Ghadar Movement

Ghadar Movement

This article deals with ‘ Ghadar Movement – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Events during World War I (WW I)

  • For revolutionaries striving for immediate complete independence, the war seemed a heaven-sent opportunity because
    • It drained India of troops (the number of white soldiers went down at one point to only 15,000)
    • Brought the possibility of financial and military help from German and Turkish enemies of Britain.
    • Britain’s war with Turkey (seat of the Khalifa) brought about close cooperation between Hindu nationalists and militant Muslim pan-Islamists

It was the one point of time when a successful coup d’etat appeared not impossible.

  • WW I broke out in 1914 & provided new lease to national movement dormant since Swadeshi Movement : Britain’s difficulty was India’s opportunity
  • Two major activities during WW I
    • Ghadar Revolution based in North America(to overthrow British rule)
    • Home Rule Leagues in India (To achieve Home Rule ie Swaraj)

Ghadar Movement

Early Arrivals in North America

  • 1904 : West Coast of North America started to experience influx of large number of Punjabis & they were mainly land hungry peasants from Jalandhar & Hoshiarpur district coming here in search of means of survival . Many among those were ex- soldiers who earlier served here & came to know about opportunities that this land can offer
  • Weren’t welcome there.  Many weren’t allowed to enter & those who were allowed had to go through racial abuse . White labor saw them as competitors & wanted law to stop this

Cause of concern for British empire in India

  • Secretary of State for India  urged restrictions on immigration because he believed that the terms of close familiarity of Indians with Whites which would inevitably take place in America was not good for British prestige; it was by prestige alone that India was held and not by force.
  • By the 20th century, political consciousness and the idea of azaadi from British rule had spread among Indians overseas. The British Crown did not want this feeling of revolution to spread to more Indians
  • He was worried that the immigrants would get contaminated by socialist ideas
  • Racial discrimination to which they were bound to be subjected would become the source of nationalist agitation in India

All this led to effective resistance on Indian Immigration into Canada in 1908

Spread of Revolutionary Ideas

  • Although revolutionary ideas start spreading from as early as 1907 & main exponents were Ramnath Puri, Tarak Nath Das & GD Kumar  but in  1912 , fillip provided by visit to Vancouver by Bhagwan Singh, a sikh priest who openly preached to overthrow British rule from India . He was deported after 3 months
  • Later , all activities  shifted to USA , because of free political atmosphere there with  Lala Hardyal as main leader.

About Lala Hardyal

  • Political Exile from India
  • Arrived in California in 1912 & taught briefly at Stanford University but soon immersed himself in political activity . He started giving lectures on anarchism & syndicalism
  • Bomb attack on Lord Hardinge in Dec,1912 excited his imagination & his faith to overthrow of British rule by revolution was renewed . He issued Yugantar circular praising this
  • Setup Hindi Association/Hind Association of Pacific Coast  in June 1913 in Portland & its first meeting attended by Bhai Parmanad, Sohan Singh Bhakna , Harnam Singh Tundilatt, Md Barkatullah  , Baba Gurmakh Singh , Rehmat Ali Shah . Association started weekly called Hindustan in Urdu
  • He gave plan = Do not fight the Americans, but use the freedom that is available in the US to fight the British; you will never be treated as equals by the Americans until you are free in your own land, the root cause of Indian poverty and degradation is British rule and it must be overthrown, not by petitions but by armed revolt; take this message to the masses and to the soldiers in the Indian Army; go to India in large numbers and enlist their support.
  • Started a weekly paper The Ghadar
  • Yugantar Ashram/ Ghadar Asharam set up as headquarters of all revolutionary activities in San Francisco. Ghadar Party with Hq at San Francisco also formed .

About The Ghadar

  • Ghadar party started weekly called ‘Ghadar’
  • Published in Urdu & Gurmukhi  
  • Ghadar means Revolt so intentions clear from name itself
  • Caption on Masthead : Angreji Raaj ka Dushman & on front page there was feature titled Angreji Raj ka Kacha Chittha enumerating all bad effects of British rule in India & tells about solution for that ie 
    • The Indian population numbers 7 crores in the Indian States and 24 crores in British India, while there are only 80,000 officers and soldiers and 40,000 volunteers who are Englishmen.
    • 56 years have lapsed since the Revolt of 1857; now there is urgent need for a second one.
  • Most powerful impact was made by poems that appeared in The Ghadar & these poems were very revolutionary but at same time very much secular
  • Soon reached to Philippines , Mexico, Hong Kong, China, Malay States, Trinidad, Honduras & India

This whole thing is termed as Ghadar.

