Life and Ideas of Revolutionary Bhagat Singh and his Associates

This blog is to make available authentic information on life events , photos and ideas of Revolutionary Bhagat Singh and his compatriots.
This is supplementary to the web site

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An appreciable book on Gadrites in Canada 1913 onward

A new book suggests Gadar movement and its roots in Canada  


Gurpreet Singh
Senior Journalist from Vancouver

A new book on Gadarites by Sohan Singh Pooni suggests that the movement had its roots in Canada. Authored in Punjabi, Canada De Gadri Yodhay (The Gadar combatants of Canada) is the biographies of 41 freedom fighters of India, who were mostly associated with the Gadar Party, a revolutionary group that believed in armed struggle against the British occupation of India.

Though the group was formally established in America in 1913, the Gadar movement had its roots in Canada where the Indian immigrants had to endure racism. It was the discriminatory attitude of the Canadian establishment that partially made these men politically aware of the need to fight against the foreign rule back home.

Most of these men came to Canada in the beginning of the twentieth century as British subjects. Their dreams for better living were shattered as the Canadian government systematically discriminated against them by restricting their immigration, family reunions and disfranchising them. As a result a need for struggle for both social justice and freedom arose. Gadar Party was therefore a byproduct of this abusive environment that motivated about 300 people in Canada alone to become members of this militant group, according to Pooni, who took nine years to complete his work. However, he could only write about 41 participants of the freedom struggle.

His research took him to India and across the border, where he visited the archives and other places to lay hands on rare documents and pictures apart from interviewing the descendants of these men. Most biographies are accompanied by authentic pictures while some with portraits by Sheetal Anmol. Each chapter begins with verses from the revolutionary poetry written by the Gadarites. Niranjan Singh Pandori, Bhagwan Singh Preetam and Munsha Singh Dukhi were among those who had written the radical poems. The book includes their biographies.    

Published by the Singh Brothers, Amritsar, India the book explains what shaped the ideology of the Gadar heroes. The common thread between these men was that they were mostly the rural Sikhs from Punjab some of whom had served in the British army. Most of them came to Canada as British subjects and were disillusioned by the fact that the British Empire was not treating all its subjects fairly. They had to pay heavily to travel to the British Canada. Initially, they tried to challenge the continuous journey law, the bar on bringing their families and the institutional racism through petitions and appeals but they realized soon that their slavery was the root of these problems and to end that an armed resistance was necessary. Subsequently, these men became the members of the Gadar Party that was officially launched in San Francisco. Most of them returned in a hope to initiate rebellion that was supposed to be the sequel of the Gadar revolt of 1857 only to face gallows or life imprisonments.   

Among them were prominent ideologues like Bhag Singh, Tarak Nath Dass, Hussein Rahim, Harnam Singh Sahri, Balwant Singh Khurdpur, Karam Singh Daulatpur, Bhagwan Singh Dosanjh and Munsha Singh Dukhi. The book reveals their connection with Canada. Apart from leading the Gadar movement to set India free from the British rule these men participated in the community services in British Columbia. They not only established Sikh temples but also joint businesses of their own.

Realizing that the misery of their compatriots in India was to be blamed on lack of education, they had helped in building schools in Punjab. Despite challenges from the orthodox and conservative social environment of India they had resolved to encourage female education. Some of them later turned into Babbar Akalis or communists while others were hanged or got killed otherwise.

Bhag Singh was the first Indo Canadian martyr, who was shot at by Bela Singh, the agent of an infamous immigration officer William Hopkison in 1914. He was the leader of the Khalsa Deewan Society that governed the oldest Sikh temple of Vancouver.  He was instrumental in encouraging the former Sikh soldiers to burn their medals and certificates to break loyalties with the British Empire in 1909. This wasn't an easy task as the Sikh preachers in India were pro British and prayed for the long life of their English masters back then. The book begins with his biography, which is followed by the profile of Badan Singh, who had also died with him after being hurt in the shootout. These killings were avenged by Mewa Singh, who assassinated Hopkinson and was hanged for the murder. His profile suggests that he may have done this at the instructions of the Gadar leaders.

The biography of Hari Singh Soond is also a part of the book. Soond had killed Bela Singh in India.

