Smithsonian alters Gadar history
ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ, ਸਿਰ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਅਾਉ
By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Friday, May 16, 2014 | 05:14 pm
According to the secret “Ghadr Directory” published by the British Indian government in 1917, and in 1934, the Gadar Party had 616 members: 527 were Sikhs, 54 were Hindus and 35 were Muslims.
Photo Source: sikhcentury.files.wordpress.com
Under Teja Singh’s guidance, the Sikhs began to consolidate their efforts by building gurdwaras, where they and their Hindu and Muslim compatriots regularly met. The Canadian gurdwaras opened in Vancouver, in 1908, and in Victoria and Abbotsford, in 1912. The Vancouver gurdwara became the first center for seditious propaganda. Teja Singh briefly went to London, and also coordinated the first gurdwara there, in 1910.
The first gurdwara in the U. S. opened in Stockton, California, in 1912. It was named the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society, and became the center of social and political gatherings and a focal point for Sikh revolutionaries. Teja Singh was its president.
Vedantic centers did not participate in any independence movement although New York, Chicago and San Francisco centers existed at that time, Jasbir Singh writes.
“Teja Singh was the first Ghadree who organized the community, established institutions, created Sikh awareness, and posed a real threat to the British,” Sukhmander Singh says.
“He essentially prepared the ground work for the Gadar movement to take root.”
The struggle for constitutional rights continued from 1907 to 1913. But the Canadian and American governments were relentless. The British Raj encouraged these allies to impede immigration and restrict other civil rights.
Sikhs and other nationalists realized that as long as they were slaves in their motherland, they would be treated as slaves everywhere, without rights.
The Gadar Party was established in June 1913.
Photo of Gadar Party members, which experts said was an unrepresentative sample of Gadrees, nearly all of whom were Sikhs.
Only one artifact is dedicated to the Gadar Party in the Smithsonian’s exhibition. It is a photograph that shows several men standing under the party’s banner. Only two are recognizable Sikhs.
“These people were not what we call the heart and soul of the movement - it was all Sikhs with turbans,” Sukhmander Singh told SikhNN. They not only had the spark of freedom but also the Khalsa resolve to carry through with the fight.
“The Smithsonian has picked up an isolated thing (picture) that is not a representative sample.”
Har Dayal was an orator-turned-traitor. He is erroneously named a Gadar leader.
The photograph’s caption wrongly says: “In 1913, in Stockton, California, Har Dayal and other immigrants formed the Gadar Party to support India’s surging movement for independence from Britain.”
“They only mention one Indian by name who was associated for a few months in the beginning of the organization when it was not fully developed, and never took part in it,” Jatinder Singh told SikhNN. “Har Dayal’s own writings, published in newspapers, journals and books, in British India, Europe and the U. S., show he was against the Gadar Lehar.
“To mention his name as a leading figure is a mistake.
“His association with Sikhs in California was a short lived and virtually uneventful association with the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society (Stockton gurdwara) and the Ghadr Lehar,” he writes in “Gadar Lehar and Lala Har Dayal: Life, Activities & Ideology,” also presented at the Stockton gurdwara centennial. “This included his contribution to the official publication, “Gadar.” Few of his writings, mostly mild in tone, appeared in this publication.”
Har Dayal was able to articulate party policy and was usually seen speaking publically about the party more than anyone else, Jatinder Singh added. The local media, unaware of the inner workings of the party, would usually see a spokesman as the de facto leader of the party. But it was the Sikhs who were the major players, the foot soldiers, the contributors. The Gadar Party was financed 100 percent by the Sikhs, either directly or through the Stockton gurdwara.
Har Dayal was not liked among the Sikhs, he said. In those days, Sikhs were apprehensive about non-Sikhs, but not because of discrimination or hate.
Since the majority of the upper leadership was from Punjab, they either knew each other or were familiar with each others families or villages, Jatinder Singh writes. Their common struggle created a strong bond. Outsiders, especially non-Sikhs, found it difficult to infiltrate and take control of the Gadar Lehar. It remained a solely Sikh movement, especially Sikhs belonging to Punjab.
They needed an articulate person who could speak to the public in English about the Gadar Lehar. "They felt they had no choice in this case," he told SikhNN.
Har Dayal was born into an aristocratic pro-British family in New Delhi, and graduated from Government College Lahore. He left India, in 1908, abandoning his wife and newborn daughter, whom he never saw, and worked as an editor of an Indian newspaper in Switzerland. He moved to Massachusetts, in 1911, where he met Teja Singh at Harvard, and learned of the Sikh pioneers in California.
From California, Har Dayal went to Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, where he briefly lived in a cave-like environment and studied Buddhism and the works of Karl Marx, Jatinder Singh writes. In 1912, he was appointed by Stanford University, California, as lecturer of Indian philosophy, but was terminated when a San Francisco newspaper published an article on his “free love” theory, opposing marriage. He also was having an affair with a student at the time.
Har Dayal then formed a communist organization, “The Fraternity of the Red Flag,” the same year.
He also began working with Sikhs who had already designed the infrastructure of contacts and supporters to carry out the responsibilities of the Gadar movement. His offer to work on the “Gadar” newspaper, the official publication of the Gadar Lehar, was accepted by the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society.
In early 1913, Har Dayal took an oath at Yugantar Ashram, the Gadar Party headquarters, in San Francisco, to fight for independence as part of the Gadar Lehar. But in May 1913, he met with Sikh activists in the lumber mills of Oregon who had formed the Hindi Association of Pacific Coast. Sohan Singh Bakhna was chosen as its president and Har Dayal was appointed its secretary.
“Either out of ignorance, or some other reason, some people call Har Dayal the founder of the Gadar Party – that is not true,” said Sohan Singh Bakhna, in a statement published on the Gadar Heritage Foundation Web site. “The party had taken root much earlier than Har Dayal’s first visit to St. John (Oregon), in March 1913.”
“The funds collected by Gadar Lehar were most likely put to use to develop this organization, thus splitting up the movement,” Jatinder Singh writes. “It clearly shows that he was looking for an opportunity to develop his own agenda, with his own organization, fully in his control… His involvement with the Gadar Lehar and its mother organization, the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society, was only superficial at best and non-involvement at worst.”
The first issue of the Gadar newspaper was published in November 1913, with Guru Granth Sahib’s sloak 20, page 1,412, on its banner: ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ, ਸਿਰ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਅਾਉ (jau tau prem khaylan kaa chaao, sir dhar thalee galee mayree aao). It means: If you wish to play this game of love with me, then step into my path with your head in your hand.
The Gadar Party also published a pamphlet of poetry, "Gadar di Goonj," which included many shabads from Guru Granth Sahib.
Har Dayal’s writings, in other publications, show that he was not interested in the same kind of revolution as the Gadarees envisioned. He did not want an independent India with peoples of all faiths. He promoted a Hindu India and a separate Sikh Punjab.
“His important ideological statements (and) write ups provide insight into his mind as a staunch Hindu who was obsessed with the creation of a Hinduism-based state that would ensure supremacy of Hinduism (and) protect the cow as a sacred animal…” Jatinder Singh writes.