The Ghadar Movement was formed in 1913 by expatriate Punjabis in the United States with shared leadership from Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims. Its headquarters was at Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco under the leadership of Har Dayal and Sohan Singh Bhakna.
The goal of the movement was to assist in overthrowing British colonial rule in India.
Many of its members were students at University of California at Berkeley including Dayal, Tarak Nath Das, Maulavi Barkatullah, Harnam Singh Tundilat, Kartar Singh Sarabha and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle.
The party was built around the weekly paper The Ghadar, which carried the caption on the masthead: Angrezi Raj Ka Dushman (an enemy of British rule).
The party quickly gained support from Indian expatriates, especially in the United States, Canada, East Africa, and Asia.
The ideology of the party was strongly secular. In the words of Sohan Singh Bhakna, “We were not Sikhs or Punjabis. Our religion was patriotism”.
Ghadarites in Action:
- In 1914, Canadian authorities refused the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru permission to land. The boatload of nearly 300 Punjabis was stranded for weeks in Vancouver harbor. Eventually the ship was forced to return across the Pacific. The incident sent shock waves down the West Coast to the California Sikh community.
- With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Ghadar Party launched into action. Heeding the call of their leaders, who proclaimed that the need for British troops in Europe presented an opportune moment to organize uprisings in both India and British imperial outposts, between 1914 and 1918, the Ghadar Party mobilized nearly eight thousand Indians from North and South America and East Asia to return to India to overthrow British rule.
- Anticipating their return, British officials arrested hundreds of returning Ghadarites before they ever disembarked from the ships that carried them home, dealing a severe blow to the Party’s plans.
- Those who were not detained quickly made contact with Indian revolutionaries across the country and fixed February 21, 1915 as the day that simultaneous uprisings would erupt across India. The uprisings would center on convincing Indian soldiers to strike against British officials first, thereby inspiring the masses to rise up and overthrow British rule.
- RasBihari Bose on request from Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, an American trained Ghadar, who met Bose at Benares and requested him to take up the leadership of the coming revolution. But before accepting the responsibility, he sent Sachin Sanyal to the Punjab to assess the situation. Sachin returned very optimistic, to the United States and Canada with the aim to liberate India from British rule.
- Arguing that Indian military service perpetuated the status of Indians as slaves to the empire and pawns used to slaughter the world’s colonized peoples and reinforce the brutality of British rule, Ghadarites visited military cantonments to recruit soldiers.
- Their plans, however, never came to fruition due to the workings of British intelligence.