2013 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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On Gadar Party centenary in EPW

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It has been a hundred years since the Gadar party was launched in March 1913, in the United States by a band of fiery young Indian expatriates with the aim of waging an armed struggle against British rulers in India. To commemorate the party’s centennial, the author recommends that the Indian government should take some concrete steps to create awareness about the party and the radical and revolutionary movement it unleashed.

Chaman Lal (Prof.chaman@gmail.com) retired professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

The Gadar party was formed in the United States in the early twentieth century by migrant Indians, mostly Punjabis. However, the party also included Indians from all parts of India such as Darisi Chenchiah and Champak Raman Pillai from South, Vishnu Ganesh Pingle and Sadashiv Pandurang Khankhoje from West India, Jatinder Lahiri and Taraknath Das from East India, Maulvi Barkatullah and Pandit Permanand Jhansi from Central India and many more. In March 1913, in a meeting at St. Jones, the party was established as the “Hindi Association of Pacific Coast”under the leadership of Lala Har Dayal with Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna as its president. However, it became popularly known as the Gadar Party after it launched its journal “Gadar”on 1 November, 1913, in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and other Indian languages from its headquarters the Yugantar Ashramin in San Francisco. The building which housed the headquarters is now named as the “Gadar Memorial”. The party took its name Gadar to consciously identify itself with the first war of Independence in 1857, which the British termed the “Gadar”(revolt). Though the party’s planned “Gadar” in India failed to take off in February 1915, more than a hundred Gadar activists paid with their lives, 41 being shot in Singapore alone on 15 February, 1915. Hundreds were imprisoned for long terms with many being sent to the “Kalapani”, as the jail in the Andamans was known. The Gadar Movement was the most advanced secular democratic movement of its time whose tradition was upheld and appropriated by Bhagat Singh later with further addition of the socialist ideology.

I visited the Gadar memorial in San Francisco where I had been invited to deliver a lecture on the Gadar party hero Kartar Singh Sarabha on 22 May, 2011, to commemorate his birth anniversary. In addition to visiting this historic site, I got an opportunity to visit the Stockton Gurdwara where many meetings of the Gadar party were held, the Sacramento Cemetery, where not only the Gadar party senior activist Maulvi Barkatullah, but many other freedom fighters from Punjab have been buried as well, and the Holt farm of the Gadar party vice president Jawala Singh. These historic sites lie in a state of neglect, and I suggest that the Indian government should attempt to restore these sites and create awareness about the Gadar movement, particularly so since this is the centenary year of the party.

The Gadar Memorial

The Gadar Memorial is located at 5, Wood Street in San Francisco. Having been reconstructed, it has lost its heritage character, and even its original name ‒Yugantar Ashram‒ finds no reference anywhere. The name was adopted to identify with the early revolutionary movement in Bengal called “Yugantar”. The original name of the building was written in Urdu, Punjabi and English. Now only the changed name is painted on the front wall in English and Hindi with no Punjabi or Urdu version. The building was handed over to the government of India after the country attained independence, and the Gadar party was formally dissolved. Presently it is under the administrative control of the Consulate General of India, San Francisco. There is no proper care- taker of the building, and important documents and items related to the Gadar movement, including the artificial arm of Gadarite Harnam Singh Tundilat, (who lost his arm during the movement and became famous as “Tundilat” or “broken arm lord”) are displayed in glass cases without any lock and key. Most of the time this historic building remains closed, and when someone wants to visit it they need special permission from the Consulate.

This building should be rebuilt on lines of the original heritage building, and named again as the Yugantar Ashram. It should be converted into a library-cum-research centre on the model of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, even if on a smaller scale. Further the Berkeley campus of the University of California should be involved in this project, and the memorial building should be leased to the University for establishing the Gadar archives and research centre. The Bancroft library of the University already has a Gadar archive with 20 boxes of documents and some digitised records. The Indian Government should also consider establishing the Kartar Singh Sarabha Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, where Sarabha was a student of science in 1912-13, and this Chair could well be linked with the Gadar memorial. Copies of all the documents relating to the Gadar movement, spread across countries where the Gadar party was either active, or had influence like US, Canada, India, Singapore, Philippines, China, Argentina, Brazil, Germany etc. should be brought to this research centre. This would be the best tribute to Sarabha and the Gadar party during its centenary celebrations.

The model of the ship Komagata Maru should also be displayed. A film ‘Continuous Journey’ made by Ali Kazmi on the Komagata Maru incident beautifully captures the moments from that period. This documentary should be shown and distributed throughout Indian schools and colleges during the centenary year.

