IOS Lecture on Ghadar Movement

November 15, 2014 at IOS Conference Hall

A lecture on "Ghadar Movement and Need for its Commemoration", was organised by the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) here on November 15, 2014. Dr. Onkar Mittal, President, Civil Society Network, New Delhi, who delivered the lecture, pointed out that the study of the history of Indian national movement would not be complete till it was understood in the context of the Ghadar and Reshmi Rumal movements from 1913-1915.

The study of the history of freedom struggle in its proper perspective would lead us to conclude that the real heroes who relentlessly fought for throwing off the British yoke died unsung. He said that the seeds of discontent against the British Empire were sown in the First World War (1914-18) when the mobilisation of some 10 lakh Indians was made. This war claimed the lives of about 1 lakh of them. Terming the First World War as the bloodiest during the 20th century, he contended that out of 7 crore soldiers mobilised, one crore were killed. He also pleaded that after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the attitude of Indians, including the Congress, had changed and the freedom movement gathered momentum with the participation of common people.

Dr. Mittal said that while the ruling class and the middle class remained passive about the freedom movement, folk participation provided it strength. He held that roots of the First World War lay in the hegemony over the people of the Third World countries. He opined that from the First War of Indian Independence in 1857 to the transfer of power and the Partition of India in 1947, the revolutionary forces across the country belonging to different ethnicities and religions made ceaseless struggle for liberation from the British Raj.

Despite success of the British imperial power in defeating these movements one by one, the rebellion continued. After the defeat of 1857, renewed efforts began with movement against the partition of Bengal under Lord Curzon in 1905. He said that in the First World War, the large-scale mobilisation of Army in India was critical to the British victory in 1918. The divergent political forces realised the anti-national character of British Rule in India and some made exemplary efforts to militarily fight against the British.

He maintained that that the Ghadar Party of India established in California in 1913 and the concurrent Reshmi Rumal movement were glorious examples of these efforts. He noted that these struggles failed in making any immediate impact, but their sacrifices created a national consciousness and moral and intellectual force for the Indian Independence movement between the years 1919-1947.

Dr. Mittal explained that while the mainstream national movement was led by the Congress party and the Muslim League, the efforts of revolutionaries under different banners of Hindustan Republican Army, Azad Hind Fauj and Khaksar Tehrik, made important contributions in developing and providing the will and impetus to the struggle for independence. He said that the mainstream Indian Independence movement was based on a premise of accepting the British suzerainty and reaching a compromise with the British Imperialism. On the contrary, the Ghadar Party and other revolutionary movements were aware of the militaristic character of British imperialism and wanted to wage a military war against this global evil force. He insisted that the First World War changed the course of world history, the Ghadar Party and the related forces, despite their immediate failure, made immense contribution in changing the course of the history of British Imperialism in India.

Dr. Mittal argued that now that the world was observing the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, India as a nation should also observe the centenary of the Ghadar Party and the Reshmi Rumal Tehreek. Analysing the reason why the firing was ordered by Gen. Dyer on unarmed gathering at Jalianwala Bagh in Punjab, he said that he was afraid of the repeat of an 1857-type situation. Gen. Dyer had told the Sedition Committee set up in the wake of Jalianwala Bagh firing that as the promises made by the British government remained unfulfilled, he feared that it might lead to wide-spread discontent in the country.

Dr. Mittal said that American hegemony was collapsing and the United Nations' authority was being undermined. Greek and Spanish economy was in bad shape. Similarly, European trade was competing with the American trade. He lamented that our policy was being still dictated by the United States. He expressed confidence that 80 percent of the problems of the country could be solved if the leaders reached a consensus on various issues.

The Chairman of the IOS, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam in his address said that there were several aspects of Ghadar and an insight into them could unravel many hidden facts. These facts could awaken us to take lessons from the past. Referring to Maulana Abdullah Tariq's recitation of a Quranic verse, he said that Pharaoh had ordered killing of boys and sparing of girls. It appeared that RSS slogan to "bring brides and save daughters" was on the same lines.

He quoted Justice Rajinder Sachar's observation that those who played no role in the freedom struggle were now ruling the country. He said that it was for us to decide which model our country would like to adopt.

The Vice-Chairman of the IOS, Prof. Refaqat Ali Khan said that the Indians fighting for freedom had gone to Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan and Indonesia to enlist support. The Secretary General of the IOS, Prof. Z M Khan observed that IOS had resolved to organise specialised lectures, instead of conferences. He said that India's freedom struggle was unique in the sense that people irrespective of caste, religion and faith participated in it. Freedom movement was inclusive in terms of common people's participation, he concluded.

Dr. Nakhat Husain Nadvi conducted the proceedings.

The function was attended by teachers and students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Delhi University, besides scholars, journalists and social activists.


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