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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh




The Characteristics of the History of Ghadr Party Movement*

Jagjit Singh

The critique of historical incidents and their root causes should be presented without marginalizing them; but to provide justification to the history of Ghadr Party Movement the mention of a few view-points which elucidate the historical characterists of this movement, would not be inappropriate, especially when some of which are related to the questions of historical importance.

The Ghadr Party Movement was the first non-religious and non-communal, organized national revolutionary movement of Indians, which clearly adopted the aim of the Republican Govt very clearly.  Had it been some incidental process then it could not have some meaningful importance except for those having interest in data and records. But before Proletariat Rule in Russia only the Republican Rule was considered a progressive political ideal capable of being used practically in the entire world.  The communal mentality and atmosphere was very much prevalent in India at that time, the suppressed tinge of which emerged clearly even in those who claimed to be non-communal, especially at where there was much at stake for claming to be non-communal. Among the Indian revolutionaries the militants of Bengal were considered much untouched to the patriotic communal mentality, but they also prefered to avoid the involvement of the Muslim brethrens in their organizations.1 Before the first World War even the dominion status for India was demanded in a muffled voice, and later after much hesitation and bitter experience the congress declared the complete independence as its political objective.  Keeping these things in view, the Ghadr Party movement was progressive as compared all the organized political movements of India including those which started at a later date.

The anti-British non-Religious and non-communal movements started after the Ghadr of 1857 (when there was no notion of common Indian nationality even, so it is also not known as to how much appropriate it would be to call it a national movement) the Ghadr Party Movement got the maximum share of death sentences and life imprisonments.  It is just not incidental.  In fact it is only point to that revolutionistic and sacrificial spirit of the Ghadr Party Movement, the comparable examples of which, if at all available in the history of the British rule in India, are very rare even. After considering the incidents of the Ghadr Party Movement and weighing carefully the evidences given as proofs of its revolutionary and sacrificial spirit, the readers can themselves conclude as to upto what extent it carries the truth.  But inspite of having been satisfied in this way if some doubt appears in their minds as to how the expression of such a spirit could become possible, then this doubt and astonishment should be considered as the measurement of the greatness of revolutionary and sacrificial spirit of the Ghadr Party Movement.

The main characteristic of the Ghadr Party Movement from the historical point of view is that though due to some weakness it failed, yet in the light of its own failure and weaknesses it showed such a way (because these weaknesses were such which could be removed very easily and the failure was such which touched the success very narrowly) that in the presence of specific national and international conditions, it was practically very possible to topple the British Govt though an armed revolution, and such a methodology could be adopted as a pragmatic strategy.  If this is accepted then the main hurdle in the way of historical critique of the Indian national movement during the British rule is removed and some very vital questions concerning this critique also emerge.

It is said that nothing succeeds like success.  The conditions under which the country achieved independence from the British Rule, if seen cursorarily, give the impression that the Congress non-violent movement was a very successful method. There is no doubt that keeping in view the disunity and lethargy prevalent since centuries, the non-violent movement was the best method to arouse the spirit of the Indian populace. But there are many other considerations and incidents which move it difficult to accept the view that only the non-violent movement proved to be the ultimate determining force to force the English to leave India.

During the Second World War the Congress fought its battle for the finish in the shape of the Quit India Movement. But how helpless was this movement, is evident from the fact that despite the temporary military conquests of Germany and afterwards of the Japan, the British Govt refused even to assure the Congress the acceptance its political demands and the Congress leaders could not think of any other way except to find a way to compromise with the British Govt, again and again.  Even Mahatma Gandhi the greatest votary of non-violence was ready to compromise his principle of non-violence and agreed to help the British in the World War if it promised to accept its demands.