The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library should acquire photo copies or the digitalised version of the Gadar Archives from the Bancroft library, University of California, Berkeley. Copies of documents housed in New York Public Library and other places in USA, Canada and other countries too should also be acquired. At the Nehru Memorial, a special section on the Gadar movement and the movement led by Bhagat Singh should be created as the two are inseparable from each other.

Stockton Gurudwara and Other Historic Sites

Sacramento Cemetery, where Maulvi Barkatullah’s and other Punjabi Muslim freedom fighters’ graves are found, a plaque with details should be put up by the Indian government. The caretaker of this cemetery, Patricia Hutchings is keen to know the details and willing to put them up. The Stockton Gurudwara where meetings of the Gadar party activists took place and where a hall still stands in the name of Gadari Babas, has been taken over by Khalistani sympathisers. A big banner “Khalistan Zindabad” with the photograph of Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale is displayed at the entrance of the Gurdwara. The pictures of the Gadar party heroes have been replaced by those of gun toting Khalistani “martyrs”, including the killers of Indira Gandhi and general Vaidya. Despite the existence of a prayer room, the Gadar hall has been converted into an additional prayer room with a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib residing there. The local Sikhs who run the Gurdwara are strongly influenced by the Khalistani movement and are ignorant of the glorious past of the Gadar movement. The Indian government can initiate an awareness campaign about the significance of the Gadar movement among local Sikhs/Punjabis and restore the image of the Gurudwara as a historic Gadar building.

At the Holt farm near Stockton, which belonged to the Gadarite Jawala Singh, an identifying plaque with details should be put up by the Indian government.

Above all emphasis should be placed on creating awareness and deepening knowledge of these historic events amongst the younger generations. The history of such events should be taught at schools, and books should be published and distributed in major Indian languages. In particular, the autobiography of the founding president of the Gadar party, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna should be translated into all Indian languages and published, perhaps by the National Book Trust and documentaries and television serials could also be made on the Gadar movement. We should not let this opportunity to reclaim this great legacy of our anti-colonial past be lost to lethargy and bureaucratic delays. The Gadar movement was one of the most important events in the radicalisation of India’s freedom struggle and forgetting its history is to lose a part of our own identity.

 

 

Seema Chisti on Ghadar Party centenary in Indian Express

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P Chidambaram’s bud-get speech had at least one entry whose significance could go beyond accounts. The Centre has decided to mark 100 years of the formation of the Ghadar Party this year and allocated funds to build and maintain its museum in San Francisco, apart from organising a series of programmes at home.

The Ghadar Party’s first office-bearers were chosen in Astoria on April 21, 1913 — the year before World War I, with British imperialism at its peak, and before the Soviet Union had been formed. A group of angry anarchists and socialists, some of them university students, some peasant-farmers and all based abroad, decided that the root cause of oppression of their fellow Indians was imperialism and they would fight it.

Inspired by ‘Ghadar’ of 1857, Karl Marx, and the spirit they then saw in the US for providing immigrants freedom and a platform to fight for what they felt was right, they ended up setting up the party in the University of Berkeley, California, and egged on thousands of immigrant workers to sail back to India and help “liberate” it. Pioneer leaders Lala Hardyal, Tarak Nath Das, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna and Maulvi Barakatullah openly said their plan was actually to fight the British. And they arrived in India from California to do just that.

Historians and scholars working on the Ghadar Party are heartened by the government effort, saying the unique movement will finally be given its place in history. Historian Harish K Puri, based in Ludhiana, says it is an important strain in India’s nationalist legacy and must not be airbrushed only because it does not fit into the Gandhian Congress story.

“The fact that people who had gone out to earn their living through manual labour were able to identify the root problem of their hardships here, and make a connection with unfair attitudes to immigrants with colonialism, was a huge leap of ideas,” Puri says. “Bhagat Singh, Chittagong, Netaji’s INA, and the Naval Revolt of 1946 all owed a lot to the Ghadar Party idea and broke the back of the British in India.”

Puri, who met Bhakna when the latter was 96, was “mesmerised by his spirit, Catholicism, broad vision and ability to conceive of a movement which believed in bringing Punjabi Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Marathis, Gujaratis all together, at a time when revivalist movements were on in almost all faiths. These people in divisive times developed the idea of ‘desh’.”

