Com Sitaram Yechury, member of the polit bureau of the CPI M and MP Rajya Sabha, inaugurated the centenary celebrations of the Ghadar Party on 13 July at the historic site of Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco.

The Yugantar Ashram originally set up at 436 Hill Street was moved to 5 Wood Street. The headquarters of the Ghadar Party was set up as centre for Indian national patriots, with a specific purpose to free India from the shackles of British colonialism.

The event to celebrate the centenary of the Ghadar Party, was organised by the Ghadar Memorial Foundation of America in the form of a seminar attended by academics, historians, students and political leaders preserving the legacy of the Ghadar movement.Historian Dr Harish Puri in his presentation entitled “Ghadar Movement a New Consciousness and Sensibility encapsulated the history of the Ghadar movement. Dr. Puri added a new dimension of distinct sensibility and a new political culture to the well documented elements of the Ghadar Party; from their initial belief in armed struggle to achieve freedom, democracy, secularism and a new society based on equality.

According to the American historian Herald Gold, the formation of the Ghadar movement was an improbable conjuncture of three sections coming together to provide the unique fabric on whom the tapestry of the Ghadar movement was embroidered. This was the explosive revolutionary mix of extradited national patriots, peasants/workers and students. In recalling the words of Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna the founding President of the Ghadar Party “people joining our party became human beings of a higher order, they rose above all types of sectarianism, their thought process became broad, secular and progressive”

Shaheed- e – azam Bhagat Singh who held shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha ( the editor of the Punjabi edition of Ghadar published from Yugantar Ashram in San Fransisco, hanged at the tender age of 19 years) in the highest esteem, as his role model. In 1928, Bhagat Singh asked the young comrades of Naujwan Bharat Sabha to write articles on the martyrs of the Ghadar movement. 28 such articles were published in a special martyrs issue which provided the poetical accolade in recognition of these brave, courageous human beings “ho frishtei bhi fidha jin pe, yeh voh insaan hain” which means , even the angels are envious of these human beings.

Dr. Puri outlined the role of the Ghadar Memorial Foundation of America led by their President Charan Singh Judge and his colleagues in organising this centenary celebration to formally record the monumental historic contribution of the Ghadar movement. In this regard the role of Comrade Sitaram Yechury Member Parliament Rajya Sabha needs to be appreciated as being the conduit for moving the Indian government. This led to Dr. Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister of India to announce the special oration in January this year, with the release of a stamp in recognition of this movement.

A number of young students provided anecdotes in the form of essay recitals on the lives of the leaders of the Ghadar Party.Comrade Sitaram Yechuryas chief guest then delivered the keynote speech tracing the formation of the Ghadar Party, its impact on the national independence movement and the future development of society, a brave new world based on freedom, democracy, equality and secularism.

He echoed the sentiments expressed by Dr. Puri and reminded the audience of the call for total independence given by the Ghadar Party years ahead of the National Congress. The effect of Kartar Singh Sarabha’s martyrdom on Bhagat Singh and his comrades, in changing the name of the Hindostan Republican Army to Hindostan Socialist Republican Army and carrying the image of the young Ghaderite to the gallows. Just like Kartar Singh Sarabha hanged for seeking freedom for India in 1915 at the age of 19, Bhagat Singh also went smiling to the gallows with his comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev at the tender age of 23 for the same dream. In the true spirit of the freedom fighters, said Yechury,“yeh mat poocho ke zindagi mein kitne pal hain , yeh pooch ke pal mein kitni zindgian hain”

The dreams and aspirations of the Gadherites and Bhagat Singh and his followers for a new society free from exploitation, freedom for all on an equal basis, a democratic and secular India needs to be nurtured.

Comrade Yechury called for people, the Diasporas and citizens of India to unite to build a better India, a secular democratic India, to protect freedom, sovereignty the rights of our people to; education, employment, health, pensions, the rights of women and youth, social and economic equality, as a lasting tribute to the legacy of the Ghadari Baba’s.

In remembering the inspirational struggles of the Ghadarites against racism and discrimination, the Komagata Maru episode, Comrade Yechury said that need for struggle still remains valid today as exemplified by the discriminatory nature of proposed changes to the British visa system. Britain is proposing a £3000 bond for each perspective visitor to Britain from the Indian sub-continent.

Dr Jaspal Singh Vice Chancellor of Punjab University Patiala recalled the indomitable spirit of human sacrifice of the Ghadari Baba’s. their insatiable quest for freedom, ideals of secularism will continue to inspire generations to come as they have done in the past hundred years. He thanked the organisers and released the seven hundred page book on “The Ghadar Movement” for worldwide distribution.

A number of proclamations by the state of Oregon USA in recognition of these heroes of the Ghadar movement was distributed and the resolution H. Res 259 being moved in the 113th Congress of the House of Representative, was presented in the historic surroundings of Yugantar Ashram. The government of India has pledged resources to refurbish and renew this historic house, to create a library and resource centre. The organisers thanked Comrade Sitaram Yechury for his timely intervention and the Indian consulate in San Francisco for making this possible.

A memorandum seeking the protection of Punjabi language in Delhi University was presented to Comrade Sitaram Yechury as a member of Rajya Sabha.

Harsev Bains, the National General Secretary of the Indian Workers’ Association from Britain, delivered a message of solidarity with a pledge to carry forward the struggle and uphold the values and beliefs of the Ghadar Movement. The seminar was followed by a private meeting organised by Charan Singh Judge just outside San Francisco. The meeting of 25 plus members and sympathisers of the CPI (M) was addressed By Comrade Sitaram Yechury and Harsev Bains. Comrade Yechury provided a detailed briefing on the international and national developments in India. After a lengthy discussion, an organisation to take forward the legacy and coordinate future activities across California the Indo- American coordinating committee was formed.

During the discussions a certain unease, limitations and restrictions of freedom in USA for progressive ideas challenging the status quo of the establishment became evident. As if to remind us that it was not until the 1960’s that following campaigns by black people led by Dr. Martin Luther King that black people were given the right to vote. This right unlike Britain is still denied to people of different nationalities legally residing in USA today. The death of Trayvon Mrtin at the hands of George Zimmerman and his subsequent acquittal has created a sense of injustice. This has attracted personal remarks by Barack Obama , the President of USA , empathising with the young African American boy killed for being black. This degree of racism remains inherent in American society today with an underlying poisonous history of slavery. It is a continuing nightmare for many Americans black and white still trying to come to terms with their past, in the country where people claim to live the “American Dream”. It is a reminder of the slave owners crack of the whip. The phone call by Trayvon Martin, minutes before being confronted and killed , in which he talked of being followed by ” a creepy-ass-cracker”. Cracker being a mild form of racial abuse black people use about white people- linking cracker to the whip. In a recent article Justin Webb a BBC presenter described the significance of the whip as “That whip. Someone called it America’s original sin. Like original sin, slavery in this narrative hovers in the background of American life, demanding eternal atonement, never capable of being quenched.

That is what depresses many Americans including the US President Obama, who long for the emergence of a post –racial America. The whip is the symbolic mental image that white people have of their fellow black citizens: “they are frightened of them”.This fear permeates in a society still recovering from the terrorist attacks of September 11 and trying to come to terms with their own history.

Harsev Bains