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
With his own agenda in mind, Har Dayal networked with German officials to provide assistance for the Gadar Lehar. The Germans were not only interested in India’s natural and industrial resources, but also in distracting the British during the impending world war. They helped with the distribution of Gadar pamphlets all over the world, and provided funds to the Stockton gurdwara for use in the Gadar Lehar.
At least one of Har Dayal’s public speeches was attended by a German official. Har Dayal was arrested in March 1914. Deportation files from the Bureau of Immigration show he was arrested “on charges of being a member of excluded classes (communists) and anarchist or advocating the overthrow of the United States government by force.” The Gadar was not mentioned. During his interrogation, Har Dayal made derogatory remarks about Indian freedom fighters and distanced himself from the movement.
Unaware of Har Dayal’s remarks, Gadar Party members helped him escape to Europe in April 1914. After he left, he never again made any contact with anyone in movement. Later that year, Har Dayal broke away from the Indian National Committee in Berlin, and criticized its work for the freedom of India.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Har Dayal decisively rejected his earlier revolutionary viewpoint. He abandoned his Anglophobia, advocated the mixed British and Indian administration of his country, and became a firm admirer of Western culture and values.”
The Canadian government released this stamp marking the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident.
March 1914 also was a tipping point for Sikhs in Canada. The Continuous Journey act required passengers to make a nonstop journey from British India to Canada in order to immigrate. The new act was designed to stop immigration, as all ships made at least one stop. The act was then amended to also require immigrants to have $200 in their possession.
Gudit Singh of Sarhali chartered a ship, Komagata Maru, for this purpose. It sailed nonstop from India to Vancouver. But the Komagata Maru still was not allowed entry, and was compelled to leave in July 1914. Of the 376 passengers on the Komagata Maru, 346 were Sikhs.
Upon its return to Calcutta, the British police insisted that passengers board a train bound for Punjab, Gurcharan Singh writes. Fearing that the train would be diverted and they would be imprisoned, only 50 men and two children boarded the train. About 203 were arrested, 32 absconded and 19 were killed.
This jatha (group) could not have been returning to India, in 1924, to start a revolution because the Gadar movement ended in 1915, nine years earlier.
The Gadar photo caption also erroneously says: “Here, a jatha, a group of freedom fighters from the Gadar Party, in San Francisco, in 1924, gets ready for a trip back to India.”
The Gadar plan failed in 1915, nine years before what the caption states. “Jatha” is a Sikh term, but they were not getting “ready for a trip back to India” in 1924.
“The Gadar uprising, planned for Feb. 19, 1915, which was supposed to be the beginning of a revolution in India, ended with disaster, and all leaders of the movement in India were either killed, detained or went into hiding,” Jatinder Singh writes.
Before leaving the U. S., Har Dayal handpicked and appointed Ram Chandra, a Brahmin from Peshawar, as head of the Gadar Party. During the trial, it became public knowledge that Ram Chandra had taken possession of the building that housed the headquarters of the Gadar, its newspaper and all the accounts of the Ghadr Party. Both the Germans and the Sikhs were astonished.
The Sikhs returned to their homeland to start an armed revolt, but received no money or arms as promised by the non-Sikh Gadar leaders left behind in the U. S. Yet they went ahead with their plan to capture the Mian Mir and Ferozepur cantonments, before engineering a mutiny in Ambala and Delhi. But one of their own, Kirpal Singh, betrayed them. The British disarmed the Sikh and other Indian soldiers in those areas, and made sweeping arrests. They were sentenced in the Ferozepur Conspiracy Trial.
In the U. S., the German Conspiracy Trial began in San Francisco, in November 1917. Of the 34 people who went on trial, 17 were Gadarees, the rest were Germans or German Americans. Bhai Ram Singh, a Gadaree, killed Chandra on April 23, 1918, when the trial ended.
During the trial, Har Dayal wrote an article for a San Francisco publication that criticized the Germans and nationalist Indians who were involved in the freedom movement, including Gadarees.
In 1919, the year of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Har Dayal’s letters were published in London, and in the New York Times, announcing that he no longer believed in freedom for India. He applied for amnesty in England and continued to publish several papers, and a book, about the fallacy of revolution and the superiority of English society. He married a Swiss woman, in 1926, while still married to his Indian wife.
Har Dayal was given amnesty in March 1927, and lived as a recluse in England. He died in 1934, in Philadelphia, while lecturing, and was cremated by the Philadelphia Ethical Society.
“It was betrayal by men like Har Dayal that despite a high degree of devotion for the cause and willingness for ultimate sacrifice, the Gadar Movement could not achieve success as envisioned by the faithful foot soldiers that returned to India to fight for India’s freedom, and paid the ultimate price with their lives,” Jatinder Singh writes.
But the thousands of Gadarees who survived went on to lead or participate in other freedom movements.
Most of them belonged to the Central Punjab region. Some took part in forming the Central Sikh League, in Amritsar, in December 1919, which coincided with the annual meeting of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.
Others became members and presidents of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which formed in 1920. Two of the Gadarees, including Sohan Singh Bakhna, became Akal Takhat Jathedar.
Many also took part in forming the Babbar Akali Lehar for independence, in 1921.
“Their source of inspiration was exclusively Sikh lore and history,” Gurcharan Singh writes. “To fight against tyranny of this kind was the duty of a true Sikh.
“The role of the Sikhs in the struggle of India’s freedom must be written in the words of gold,” they say. “They were in front in every struggle, whether it was the Agrarian Agitation of 1907, the Gadar Movement, the Babbar Akali Movement, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Organisation or National Congress Movement or Indian National army, led by Subash Chandra Bose.”
The Sikhs constitute only two percent of India’s total population, they write, but of the 2,175 Indians martyred during freedom struggles, 1,557 were Sikh. Of the 2,646 Indians sent to the Andaman Islands for life imprisonment, 2,147 were Sikh. Of the 127 Indians hanged for sedition, 92 were Sikh. Of the 20,000 Indians who joined the Indian National Army, 12,000 were Sikh.
The Sikhs made extraordinary sacrifices that led to the eventual independence of India, but at the unforeseeable cost of the British dividing the Sikh homeland. The Sikhs never signed the ratification of the Indian constitution.
Masum Momaya, the curator of the Beyond Bollywood exhibition, is an expert in women’s rights. She also is the researcher for the exhibition. Momaya was made aware of all the issues concerning Sikhs in her exhibition, but she will not consider changing any of it labels or artifacts.