The Hindustani Ghadar Party was formed in April 1913 in the US. The Indian working people and patriotic intellectuals in North America who had emigrated there in the conditions of colonial rule gave birth to this patriotic and revolutionary organization to enable them to realize their deepest aspirations.
With its branches in India and among Indian communities spread all over the globe, the movement led by the HGP was the first revolt of a pan-Indian character against British rule after the Great Ghadar of 1857. It represented the finest traditions of the struggle for liberation of the Indian people against all exploitation and oppression: absolute fearlessness and contempt for the oppressors, dedication and sacrifice, and unity of all the Indian people in their common struggle.
In the half century after it suppressed the Great Ghadar of 1857 with terrible brutality, British imperialism consolidated its hold on its empire in India. In the administrative, military, legal, revenue, educational, and other spheres, the superstructure for keeping the Indian people subjugated was strengthened across the board. The capitalist exploitation and loot of our people and resources was stepped up, using the latest technology including railways, telegraphs, steamships, and so on. The British modified their political strategy as well, to nip in the bud any future challenge to their rule. This included encouraging the formation of the Indian National Congress as a “safety-valve” by which to control and channel the aspirations of the emerging new Indian middle class. Year after year, the members of the Indian National Congress met and pledged their loyalty to the British Crown while demanding crumbs from the rulers in the form of seats in the civil services, etc.
The extremely difficult conditions at home meanwhile triggered off great waves of migration of Indian people to different corners of the globe. Lakhs of Indians were forced to leave their homes and villages to labour in the mines and plantations, forests and railways abroad, particularly in British colonies and dependent countries, as well as in the United States. They also went as soldiers and policemen in the service of the British power overseas.
However, wherever they went, these Indian working people abroad remained closely linked with home. Their status as an enslaved people followed them wherever they went, making them the targets of vicious discriminatory laws and regulations and state-organised campaigns against them. Starting around 1907, countries like Canada and the US imposed harsh laws to curb Indian immigration and to penalise Indians in those countries on arbitrary grounds.
Under the conditions of discrimination and ill-treatment in the countries they emigrated to, and the condition of humiliating colonial rule over their motherland, patriotic Indians began to organize themselves to change the situation.
Soon after the HGP was founded, its activists, drawn from all communities and strata among the Indians in that part of the world, began to organise both to fight racist discrimination and injustice against Indians abroad as well as to liberate India from colonial rule. They held meetings and street demonstrations, published literature in English, Urdu and Gurmukhi, and mobilised support extensively from the community. The ardent revolutionary songs and poems published in Ghadar inspired people to come together and give everything for the cause.
The Hindustani Ghadar Party organized and built community centers in different cities of North America as centers of political and social activity for the Indian community. These community centers served the community to keep alive its cultural heritage. Here, the men and women of the community would gather to discuss how to organize and fight for change, as well as organized their social functions.
The two main foci of the work of the Hindustani Ghadar Party was to fight racial discrimination against Indians in their adopted homelands, like US and Canada, and to contribute to the liberation of the motherland from colonial rule. The HGP explained to the members of the community in North America and other countries that the oppression and racial discrimination they faced was closely linked with the fact that their motherland was groaning under the jackboots of colonial rule. They must unite and fight the racial discrimination against Indians. Simultaneously, they must support the struggle for the liberation of the motherland from colonial rule.
The Ghadar activists collected donations from the workers of the community for building community centers and for all the work of the organization, cent by cent. That tens of thousands of Indians abroad came forward to actively contribute to the work of the HGP, is a reflection of the widespread popularity and organizing work of the Hindustani Ghadar Party in those times, nearly a century ago.
Ghadar activists played an important role in the famous Komagata Maru episode, a milestone in the Indian people’s struggle against British imperialism. In defiance of the anti-immigration laws of Canada, a shipload of Indians aboard the Japanese ship Komagata Maru arrived in 1914 at Vancouver, where they were denied permission to land. Determined to force the Indians to go back, the Canadian authorities deprived them of even water and essential supplies, and placed them under siege. Ghadar activists organised the Indian population of Vancouver to give material, legal and moral support to the Indians imprisoned on board the ship. Indians lined up on the shores of Vancouver harbour to show their solidarity with the Komagata Maru passengers. The Komagata maru struggle reflected the enormous support of the Hindusatani Ghadar Party amongst the community.
When the First World War broke out, Gandhi began organizing Indians in India to join the British Army and fight for the British imperialists in this imperialist war. In complete contrast with this, the Hindustani Ghadar Party called upon patriotic Indians in India as well as abroad to utilize the inter imperialist war to overthrow British colonial rule through the revolution.
Through their branches located all over the globe, the HGP organised fighters to go back to India and organize revolution. Seventeen thousand revolutionaries came back to India from all over the world to participate in the great struggle for the liberation of the motherland. In India, they carried out revolutionary propaganda and organizing work amongst the peasants and workers, as well as amongst the soldiers of the British Indian Army. Inspired by these revolutionaries, many patriotic Indians in our country joined the struggle for the liberation of the motherland.
The HGP forged links with and supported revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements in other countries. In true internationalist spirit, they mobilised Indian soldiers sent to China by the British to refuse to turn their guns on the Chinese.
The HGP’s attempt to organise an armed insurrection in India during World War I was eventually betrayed. The British authorities jailed and killed Ghadar revolutionaries in large numbers. Many were sent to the Andamans to undergo harsh penal terms, while others were forced to go into exile. However, the HGP continued to carry on the struggle in North America against racial discrimination, and continued to support the Indian people’s struggle for liberation. After the establishment of the Soviet Union, Ghadar Party activists developed close links with the international communist movement and expanded their vision for a free India to include freedom of the toiling classes from exploitation and the establishment of socialism.
The people of India never forgot the courage and sacrifice of the Ghadar revolutionaries. The daring achievements of the Ghadari Babas and their passionate poems and songs continued to inspire all those who yearned to see Indian people freed from all forms of oppression and exploitation.
The Indian National Congress, which came to power in August 1947 following the end of colonial rule, betrayed the aspirations of the revolutionaries of the Hindustani Ghadar party. It refused to support the struggle of Indians in North America, Britian and other countries against racial discrimination. It refused to carry out the deep going revolutionary transformations ardently desired by the Indian working masses, so that the exploitation and oppression of the Indian people is ended. Instead, it reinforced the colonial institutions of plunder and oppression. The India of today in which the bourgeoisie rules, and capitalism flourishes, is a betraqyal of the aspirations of the patriotic Indians who built the Hindustani Ghadar Party 97 years ago.
The working class and toiling people of India recognise the special character of the HGP as an organisation drawn primarily from their own ranks, which dared to challenge the might of British and world imperialism, which fought in an organised manner for the liberation of India, at a time when the representatives of the Indian bourgeoisie were consorting with British imperialism and being groomed by them as future rulers of India.