editor
6.Godha Ram---Urdu Editor
7.Gopal Singh Sohi---Punjabi Editor
8.Hari Singh Fakir---Assistant Editor
9.Sundar Singh Ghali---Office Secretary
10. Ram Singh Dhuleta---Staff
11.Mahadev Aboj---Staff
13. Nidhan Singh---Staff
14. Bishan Singh Hindi---Staff

As it has been mentioned, one million copies of the Ghadar were published every week by 1916. On January 22,1917, the movement was officially registered as the Hindustan Ghadar Party in San Francisco to comply with the American law, with its headquarters at 5 Wood Street.
The Ghadarites were defeated but they were not crushed. They regrouped and decided to carry on their work to fight another battle and yet another until Hindustan was free. On the international scene, the defeat of Turkey and Germany had created new difficulties and an unfavorable situation. The end of war had also given rise to another event of great international significance: the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, which had tremendous effect on the Ghadar Party's work and direction. The news of the triumph of the workers' and peasants' revolution in Russia inspired the people of Hindustan tremendously. There was great enthusiasm on the part of workers, peasants, intellectuals, and enlightened individuals to find out more and in detail about the achievements of this revolution. The Ghadarites had been working closely with all the revolutionaries internationally such as the Irish revolutionaries, the Chinese revolutionaries, the Russian revolutionaries, as well as with the Egyptian, African, Latin American, and Algerian revolutionaries. They had also been influenced by socialist ideas and movements, and had close working relations with the trade union movement. In North America they had aclose association with the IWW. Agnes Smedley, Emma Goldman, Mary Lyon Howzer, Mrs. Carrington Lewis, Freida Birch, and Chas Lester were some of the famous socialist and trade union leaders with whom the Ghadarites had good working relations. These leaders of the working class and democratic public opinion had assisted the Ghadarites tremendously in their fight in the courts of Seattle and San Francisco. Agnes Smedley and her friends including Tarak Nath Das, formed Friends of Freedom of India in 1919, to popularize and support the cause of the Ghadarites in North America. Friends of Freedom of India, had many socialists, communists, and labor organizers as well as well-known writers and artists such as Upton Sinclair. Tarak Nath's paper, Free Hindustan, which was published in Seattle in 1907, declared in bold letters on its masthead, "Workers of the World Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose But Chains."
The triumph of the Bolshevik revolution naturally attracted their attention and drew them to the Soviet Union and its experience, just as the French revolution, American revolution, and the Mexican revolution of 1911 had drawn their attention earlier. They were anxious to meet and learn from the leaders of the October revolution who had overthrown the rule of exploiters, and who had established a state of the exploited and the oppressed. The Ghadarites called the Russian revolutionaries the Russian Ghadarites and considered them as their Ghadarite brothers fighting for the same cause of national and social liberation. In turn the Bolsheviks and the newly formed Soviet state had declared unconditional support for the people of Hindustan in their struggle against the British colonialism. Several Ghadarites had been in Russia during the period of the Bolshevik revolution and the Russian revolutionaries had assisted them in distributing Ghadar. By now these revolutionaries had succeeded in overthrowing their oppressors and formed their own state and were charting a new path hitherto unknown. Ghadarites were greatly excited by these prospects.

The Ghadar Party sent Rattan Singh and Santokh Singh as its representatives to the Soviet Union to learn from the Bolsheviks. Talso attended the 4th Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) as the Hindustani representatives:

"The IV Congress of the Communist International, which met in Moscow in November 1922, was attended by two representatives deputed by the Ghadar Party in California, one being Santokh Singh as a 'delegate from India' and the other Rattan Singh. Both of these men were thorough going Ghadar supporters."
."Santokh Singh it may be said , had also attended the Second World Congress of the R.I.L.U., held in Moscow in November a formal meeting of the Ghadar Party to welcome him, he said that Russia, America and Turkey had secured freedom through revolution, and that India would have to do the same."

The fourth congress of the Comintern sent a telegram to the All Indian Trade Union Congress, Lahore, and had advised them;

"No amelioration of living conditions is possible while imperialist exploitation exists. It is for this reason that you will play an important part in the struggle for national independence. Prepare for this historic role. The advanced proletariat of fifty-two countries represented at this Congress is entirely on your side. Beware of the false friendship and the misleading advice of labour leaders that are subservient to imperialism."

