Burnaby Issues Ghadar Centenary Proclamation

ghadarThe city of Burnaby issued a proclamation to mark the 100 years of the Ghadar Party; a group of South Asian radicals in North America, seeking freedom of India from the British occupation.

The proclamation issued by the Mayor Derek Corrigan is perhaps first such declaration made by any Canadian municipality ever since the Ghadar centenary year began early this year. The Burnaby City hall is dominated by the affiliates of the New Democratic Party, which is known for its socially progressive positions in the past.

Corrigan read out the proclamation at the city council meeting Monday night to recognize the contribution of the Ghadar activists in the freedom struggle and their role in the fight for social justice. The statement read, “like all Canadians, the members of the Ghadar Party were strong supporters of self rule, equal rights and non discriminatory policies in our society.’’

The Ghadar Party was formed in April 1913 inAstoria, US and had a big following among the Indo Canadians in British Columbia. Initially launched as Hindi Pacific Association representing the South Asians on the pacific coast of North America it later came to be known as Ghadar Party after the name of its popular newspaper, Ghadar (mutiny).

Significantly, the Ghadar newspaper was launched on November 1, 1913 and its 100 anniversary falls this week. The name of the paper was picked by the Hindi Pacific Association to revive the memories of the first war of independence of 1857 that was branded as “Ghadar’’ by the British authorities.

The Ghadar Party believed in an armed rebellion against the British rulers and tried to engineer coup in the British armies. They resolved to drive out the British and form an egalitarian and secular society in the post independent India. Many Ghadar activists returned to India to face gallows or long imprisonments.

Most of the South Asians back then had migrated to this part of the world as British subjects. Rampant racism and indifference of the British Empire towards their concerns both in Canada and US transformed many of these men into social justice activists. They were denied right to vote and bring in their families from India in Canada. They soon realized that the root cause of their sufferings was foreign occupation back home. Eventually they decided to fight against injustices abroad and imperialism back in India. The Ghadar Party was born as a result of this awakening.

In 2007, the City of Burnaby issued a similar proclamation to mark the birth centenary of Bhagat Singh, a towering Indian revolutionary who was hanged for assassinating a British police officer in 1931. Bhagat Singh, who was born in 1907, was influenced by the Ghadar ideology. His father had donated Rs. 1,000 to the Ghadar activists when they returned home to engineer coup against the British government.