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HindustanTimes Thu,27 Nov 2014
Bonds that do not bind
Sitaram Yechury
July 15, 2013
First Published: 21:54 IST(15/7/2013)
Last Updated: 22:00 IST(15/7/2013)

It  is, indeed, an irony of history that in the year 2013, which marks the centenary of the Ghadar movement, the first political movement for Indian independence, the British government is seeking to impose a £3,000 (with the falling rupee; R3 lakh) cash bond from November this year for Indians applying for a British visa. Facing large-scale protests against this highly discriminatory and racist measure, Britain’s Home Office official sought to clarify that this applies only to “high risk individuals” without explaining how this would be determined. He was quoted as saying: “In the long run, we’re interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services.” There is, however, no mention of the contribution made by immigrants to the British GDP. The chairman of the British Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, who has been continuously elected to the House of Commons for over 25 years, has called this move “unfair and discriminatory” and has asked the Home Secretary to appear before the Committee on July 16.

The Ghadar movement began as a revolt against the blatant racial discrimination faced by Indian immigrants in Canada and the US. This was distinct from how other immigrants like the Chinese or Japanese were treated. The Indians came to the conclusion that it was India’s colonial slavery which was the root cause for such discrimination and racial exploitation. Ironically, like today’s Britain, among the many conditions for the entry of Indians into Canada then was showing $200. The struggle against these injustices, thus, naturally, coalesced with the quest for India’s freedom.

Thus emerged the Ghadar Party on the US’s west coast in 1913. Its openly declared policy was to start another Ghadar (The 1857, First War of Independence).

Consider those times: a year before World War I began, four years before the Russian Revolution, eight years before Maulana Hasrat Mohani and Swami Kumaranand moved, on behalf of the Communist Party, a resolution for complete independence at the Ahmedabad AICC session, 1921, which was rejected by Mahatma Gandhi. The slogan of poorna swaraj was finally given on December 31, 1929 at its Lahore session. A full 16 years after the Ghadarites first raised the slogan of independence. The Ghadar movement started towards the end of what is called the ‘Britain’s Imperial Century’ where the ‘sun could never set’. An Indian patriot, we are told, promptly retorted, “Yes, of course. Even god does not trust the British in the dark”!

The call for independence given by the Ghadar movement not only predates all other important milestones in India’s epic struggle for freedom but it also, in a sense, anticipates many of the hallmarks associated with the freedom struggle. The Gandhian non-cooperation satyagraha was one of the strategies that the Ghadarites anticipated when they concluded that if the then 300 million Indians refused to cooperate, the British would never be able to stay in India. Their slogan was, ‘pindaan walion maamla bandh kar deo’ (village folks stop paying land revenue). 

This movement was a source of inspiration for Bhagat Singh who reportedly always carried a photograph of Kartar Singh Sarabha about whom he said: “One is amazed to think of what he at the age of 19 was able to do... Such courage! Such self-confidence! So much of self-denial and passionate commitment has been rarely seen earlier...Ohnan di rag rag vich inquilabi jazba smaya hoya si (revolutionary passion was embedded in every vein of his)”. In a sense this explains Bhagat Singh’s own personal attributes when he, at the age of 23, faced the gallows with a smile to inspire all future generations of patriotic youth.

The methods that Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA adopted were influenced by the Ghadar movement. Rash Behari Bose, one of the leaders of the planned Ghadar uprising in 1915, who had been living in exile in Japan since then, was one of the chief sources of support in raising the INA. The legacy of the Ghadar movement, hence, was an inspiration for all streams of India’s struggle for independence including the RIN mutiny of 1946.

The historical voyage of Komagatamaru, that met the Canadian challenge that only ships directly bound to its shores can carry Indians, was inspirational. Refused entry it stayed in water near Vancouver port for eight weeks and returned to India at Budge Budge, near Kolkata, on September 27, 1914 to be greeted with British bullets, claiming 18 lives, many arrests and 29 missing. Following this, the Ghadarites returned to India planning for an armed uprising in February 1915 which failed. The repression that followed led to 46 hangings, 64 life transportations to Kalapaani and hundreds being subjected to various degrees of punishment.

With leaders like Lala Hardayal, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Kartar Singh Saraba, Pandurang Khankhoje, Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, Darsi Chenchaiah, Azharuddin Mohamed Dali and Hafiz Abdullah, among many others, the Ghadar movement was the first movement for Indian independence that was supremely secular. Soon after the Ghadar uprising failed, the world history changing event — 1917 Russian Revolution — deeply influenced Ghadar Babas who worked for revolutionary change through the political education and mobilisation of peasants and workers.

The glorious history of the Ghadar movement and its deep influence on all subsequent currents of our freedom struggle acquires greater significance in today’s world situation where there is growing racial discrimination. What eventually happens to the proposed British £3,000 bond will be known in November. The government of independent India cannot remain a silent spectator. In this centenary year of the Ghadar movement its role in India’s independence struggle must be recognised and also in moulding the youth down the generations in carrying forward these struggles.