Comintern also pointed out:

"Only an agrarian revolution committed to the expropriation of the great landowners can arouse the vast peasant masses, who will be a key factor in the struggle against imperialism. The bourgeois nationalists fear of agrarian demands and their efforts to water them down in every possible way (as in India, Persia, Egypt) are an indication of the close connection between the native bourgeoisie and the great feudal bourgeois landowners, and the former's intellectual and political dependence on the latter. The revolutionary forces must use these hesitations and uncertainties to make a thorough, ongoing criticism and exposure of the compromises made by the bourgeois leaders of the nationalist movement. It is precisely these compromisers that hinder the organization and rallying of the working masses, as is shown by the bankruptcy of the tactic of passive resistance."

Rattan Singh and Santokh Singh had the opportunity to exchange opinions and views with the Bolshevik leaders including Lenin. They were deeply and profoundly influenced by the fight that the Soviet Union was waging to consolidate the gains of revolution and the fight that it was carrying on against the 18 imperialist countries including, the US, Britain, Canada, France, and Germany, who had invaded the Soviet Union. They visited various parts of Soviet Union, met with workers, peasants, and intellectuals, and were convinced that the path that was being charted out in the Soviet Union would be helpful in the national and social emancipation of India. They were deeply moved by the unconditional support of the Soviet Union and Soviet Ghadarites (Bolsheviks) for the emancipation of Hindustan.

In India after the war, a great revolutionary upsurge had gained momentum. This movement had become a forest fire in Punjab and Northwestern Provinces due to the repression of the Rowlatt Act and Crawling orders. The British government had carried out massacres in Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar and strafed with Royal Air Force planes in Gujjranwala, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands. In Afghanistan, Ammanullah had declared Afghanistan's independence from the British and the anti-colonial movement of Khilafat in Turkey stirred them a great deal. Barkatullah, a Ghadarite, and Ammanullah had collaborated greatly in their anti-British activities in Afghanistan. With Ammanullah at the head of Independent Afghanistan, gave tremendous boost and status to the work of Ghadar Party. The news of the Bolshevik revolution and the state of workers and peasants had tremendously inspired these insurgent people. They were not cowed down by the repression of the British. After the British had killed several people in a firing in Lahore one of the poets expressed the sentiments of this movement in the following lines:

Shahid ki jo maut hai wo kaum ki hayat hai
Shahid ka jo hai lahu wo kaum ki zakat hai
Katain jo chand daaliyan to chaman ho hara bhara
Katain jo chand gardanain to kaum ki hayat hai

Kirti to Communism

Rattan Singh, Santokh Singh and Barkatullah were representatives of the Ghadar Party who traveled in various countries to consolidate and strengthen the work of the Ghadar Party. Rattan Singh traveled to India, America, Latin America, Europe, Russia and the Middle East. Teja Singh Sutantar was leading the Ghadar Party in Turkey. Santokh Singh undertook the work of organizing the Kirti group of Communists in India and the publication of the paper Kirti, "Rattan Singh while still in America, had suggested the starting of the Kirti and in his first letter wrote.'business could only be successful if the Kirti was successful.we are trying to send money soon for this paper.'" In January 1926 the Kirti was advertised as follows:

"This journal will be the voice of Indian workers in America and Canada and will be dedicated to the sacred memory of those heroes and martyrs who awakened sleeping India.In February following the first issue appeared, bearing on its title page the picture of a dead labourer lying on his funeral pyre, amidst factories, fields, etc.,.the sense of his labours when alive and surrounded by tools such as the hammer and pickax, the whole obviously intended to convey the idea that the deceased had succumbed to the hard tasks he had to perform during his lifetime. The paper has ever since its appearance consistently advocated the cause and ideals of the Ghadar conspirators of 1914 and 1915, it has glorified the Babbar Akalis as martyrs and heroes.The magazine has been welcomed by the Hindustan Ghadar, which issued an appeal for subscriptions for it."

Another intelligence report points out:

"the Ghadar Party in 1925 established a Workers and Peasant Party (Kirti Kisan Party) in the Punjab. Its organ, the Kirti, a purely communistic production, was subsidized by the Ghadar Party in America. The aims of the Kirti Kisan Party were (1) to achieve complete independence from British Imperialism by every possible method in order to liberate the workers and peasants from political, economic and social serfdom and to establish their democratic power; and (2) to organize the workers and p will strive to be most comprehensive directory of Historical Gurudwaras and Non Historical Gurudwaras around the world.

The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras. brings to you a unique and comprehensive approach to explore and experience the word of God. It has the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Amrit Kirtan Gutka, Bhai Gurdaas Vaaran, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib and Kabit Bhai Gurdas . You can explore these scriptures page by page, by chapter index or search for a keyword. The Reference section includes Mahankosh, Guru Granth Kosh,and exegesis like Faridkot Teeka, Guru Granth Darpan and lot more.
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