The book gives a detailed account of the activities of Hussein Rahim who was in the forefront of the fight for the right to vote besides the struggle to let the passengers of the Komagata Maru ship set foot on the Canadian soil. The ship was turned back on July 23, 1914 under the racist immigration law. This incident had added fuel to the fire and strengthened the foundation of the Gadar movement.

Harnam Singh Sahri was the cofounder of the Swadesh Sewak, the first Punjabi newspaper to be launched in Canada in 1910. While Pooni has done a good research on his activities, he failed to give the profile of the other   cofounder of the publication, Guran Ditta Kumar. Kumar was another important ideologue. Though the book has some passing references about Kumar, but Pooni could have written more about him.    

Despite being Sikhs, some devoutly religious the Gadar heroes mentioned in the book were liberal and secular. After all, one of the objectives of the Gadar Party was to keep the politics and the religion apart and promote unity. Some of these men who had returned to India had saved the Muslims from the Hindu and Sikh fundamentalists during the partition of India and Pakistan on religious lines in 1947. Among them were Chanchal Singh Jandiala, Bhagwan Singh Dosanjh and Sher Singh Vein Poin. These men did not buckle under pressure from the religious zealots and had helped the Muslims in reaching safe destinations. These details in the book will help in understanding the secular indoctrination of the Gadarites. The book ends with the biography of Darshan Singh Canadian, a communist leader of Punjab, who was murdered by the Sikh separatists in 1986. He had spent several years in Canada before India's independence and had participated in the struggle for right to vote and different labour movements.

Very little is written about the Gadar movement and its participants by the mainstream historians, who had virtually ignored the contributions of the Gadarites. Perhaps, the perception about America being the breeding ground of the Gadar movement is also an outcome of this ignorance. Whatever little is available is based on oral history and interviews. More needs to be done to dig out credible evidence and documents. Pooni has tried to meet those challenges and his book has a potential to become an accepted document on the Gadar history.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lala Ganpat Rai General Secretary Nau Jawan Bharat Sabha and close compatriot of Revolutionary Bhagat Singh gives us an intimate view.

A Class-Fellow's Tribute

   Ganpat Rai B .A.  (National)

 Many things crowd my memory when I reflect upon the events    of 50 years    back that culminated in the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh , Sukh Dev and Raj Guru on the evening of March 23   1931.  No body could have ever   thought that the Government of the day  will stoop  so low as to dispose of after executionthe bodies of these martyrs in such a shabby way it did .

        Bhagat Singh represented the spirit of the resurgent youth. He wanted the Country to wake, arise and fight with a resolute heart. Personal pain and physical persecution could not deter him from the path he had chosen when he was rather raw and young. He wanted to fight the alien rulers with all the might he could muster. 

 He was no believer in the tricks of worldly casuistry. He felt rather stifling the atmosphere prevailing at the time. Communal riots coupled with arson and murders and their aftermath had plagued the political life of the land he love so much. With view to start a relentless battle against the reactionary forces of communalism. He along with the students and the teachers of the National High School and the National College founded at Lahore a truly secular and revolutionary organisation Which came to be known as Nau Jawan Bharat Sabha The Sabha was non-communal.Its members were forbidden to join any organisation which smacked of communalism.

  (The    writer    was General Secretary when he was arrested on June 14,1930 and convicted under section 124 A).


  With view to bringing together members of different communities that inhabit this land , Sabha used to arrange inter communal dinners which were joined by all alike. Besides this , dramatic performances were arranged to awaken the dormant feelings of people. I vividly remember the scene when a drama most probably ''Mewar Patan' (the fall of Mewar) was enacted at Gujranwala at the time of Punjab Provincial Political Conference presided over by S.Sardul Singh Caveesher. Mrs Sarojini Naidu was present at that time. She appreciated the superb acting of Bhagat Singh-as Rana Pratap-so much that when the play ended she got down from the stage and not only patted Bhagat Singh on the back , but gave him a warm , motherly embrace.

  After      undergoing   through   many   prolonged  hardships  he  had come  to     realise that    his  revolt   agalnst   the   Government   of   the   day   was   destined   to   get  momentum    because  a  strong   and  honest     conscience ,   having   courage  to  assert  itself   is  a thing  which   cannot  be  suppressed .   The  public  opinion  and  even   the  opposing  forces  shall  have  to reckon    with  the  views he  had  expressed  so  daringly  with  all the courage and  emphasis   at   the   command.