It  is, indeed, an irony of history that in the year 2013, which marks the centenary of the Ghadar movement, the first political movement for Indian independence, the British government is seeking to impose a £3,000 (with the falling rupee; R3 lakh) cash bond from November this year for Indians applying for a British visa. Facing large-scale protests against this highly discriminatory and racist measure, Britain’s Home Office official sought to clarify that this applies only to “high risk individuals” without explaining how this would be determined. He was quoted as saying: “In the long run, we’re interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services.” There is, however, no mention of the contribution made by immigrants to the British GDP. The chairman of the British Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, who has been continuously elected to the House of Commons for over 25 years, has called this move “unfair and discriminatory” and has asked the Home Secretary to appear before the Committee on July 16.

The Ghadar movement began as a revolt against the blatant racial discrimination faced by Indian immigrants in Canada and the US. This was distinct from how other immigrants like the Chinese or Japanese were treated. The Indians came to the conclusion that it was India’s colonial slavery which was the root cause for such discrimination and racial exploitation. Ironically, like today’s Britain, among the many conditions for the entry of Indians into Canada then was showing $200. The struggle against these injustices, thus, naturally, coalesced with the quest for India’s freedom.

Thus emerged the Ghadar Party on the US’s west coast in 1913. Its openly declared policy was to start another Ghadar (The 1857, First War of Independence).

Consider those times: a year before World War I began, four years before the Russian Revolution, eight years before Maulana Hasrat Mohani and Swami Kumaranand moved, on behalf of the Communist Party, a resolution for complete independence at the Ahmedabad AICC session, 1921, which was rejected by Mahatma Gandhi. The slogan of poorna swaraj was finally given on December 31, 1929 at its Lahore session. A full 16 years after the Ghadarites first raised the slogan of independence. The Ghadar movement started towards the end of what is called the ‘Britain’s Imperial Century’ where the ‘sun could never set’. An Indian patriot, we are told, promptly retorted, “Yes, of course. Even god does not trust the British in the dark”!

The call for independence given by the Ghadar movement not only predates all other important milestones in India’s epic struggle for freedom but it also, in a sense, anticipates many of the hallmarks associated with the freedom struggle. The Gandhian non-cooperation satyagraha was one of the strategies that the Ghadarites anticipated when they concluded that if the then 300 million Indians refused to cooperate, the British would never be able to stay in India. Their slogan was, ‘pindaan walion maamla bandh kar deo’ (village folks stop paying land revenue). 

This movement was a source of inspiration for Bhagat Singh who reportedly always carried a photograph of Kartar Singh Sarabha about whom he said: “One is amazed to think of what he at the age of 19 was able to do... Such courage! Such self-confidence! So much of self-denial and passionate commitment has been rarely seen earlier...Ohnan di rag rag vich inquilabi jazba smaya hoya si (revolutionary passion was embedded in every vein of his)”. In a sense this explains Bhagat Singh’s own personal attributes when he, at the age of 23, faced the gallows with a smile to inspire all future generations of patriotic youth.

The methods that Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA adopted were influenced by the Ghadar movement. Rash Behari Bose, one of the leaders of the planned Ghadar uprising in 1915, who had been living in exile in Japan since then, was one of the chief sources of support in raising the INA. The legacy of the Ghadar movement, hence, was an inspiration for all streams of India’s struggle for independence including the RIN mutiny of 1946.

The historical voyage of Komagatamaru, that met the Canadian challenge that only ships directly bound to its shores can carry Indians, was inspirational. Refused entry it stayed in water near Vancouver port for eight weeks and returned to India at Budge Budge, near Kolkata, on September 27, 1914 to be greeted with British bullets, claiming 18 lives, many arrests and 29 missing. Following this, the Ghadarites returned to India planning for an armed uprising in February 1915 which failed. The repression that followed led to 46 hangings, 64 life transportations to Kalapaani and hundreds being subjected to various degrees of punishment.

With leaders like Lala Hardayal, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Kartar Singh Saraba, Pandurang Khankhoje, Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, Darsi Chenchaiah, Azharuddin Mohamed Dali and Hafiz Abdullah, among many others, the Ghadar movement was the first movement for Indian independence that was supremely secular. Soon after the Ghadar uprising failed, the world history changing event — 1917 Russian Revolution — deeply influenced Ghadar Babas who worked for revolutionary change through the political education and mobilisation of peasants and workers.

The glorious history of the Ghadar movement and its deep influence on all subsequent currents of our freedom struggle acquires greater significance in today’s world situation where there is growing racial discrimination. What eventually happens to the proposed British £3,000 bond will be known in November. The government of independent India cannot remain a silent spectator. In this centenary year of the Ghadar movement its role in India’s independence struggle must be recognised and also in moulding the youth down the generations in carrying forward these struggles.

(Filed from Yugantar Ashram, Ghadarite Commune in San Francisco, where the author was the chief guest of the centennial observations)
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal


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