While it speaks about the absolute patriotism of Mahatma Gandhi, it can also not be denied that there seems to be no need of finding out some more plausible proof of the helplessness of the peaceful movement. From this helplessness only, perhaps the disrupting movement of 1942 run by Sh Jai Parkash Narayan had started, which could not achieve required success because of its initial and timely unpreparedness.  At least that appears to the reason behind the relationship later developed with a known Congressate like Sh Sita Ramaya. Besides, if the country achieved independence from the English due to this peaceful movement only, then how Burma and Ceylon achieved independence where no such powerful movement had arisen? Even at that point of time of the second World War, when the fate of the English was in doldrums, despite the quit India Movement of the Congress the British Govt did not feel it appropriate to assure the acceptance of the political demands of the national movement, but immediately after the revolutionary strike of the Indian marine sailors, when the British allies had achieved victory in the second World War, it declared to give over independence to the country? Soon after the independence of the country why the force of Military power needed to be used to  solve the disputes of Kashmir and Hyderabad which were smaller affairs in comparison to the vital matters of snatching power from the British, and now why the affair of Goa is not left to be settled through pure peaceful satyagrah?

It is very clear that the peaceful movement was no doubt a best method to arouse the degraded spirit of the Indian masses, it was not an ultimate decisive force in achieving independence from the foreign rule.  At the core of achievement of independence national events with revolutionary possibility (due to the trails of the officers of the INA, its effect on the Indian troops, and the revolutionary stance adopted by the sailors of Indian marine ships, which could be a danger to arouse the Indian troops), and the balance of the international forces not remaining in favour of the British (that is to say that the British empire becoming a second wrung power in comparison to America and Russia) had a great hand.  But who could say with certainty that after the Second World War the balance of International powers would become anti-British empire, or the incidents with revolutionary possibility would emerge in the country automatically.  Therefore in the light of the lessons of Ghadr Party Movement the historical critique about the national movement during the British rule has to decide on this vital question, alongwith many other questions connected with it, that why the national movement did not choose the path of the preparation of armed revolution against the British Govt? Especially when the start of Second World War was very clearly evident, and there was a huge possibility of such national and international conditions, which were similar to those conditions (rather more favourable than those because the political awareness had increased more in the country) from which the Ghadr Party Movement had tried to take advantage during the First World War.  Instead of trying to create revolutionary spirit and condition in the country why the Congress leaders continued to sprinkle cold water on the revolutionary spirit, and why the revolutionary methods were condemned? In the case of the acceptance of the national demands, Mahamta Gandhi got ready to tolerate to extend cooperation of Congress to the British Govt in war, but he took a very hard stance towards to attitude of Sh Subhash Chander Bose (which he never adopted because of the difference of opinion of any of his co-worker during all his political life) and expressed it openly? The revolutionary parties of the country can also not be absolved from it, rather they have in a way more responsibility than the Congress to reply this question.  Why they kept their revolutionary efforts just limited to the terrorist methods or the common masses, and why they did not make special efforts to involve the Indian troops in the revolutionary efforts like the Ghadr Party Movement did?

In the light of the lessons of the Ghadr Party Movement from the view-point of the historical critique one more vital question arises, though though not with as much certainty as the above said questions. The spirit of national unity, sacrifice and revolutionary spirit shown by the Muslim brothers was in no way less valuable than others considering their small number.  It is correct the atmosphere and conditions of the foreign countries like America had a big hand in the emergence of this spirit, the similar conditions were very difficult to create in India during the British rule. But the Muslim brothers who joined in the INA movement showed a great spirit of unity and sacrifice.  So keeping in view the horrible results the division of the country which could also emerge in future, the queston arises why the Indian national movement could not take a path similar to Ghadr Party Movement. Had it done so, could India be saved from the holocaust of partition ? Could it not be a part of the compromise with the British Govt which had created a huge gap between different communities and had taken all power in its own hands, which finally led to the partition of the country.



  1. Rowlatt Report, P. 96.
  2. “In later months, leading up to August 1942, Gandhiji’s nationalism and intense desire for freedom, made him even agree to Congress participation in the war if India could function as a free country, For him this was a remarkable and astonishing change, involving suffering of the mind and pain of the spirit. In the conflict between that principle of nonviolence which had become his very life blood and meaning of existence, and India's freedom which was a dominating and consuming passion for him, the scales inclined towards the later. That did not mean, of course, that he weakened in his faith in non-violence. But it did mean that he was prepared to agree to the Congress not applying it in this war. The practical statesman took precedence over the uncompromising prophet.” (The Discovery of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru, p. 541).







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