Komagata Maru Incident

  • Under the Continuous Passage Act, Canada imposed restrictions on  Indian Immigration by means of law that made necessary to made continuous journey from India to Canada to enter inside. No shipping offered such route .
  • Nov 1913:  Canadian SC allowed entry of 35 Indians who didn’t came directly. Encouraged by this Gurdit Singh, Indian contractor living in Singapore decided to charter ship &  to take Canada Indians living in East & SE Asia . He chartered ship Komagata Maru (Japanese Ship hired from Yokohama) & set voyage carrying 376 passengers from Hongkong . But in meantime Canadians plugged loopholes that had led to SC judgement & when ship reached there they weren’t allowed to enter
  • Funds were raised & protest meeting organised for their help, rebellion against British threatened but Komagata Maru was forced out of Canadian waters
  • WW I broke in the meantime & British government made law that no passenger can disembark anywhere . They landed on Budge Budge near Calcutta & clashed with police in which 18 killed & 202 arrested
  • Passengers on Komagata Maru – Total of 376 passengers and 340 among them were Sikhs
Sikhs 340
Muslims 24
Hindu 12

Outbreak of World War I & Ghadar Movement

  • Outbreak of WW I provided them opportunity . Although they weren’t prepared but they cant let this opportunity pass by
  • Leading activists met & it was decided that it is better to die than not doing anything
  • Lack of arms would be overcome by going to India & winning over Indian soldiers to their cause . Ailan-e- Jung, a circular was issued & widely circulated

Activities of Ghadarites in India

  • Government was fully informed of their plans & fully prepared to tackle them . On arrival immigrants were scrutinized – safe one allowed to proceed ,less dangerous ones not allowed to leave their village & most dangerous were arrested but many came via Sri Lanka & South India & succeeded in reaching Punjab
  • But Punjab was different from what Ghadarites had thought & Punjabis weren’t interested in romantic adventure of The Ghadar
  • Frustrated by attitude of civilian population, they turned their attention to army & made plans to set army on mutiny . They choose Rash Bihari Bose as their leader , sent men to contact army units & 19 Feb 1915 was decided as date of mutiny. But CID succeeded in penetrating organisation & take effective measures.  
  • Ghadar movement was crushed & all leadership of Punjab arrested but Bose escaped . 45 were hanged & more than 200 sentenced to life imprisonment    (12 men of 23rd Cavalry also among hanged)
  • Lot of persons escaped & they later formed  Punjab Kirti Kisan party , Workers and  Peasant Party of Punjab & became part of Communist Movement

Contribution of Ghadar movement : was it a Failure ?

Success or failure of a political movement is not always to be measured in terms of its achievement of stated objectives. But if success and failure are to be measured in terms of the deepening of nationalist consciousness, the evolution and testing of new strategies and methods of struggle, the creation of tradition of resistance, of secularism, of democracy, and of egalitarianism, then, the Ghadarites certainly contributed their share to the struggle for India’s freedom.

  • Although most of the participants of movement were Sikhs but it was highly secular in character . Concern with religion was seen as petty & narrow minded
  • Use of propaganda & critique of  British empire using Pamphlets and magazines to arouse youth against it was unique act.
  • Another marked feature of Ghadar ideology was its democratic and egalitarian content. It was clearly stated by the Ghadarites that their objective was the establishment of an Independent Republic of India

Weaknesses of the movement

  • They underestimated the strength of the Raj , both their aimed and organizational might as well as the ideological foundations of their rule
  • Ghadar Movement also failed to generate an effective and sustained leadership that was capable of integrating the various aspects of the movement.
  • Non-existent organizational structure; the Ghadar Movement was sustained, more by the enthusiasm of the militants than by their effective organization.

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