The Tribune - Spectrum

, June 23, 2002

Ghadr revisited
Kamlesh Khosla

War Against King Emperor (Ghadr of 1914-15).
edited by Malwinder Jit Singh, Harinder Singh. Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh Trust. Pages 541. Rs 200.

War Against King Emperor (Ghadr of 1914-15)REWRITING history is a continuous process brought about by changing interpretations or discovery of new facts. The present book is an attempt to rewrite the history of "Ghadr" in the light of new facts. The book attempts to shed light on how the British Government termed it as "war against King Emperor" Ghadr of 1914-15—thus, the title of the book. It deals with the Lahore Conspiracy Case as well as the Supplementary Lahore Conspiracy Case, and recapitulates most of the events that constitute the Ghadr movement in proper sequence. In fact, most history books make a casual mention that the Ghadr movement was a brainchild of Lala Hardial and the movement died with his disappearance. But this book reveals the role of Ghadris and other revolutionaries in unnerving the British rulers.

The trial incensed the common man and forced the British to think and make up their mind to leave India for good. While reading this book one feels it is nothing less than a miracle that semi-literate Indians, mostly Sikhs who had gone to Canada and America in the hope of bread and butter, became revolutionaries. They imbibed the fire and zeal of revolutionaries and gave a new meaning to their Ghadr movement. The role of ‘Ghadr’ newspaper, which was the mouthpiece of the Ghadr Party, was amazing. It was published in Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati and transformed the attitude of the common man.


The book highlights the role of Bhai Bhagwan Singh Canadian, Bhai Sucha Singh, Ishwar Singh, Bhag Singh, Bhai Har Singh—all Canadian—Bhai Karam Singh American, Bhai Harnam Singh Komagata, Baba Harnam Singh, Bhai Sher Singh Vein Poin, Baba Wasakha Singh, Baba Nidhan Singh Chugha, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Baba Rur Singh Chuhar Chak, Baba Sher Singh, Bhai Mohan Singh Padri, Bhai Sajjan Singh Bihlla Canadian, Master Gajjan Singh, Dasondha Singh American and Bhai Khushan Singh Padri.

None of the participants had any personal ambition; nobody hankered after leadership, although stalwarts like Bhai Randhir Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Baba Nidhan Singh Chugha, Baba Vasakha Singh and Baba Rur Singh were actively engaged in planning and executing the fight. They invited Raj Behari Bose to lead the movement at a crucial stage.

The most interesting part of the book is Appendix 23, which gives the life sketch of Bhai Randhir Singh. It is such an inspiring tale that one may like to read it again and again. It is a story of how a sensitive schoolboy changes into a poet and a sportsman at college and how that golden sparrow blossomed into a relentless fighter against the hawks of oppression and tyranny. He was not only a freedom fighter and revolutionary but also selfless worker of high spiritual morale. He was involved with creative and missionary work after his release from the trial. He wrote about 20 books on theology, philosophy and mysticism. There is a complete unit devoted to elaborating law points involved in the case. The history of the conspiracy and war are also given in detail. Certain facts, like the tribunal that was set up to try the revolutionaries, were just lip service to convey that the British had regard for the rule of law. Bias in the tribunal was only too visible. Although the British called it "war against King Emperor," the participants were treated like ordinary criminals, not as prisoners of war. How the law was twisted to suit the interests of the British is amply visible through the pages.

Being a legal document, it will be of great interest for legal luminaries. However, being the tale of brave men, the trial was a trailblazer of the freedom struggle. It would be of great interest to historians as well as the common man, as it could remove the despondency and infuse vitality into the psyche of the Indian people.