          The    three    years    that    he    spent    in    the    National   College   were   a   formative   period   in   the   life   of   Bhagat  Singh.   Acharya  Jugal  Kishore, Bhai  Parmanand,   Prof . A .C   Mehta  and        other  professors  were  instrumental    in shaping his  life .  He  was a keen  student of  history    particularly the French Revolution  and the  Russian  Revolution    Lives  of  Garibaldi , Mazzini  and Lenin    as  also the struggle for  freedom   launched  by  Irish Republican Army  had  their  impact  on him.  He somehow  got hold of Savarkar's  War of  Indian  Independence which  was   banned  at  the  time .

    During the .annual session of the Congress at Lahore  in 1929 the book  was  published  in  2  parts .        He  read  many  times    "My    Fight    for    Irish   Freedom"    written    by  Dar.    Breen .        Perhaps       very     few     people    know     that    in  1924 or  1925  he  wrote an essay  on  ' The    Future  of  Hindi in Punjab ·      This   essay   was   adjudged    the best   at the Simla session of Sahitya Sammelan and he was  awarded    a    prize    for    it .       Incidentally,     I    may    add  that    some    years    back,     an    editor    of    a    Hindi    Daily  declined   to    publish    this    essay    in    his   paper    on    the  round     that     it     could     not     have     been written by Bhagat Singh about 65 years back .   So prophetic were the views< expressed therein.

       With  a   view  to  avenging ,  Lala Lajpat   Rai ' s  death , the Hidustant  Socialist   Republican   Party  organised  meticulously  and  shot  dead  the  police officer   responsible   for   giving   lathi   blows   to the   great leader .     At   that   time   and   even   some  time   after   for   the purpose of discrediting the   party   and   its   enthusiastic young workers , it was    given   out   that   Saunders   was shot    dead   by    mistake    because    the    person    who    gave lathi  blows   was   another  police  officer   named   Scott .

     To   remove   the   wrong   impression,    I ,   in   December, 1930   enquired   from   B .K . Dutt   who   had   been   all along with   Bhagat   Singh   and   was   at   that   time   in   the   old Central    Jail    Multan,    where    I  had   been transferred    , from  Attock  Camp jail.   He told me in no uncertain words that it was Saunders who gave fatal lathi  blows   to   Lala   Lajpat   Rai    and   we   being   certain   shot  him     dead .        There     could     be     no     question     of     our mistaking the identity of the police officer concerned ' .

     In   the   words   of   a famous French Philosopher   and thinker   Romain Rolland,. Bhagat  Singh    beckoned    his countrymen:

  "He cannot know the delight of being free.  It is   worthwhile   paying    for    it    with    so    much danger, and suffering and even death.  To be free, to feel   that every   mind about    you-yes, even    the   knave's  is free, is a delicious pleasure which  it is impossible to express: it is as though your soul   were   soaring   the   infinite   air .  It   could   not    live otherwise''.       (Joan Christophe In Paris page 274 : Editor)  

                     BRITISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS   ( In    their  report , dated  the 26th of  March , 1931)                 

                "Bhagat Singh and his companions are bound to provide the   test   for   many   fiery  sermons  in   the  days to come''.                                   :


Saturday, August 1, 2009

On Martyrdom of Shaheed Mohammad Singh Azad ( Udham Singh) the last message he gave in court

[ This is the copy of the note by Martyr Mohamad Singh Azad ( Udham Singh) When judge did not allowed him to read in full he tore it and threw. It was picked up by British police and rebuilt by putting the pieces together.