Puri recounts how the anarchists’ ideas influenced the times. Tarak Nath in 1908 wrote to Leo Tolstoy about War and Peace, asking Tolstoy, complete with 10-year data on deaths due to hunger and famine in India, how this was any better than the war-related deaths Tolstoy was so eloquent about. “Tolstoy replied, and even Gandhi took note of that reply. This was the impact of those people.”

Says Prof Chaman Lal of Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has travelled to most places connected with Ghadar and kept records, “What worries me is that either no one wants to talk about it as it does not fit into a goody-goody non-violence narrative we want to put out, or the wrong people try and appropriate it. Now, radical Sikh extremists try and portray them as Sikh radicals — while they were pious, they were the antithesis of identity games outside of ‘desh’. Their message was the opposite.”

Says Savitri Sawhney, the daughter of one of the Marathi revolutionaries of the time, Dr Pandurang Khankhoje, “At the Pravasi Bhartiya meet this year, two descendants of the Ghadar movement were to be honoured, but it was all changed at the last minute. The establishment suddenly didn’t want to honour anybody outside the Gandhi-Nehru fold; they are still regarded as terrorists. This is wrong. They must find a place in popular memory.”

Congress party representatives deny any deliberate effort to ignore the movement. If that was the case, they say, the PM would not otherwise have called it a “luminous spark” guiding the independence struggle at the Pravasi Divas at Kochi, “nor would he have released a commemorative stamp”.

Says Prof Chaman Lal, “The Ghadar strain was left without takers after independence except communist parties, who see themselves in part as bearers of the ideas.”

The US-Canada based Left-affiliated Indian Workers Association and its UK counterpart, the Indian Workers Association, are organising a series of meetings, seminars, rallies and plays by an Indian troupe over the next year to remind people of Ghadar, and of the fact that even Indian NRIs today owe much of the awareness and freedom to those who founded the party to fight the case for immigrant Asians, mostly Asian workers working in the West then.

A museum was set up in Jalandhar in 1955, principally by Ghadar revolutionaries released from the Andaman islands after serving life sentences.

Ghadar revolutionaries exercised a deep influence on those who came a decade later. Says Bhagat Singh’s nephew Kiranjit Singh, “Ghadar hero Kartar Singh Sarabha was his hero and he carried a picture of his in his pocket at all times. Sarabha was executed when he was 19, and embedded in my uncle the philosophy of meeting your death with a smile, which he did.” Says Prof Puri, “Bhagat Singh pored over the famous Ghadar Party trial case records in Lahore and we have his copy in the museum, with his notes scribbled in the margins.”

– See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/from-us-the-effort-to-free-india-from-british/1105706/0#sthash.GOhSrrif.dpuf

2012 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 16,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Comrade Mansoor Karachi

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Remembering Comrade Mansoor Saeed in Delhi on 2-6-10 -Sohail Hashmi speaking

A memorial meeting for Com. Mansoor Saeed was held in Delhi at Mukatdhara Bhavan,organized by Jan Natya Manch and Sahmat.It was attended among other Prakash Karat,Gen. Secretary, CPM(India),Sita Ram Yechuri,incharge international cell and member Polit Bureau of CPM.Meeting was anchored by Sohail Hashmi,cousin of Mansoor Ahmad and brother of martyr Safdar Hashmi, who spoke longingly about him,narrating memories from childhood.Many friends of Mansoor,like Habib,Meera ,Madhu, shared their loving memories of him.Some of these memories were shared in Karachi memorial meeting for him held on 28th May.Prof. Zahoor Siddique and myself also shared the grief on loss of precious life of Manssor Saeed. I myself has no direct link with him, it was ironic that I heard about him from Beena Sarwar and Sohail Hashmi conversation during meeting with Beena Sarwar in my office on 23rd May, 2010 and the very next day on her arrival in Karachi,Beena Sarwar got the sad news of his passing away.Mansoor Ahmad,CC member of Pakistan Communist party and incharge of international relations,was also a renowned cultural activist.Safdar Hashmi during a visit to his cousin in Pakistan organised a theatre workshop there.Sita Ram Yechuri paying tributes to Manssor Saeed, referred to his organizing Sajjad Zaheer centenary in Pakistan,by bringing all left and democratic forces of Pakistan on single platform.Presently Mansoor Saeed was planning for Faiz Ahmad Faiz centenary in both India and Pakistan, jointly with both countries progressive forces.He said best tribute to Mansoor will be to materalise celebration of Faiz centenary jointly in both countries by progressive forces.Every speaker referred to permanent smile on Mansoor’s face,which was shown in the poster on display in the memorial meeting as well.

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