Saga of indomitable courage
Ivninderpal Singh

Hindustan Gadar Party: A Short History
by Sohan Singh Josh. Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committee, Jalandhar. Pages 640. Rs 200.

THE Gadar movement is a saga of courage, valour and determination of overseas Indians who had gone to Canada and the US for economic opportunities. This was the first revolutionary movement of modern India after the mutiny of 1857 that made rapid strides in foreign lands. It will not be an exaggeration to say that during the period of World War I, Indian revolutionaries in Canada and America became dominant actors in the Indian national movement.

The book is a combined edition of two volumes. The first part starts from 1857 and goes till the Gadar movement, while the second discusses the role of Gadar patriots in the Indian freedom movement till the gaining of Independence in 1947.

Before the reader turns to the first chapter, he must go through the introduction in which the author explains his viewpoint of writing history. He denounces Indian historians who accept the British justification of their rule in India. This book is written from the patriotic anti-imperialist point of view and the author has rejected the British theories on history writing.

Post-1857, the British took the reins of India directly in their hands. They pampered the upper class, while the masses, especially Punjabis, were kept away from politics. But they were welcome in the Army. In the beginning of the 20th century, the economic condition of the people in Punjab became deplorable and they started looking for greener pastures on foreign lands. The journey of the Sikh youth from India to overseas, their struggle while entering the US and the rise of political consciousness among them till the culmination into a well-organised body, which led the movement against the British, have been elaborated upon by Josh.

All aspects of the revolt, including the ideology of the Gadarites and the progress of the movement, how it fizzled out, the British reaction towards the revolutionaries and the causes of the failure of the movement, catch the authorís eye.

The second part highlights the role played by Gadar party heroes and pays tributes to them for displaying exemplary courage to fight the British. It underlines the role and contribution of its leaders, especially Lala Hardayal and Ram Chandra.

Josh is critical of Hardayal and talks about his volte-face. "He betrayed the Indian revolution, became a loyal British subject, began to talk about Englandís moral and historical mission in Asia, while his Gadar immigrant colleagues in San Francisco remained loyal to the Indian revolution." On the other hand, Ram Chandra played a praiseworthy role by keeping Americans informed about the real situation in India and countered the vicious anti-India propaganda of the British.

A chapter on the contribution of Agnes Swedley and her support to the cause of revolutionaries too finds space in the book. A great fighter for Indiaís freedom, she organised a big and effective movement against the deportation of Indian patriots from America. The Russian Revolution and its impact on the revolutionaries have also been elaborated in detail. This bouquet on the history of the Gadar movement is a treat for those who love to relish slices of history.

History of East Indians in America
by Harold S. Jacoby. B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh, Amritsar. Pages 280. Rs 395.

History of East Indians in AmericaTHE book focuses on the experiences of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims in the first 50 years of the 20th century. While Josh wrote from anti-imperialist point of view, Harold S. Jacoby, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Pacific in Stockton, USA, looks from outside and gives sociological interpretation of their geographical mobility, a value-neutral account of this period.

He compares migrants with the natives and highlights their socio-economic disparities, unequal educational opportunities and records facts about the life of East Indian American pioneers. He also lists doís and doníts for the current and future immigrants to participate in American society.

Factional and divisive tendencies in the East Indian community are also elaborated in the book and are supported by instances of physical violence by them against members of their own community. Jacoby also highlights the changes in their social practices, economic life, with special focus on their land ownership, and urban occupations and their involuntary involvement in the American corporate life. The impact of World War II and Indian independence on them has also been dealt with.

While Josh focuses on all dimensions of the Hindustan Gadar Party, Jacobyís book revolves around the migration of the East Indian community and their assimilation into American society along with their role in the fight against British rule in India.