After publicly protesting on behalf of Indian people and punishing Sir Michel O'Dwayer ,of Jallianwala Bagh notoriety ,The name announced by the protester was Mohammad Singh Azad . British Imperialists immediately understood the message given by him through his name. British Imperialist bureaucracy noted " This particular name gives out his belief that India's freedom can only be achieved if there is communal unity." It was further noted that ," This name will arose the sympathy of Mussalams too." Hence black out this name as well as the message imbibed in it, censorship was imposed.
Are not we still part of that conspiracy against propogation of His Message which he wrote for us with his blood.
  On the change of his name Our great martyr said ,"Don't try to change my name what so ever." Because the name had the message of unity and communal harmony of the time of Jallianwala Bagh Massacare.
Was not the communal harmony and unity which made the imperialists mad? 
  As a special tribute please find here  the original note and its partial text .This is the note which MS AZAD (Udham Singh) wanted the jury and the world to know but judge did not allow him to read in full. The text of the note he last read in Court just before the passing of death Sentence.
Note on documents brought into Court by Udham Singh alias  Mohammed Singh Azad
(We are thankful to Dr Navtej Singh and Mr. Avtar Singh Johal to make these documents available) editor ]
on 5.6.40.
  This sheet is written entirely in English and reads as follows:
     British terrorism in India. What the Indians got from Britain  going to India. If we help the British we get the same thing what they gave as after last war.    Modern guns and bombs will be used against the Innocent  people of India and we know thousands will be killed merciless  by the British beast Lion. India has been made a slaughterhouse, is brutality - beastly, bullying, fraudulent plunder and cunning. Many blood - thirsty English mad dogs in India. India had seen no British Kindness, only the (?) slavering, English beast, killing, mutilating, destroying. The violent and brutal English interfere in India public, cultural, economic and social life, accompanied by the most brutal and incredible, physical persecution. Our way is not war with Germany and Russia but with Britain. They will be ruthless and merciless to the Indians. These miserable, misguided youth who will see no evil in the British TYRANNY, who will close their ears to the death cries of the slaughtered Indians. The British convert our country into prison and a hell. Many political prisoners in India are beaten, tortured and humiliated. Many women had their hair violently pulled and brought into the street where they were insulted and sharp instrument inserted into their bodies. Many went mad at the sight. Many died under the torture blow of the English blood bath, many had their faces mutilated, even their eyes taken out. We must see to it that this time English history of Barbarism is ended.  
      A 150 years English terrorism in India has shown it is impossible for the British to crush the Indian people. I did this to protest and uphold my country right even though I die. My greatest wish has not been fulfilled to see my country free again.
    I would rather die for the cause of my people than live in misery under the British terrorism. I nor my people was not born in this world to be ruled by the English Imperialism.  India will rise again.
    We are up against a creed of the Devils. Down with British Bandits and their dirty Chamberlain govt. Give him hell. He is nothing but a mad dog. (Invited in India - a tradesman - Not to   look after us).
     I as a son of India and a tiller of the soil of my native home  has looked upon British Rule as something that is cruel and  detrimental to the lives of the Indian people.
      The (?) practices of the big Linowners (Landowners) and   owners of India which own and control the industry of my country is vital and distasteful to me and my countrymen in so far   as they take the products of my country for to satisfy their own just and greed at the same time depriving the workers of the right  to live and enjoy the wealth of their lands.
       These same ruler of India enjoy the very highest standard of life at the expense of the people of India, not caring to help the country in any way, for example in the building 0f schools or the   raising of the education amongst my people.
      Requests and appeals by the Indian people as a whole has   been sent to the King Emperor of India and his government and   have had no effect upon them. Therefore the time has come when   the people of India must stand up and show those vultures of  British Imperialism that no longest (sic) must they bleed and deprive the people of my beloved land but use and utilise the  products and profits of the country for the benefit of the peoples without class or creed prejudice.
    [ This is a medley of English , Gurmukhi  and  Urdu . It  concludes with the words used by Udham Singh when he   addressed the Court and which were interrupted by the Judge.
      The first few lines consist of a poem in Urdu, which is signed  'Bawa', this being the name by which he was commonly known   to his associates. The following words of this
poem have been  deciphered.]
पंजाबी कविता बाद विच दिति जावे गी

      O God! into what hardships have the people of India fallon!
 Our guests have begun to exercise oppression over us Let the enemies sland on our heads, the dagger be poised at our  throats_.
     The times are all gone wrong and oppression has appeared before our sight!
      Further down appears the following in Urdu:
     Hither to God has not changed the condition of that nation   which has no idea of (impending) change.
    There follows a stanza of a Gurmukhi poem on Indian martyrs. The words 'Bhagat Singh', 'Dutt', 'Tilak' and 'Lajpat', all  well known figures in Indian national struggle, appear in this  poem.
     Next come a few words in English :
      I am not afraid to die. I am proud to die for such a glorious  cause to help to free my native land and I hope when I am gone  that in my place will come thousands of my countrymen to drive  you vultures until you not only free our country but also clear to  hell out of it.
      The first few words of this tirado the prisoner shouted from  the dock when sentence of death was about to be Passed.
     Sheet ''B'' concludes with the following violent attack on  British rule in India:
      I anticipate and hope for the downfall of Brltish imperialism  by which India would automatically be freed, for Hitler and Stalin  would not take India even if given to them.
     Long live Mahatma Gandhi and Subash Base. Down with the  British democracies, VIVA INDIA. Down  with Britain. Down  with the British democracies, Indians do not have peace. What we  have got is slavery. Greedy British English. For generation your  so called civilization has brought forth everything (?) fifihy and  degenerate known to the human race. It's not for me to point out  or debate on any one particular point. All you have to do is to read  your history and if you have any human decency about you – you  would die with shock. The brutality and blood-thirsty way in  which the so-called inteIlectuals which call themselves the rulers  of civilisations. in other words the bastard blood bound class (?)which have in the past and do at present torture the unprivileged   classes is

