One hundred years ago immigrants from British India on the west coast of North America, from Vancouver to San Francisco, working on farms and in saw mills or teaching and studying in universities came together in the Finnish Socialist Hall in Astoria, Oregon, to found the Ghadar (Rebellion) Party. Their goal was to liberate India from British colonialism by armed struggle as the Americans had freed themselves from the British nd the Finns from the Russians. This was the culmination of work that had been going on in London, New York, Berlin, Shanghai, and Tokyo to build revolutionary centres to support the struggle for liberation in India.
The Ghadar Party brought together intellectuals like Lala Hardyal from Delhi, Taraknath Das from Calcutta, V. G. Pingley from Poone, P. S. Khankoje from Wardha, Maulana Barkatullah from Bhopal and workers and students from Punjab like the mill-worker founding president of the party, Sohan Singh Bhakna and the young student at the University of California at Berkeley, Kartar Singh Sarabha, who printed the party paper, Hindustan Ghadar.
The Ghadar Party was linked to many movements, including the anti-colonial struggle in Ireland, the anti-imperialist struggle of Pan-Islamism, the militant nationalist struggles in Punjab, Maharashtra and Bengal, and the struggle against racial discrimination in the US and Canada, which would come to a head in the Komagata Maru incident in 1914. Its driving ideas came from anarchism, Marxism, and Sikhism. It sought liberation and social justice locally, nationally, and internationally.
The immediate goal of the Ghadar Party, the bringing about an armed insurrection in India along the lines of the Uprising of 1857, was not realized and many of its leaders were imprisoned and hanged: V.G. Pingle, Kartar Singh Sarabha, and Pandit Kansi Ram were hanged in Lahore Jail in 1915. But their legacy inspired other revolutionaries, including Bhagat Singh, who carried the picture of the nineteen-year old martyr, Kartar Singh Sarabha, with him. This is the legacy that the South Asian diaspora needs to celebrate and seek inspiration from in the ongoing struggle for liberty and justice in Canada, India and the world.
Public Forum and Film Screening
October 6, 2013
10.30 am – 5.30 pm
SFU Harbour Centre
515 West Hasitings Street, Vancouver