People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 31

August 04 , 2013


Ghadar Centenary Celebrations in USA


Harsev Bains


SITARAM Yechury, member of the Polit Bureau of the CPI (M) and MP Rajya Sabha, inaugurated the centenary celebrations of the Ghadar Party on July 13 at the historic site of Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco.


The Yugantar Ashram originally set up at 436 Hill Street was moved to 5 Wood Street. The headquarters of the Ghadar Party was set up as centre for Indian national patriots, with a specific purpose to free India from the shackles of British colonialism.


The event to celebrate the centenary of the Ghadar Party, was organised by the Ghadar Memorial Foundation of America in the form of a seminar attended by academics, historians, students and political leaders upholding the legacy of the Ghadar movement.


Historian Dr Harish Puri in his presentation entitled “Ghadar Movement a New Consciousness and Sensibility” encapsulated the history of the Ghadar movement. Dr Puri added a new dimension of distinct sensibility and a new political culture to the well documented elements of the Ghadar Party; from their initial belief in armed struggle to achieve freedom, democracy, secularism and a new society based on equality.


According to the American historian Herald Gold, the formation of the Ghadar movement was an improbable conjuncture of three sections coming together to provide the unique fabric on whom the tapestry of the Ghadar movement was embroidered. This was the explosive revolutionary mix of extradited national patriots, peasants/workers and students. In recalling the words of Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, the founding President of the Ghadar Party “people joining our Party became human beings of a higher order, they rose above all types of sectarianism, their thought process became broad, secular and progressive.”


Shaheed-e-azam Bhagat Singh who held Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha ( the editor of the Punjabi edition of Ghadar published from Yugantar Ashram in San Fransisco, hanged at the tender age of 19 years) in the highest esteem, as his role model. In 1928, Bhagat Singh asked the young comrades of Naujwan Bharat Sabha to write articles on the martyrs of the Ghadar movement. 28 such articles were published in a special martyrs issue which provided the poetical accolade in recognition of these brave, courageous human beings “ho frishtei bhi fidha jin pe, yeh voh insaan hain” which means , even the angels are envious of these human beings.


Dr Puri outlined the role of the Ghadar Memorial Foundation of America led by their president Charan Singh Judge and his colleagues in organising this centenary celebration to formally record the monumental historic contribution of the Ghadar movement. In this regard the role of Sitaram Yechury, Rajya Sabha MP was appreciated as being the conduit for moving the Indian government. This led to Dr Manmohan Singh the prime minister of India to announce the special oration in January this year, with the release of a stamp in recognition of this movement.


A number of young local students provided anecdotes in the form of essay recitals on the lives of the leaders of the Ghadar Party.


Sitaram Yechury, as chief guest then delivered the keynote speech tracing the formation of the Ghadar Party, its impact on the national independence movement and the future development of society, a brave new world based on freedom, democracy, equality and secularism.


He echoed the sentiments expressed by Dr Puri and reminded the audience of the call for total independence given by the Ghadar Party years ahead of the National Congress. The effect of Kartar Singh Sarabha’s martyrdom on Bhagat Singh and his comrades, in changing the name of the Hindustan Republican Army to Hindustan Socialist Republican Army and carrying the image of the young Ghaderite to the gallows. Just like Kartar Singh Sarabha hanged for seeking freedom for India in 1915 at the age of 19, Bhagat Singh also went smiling to the gallows with his comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev at the tender age of 23 for the same dream. In the true spirit of the freedom fighters, said Yechury,“yeh mat poocho ke zindagi mein kitne pal hain , yeh poocho ke har pal mein kitni zindagi hain”.


The dreams and aspirations of the Gadherites and Bhagat Singh and his followers for a new society free from exploitation, freedom for all on an equal basis, a democratic and secular India needs to be nurtured.


Yechury called for people, the diasporas and citizens of India to unite to build a better India, a secular democratic India, to protect freedom, sovereignty of the rights of our people to education, employment, health, pensions, the rights of women and youth, social and economic equality, as a lasting tribute to the legacy of the Ghadari Baba’s.


In remembering the inspirational struggles of the Ghadarites against racism and discrimination, the Komagata Maru episode, Yechury said that need for struggle still remains valid today as exemplified by the discriminatory nature of proposed changes to the British visa system. Britain is proposing a £3000 bond for each perspective visitor to Britain from the Indian sub-continent.


Dr Jaspal Singh, Vice Chancellor of Punjab University, Patiala recalled the indomitable spirit of human sacrifice of the Ghadari Baba’s. He said their insatiable quest for freedom, ideals of secularism will continue to inspire generations to come as they have done in the past hundred years. He thanked the organisers and released the seven hundred page book on “The Ghadar Movement” for worldwide distribution.


A number of proclamations by the state of Oregon USA in recognition of these heroes of the Ghadar movement was distributed and the resolution H. Res 259 being moved in the 113th Congress of the House of Representative, was presented in the historic surroundings of Yugantar Ashram. The government of India has pledged resources to refurbish and renew this historic house, to create a library and resource centre. The organisers thanked Sitaram Yechury for his timely intervention and the Indian consulate in San Francisco for making this possible.


Harsev Bains, the national general secretary of the Indian Workers’ Association from Britain, delivered a message of solidarity with a pledge to carry forward the struggle and uphold the values and beliefs of the Ghadar Movement.


The seminar was followed by a meeting organised by Charan Singh Judge just outside San Francisco. The meeting of 25 plus members and sympathisers was addressed by Sitaram Yechury and Harsev Bains. Yechury provided a detailed briefing on the international and national developments in India. After a lengthy discussion, an organisation to take forward the legacy and coordinate future activities across California – the Indo-American coordinating committee was formed.