.............. These are the so-called rulers who have......  the machine guns on the streets of India and without hesitation or  the least sign of mercy mowed down thousands of poor women and children. In any part of the world wherever your rotton so  called flag of democracy and Christianity files you will find only  guns, blood, starvation. and filth of the lowest grade. The day has  come when the murderous blood-thirsty dogs of Britain must not   Interview with Indians .......... but no pay - India Office - told me to enlist - Anglo-French Ambulance Unit and thousands of similar   tricks in India.
      At this point the following is inserted.
      Saw several men dying in Lahore .......... and men behind   them were beaten to death - a real hell - British prison (The diary   is here resumed)
      14.(i.e. 1914).......... 117 men still in prison and firing at  Budge Budge.
     21.(i.e.1921) Nanakana Sahib 200 men killed.
         30. (i.e. 1930)..........
      33. (i.e. 1933) .......... women outraged and shots fired.
      Note : Budge Budge was the scene of a riot near Calcutta in  which members of the Ghadr Party were involved in 1914.
      At this point the following is interpolated in Eng|ish.
      Just telling Britain to mind her own business and get out of  India.
      Then in Gurmukhi:
      really protest _ Indians are being .......... thousands Of Indians    will again be killed as in

the Iast war.
 ........... 1938 in England a   false case was brought against me. It cost me £900. MY motor car  was confiscated. I was removed from my employment, and after  five months the case was stopped.  Jury stop the case.
       In the left-hand bottom corner appears the following:
           1 .My name changed
         5.The Old Bdiley
       Note : The above points apparently represent his grievances.
       On the back of Sheet ''C'' the diary is resumed :
       37. (' e. 1937) _.~.~ Interview .„._.~30r 4 weeks _._..
   (took me outside in the month of ..........)
        38. (i.e.  1938) Met Moola through Col. Appleby, Cheltenham    took Moola and ..... to Brighton and Bognor .... and at 90* clock..
       39. (i.e. 1939) Moola's (?) letter arrived and I met ..........     Windsor Staines and (?) Calif of England - to go to America
   .......... he and his son .......... Commissioner - San Francisco if you  are keen on Government service .......... game me his address and   said that I shall go to Devon on the 13th June .......... called me
  ....... king's bodyguards.
      On the 5th I met .......... asked for help, and on the 5th went to a meeting but met nobody. If anybody had met me perhaps things would never have reached this pass. I did not know that he was going to the meeting, so on the 13th I did not go to the meeting specially for this purpose.
      Note : In the margin this is marked 'important'.
         Col. Appleby .......... Glasgow  and Blackpool ..........  and   every evening went for a walk, and Weston-Super-Marc Atlantic  Hotel, Cheltenham - Queens Hotel .......... Mary Hotel - everyday used to take (me) for a walk.
      Sheet ''C'' concludes with the following words in English:
     Black Englishman .......... Indian the  some for the foreign  Govt. Downtrodden and the oppressed people of India (some  words then crossed out) we are fighting for our Iives and our  liberties and we could not allow the British vultures. Indians are  tired of living under British tyranny. Death or freedom – within  a year after end of the war.
 Sheet ''D'' Page 502
     This sheet is headed "National Hymns". It begins as follows:
      The motherland cannot remain fore over a slave chamber: she  will be free: the time has come.
     In the margin is the following:
     Dear Gandhi, star of the Nation, free the motherland; Old  man, young men and infants are weeping; do you free them.
    What follows is a succession of compositions, mostly  political written at various times, in Urdu and Gurmukhi. One of  them appears to be a transcript of the famous poem
"Hindustan  Hamara'' by the late Punjabi  poet Iqbal.